As the Loyola women’s basketball team (7-6, 1-1) settles into Missouri Valley Conference (MVC) play, key players’ injuries and others’ season debuts are creating challenging situations and new opportunities for younger players. Loyola finished non-conference play with a 6-5 record and began conference play with a win over Valparaiso University Jan. 6.
The Ramblers found out sophomore center Katherine Nolan would be out the rest of the season with a foot injury two days before their clash against Drake University Jan. 11. Head coach Kate Achter said the loss will greatly affect rotations, as Nolan has been the most consistent player during non-conference play. Before the injury, she averaged 8.4 points per game and 6.0 rebounds per game.
Achter said this loss, while unfortunate, is a way for other players to step up and spend more time playing, such as sophomore guard Alexis Meyer, first-year guard Maya Dunson and first-year forward Allison Day.
Sophomore guard Abby O’Connor echoed Achter’s sentiments and said there are now more chances for others to fill Nolan’s role.
“I think it gives [Day] in particular a huge opportunity here,” O’Connor said. “I think she is ready for that so it should be exciting to see how much more she is able to develop.”
Meyer scored six points in her season debut against Valparaiso, after missing the first eleven games because of a knee injury. Loyola head coach Kate Achter said Meyer’s return provided some much-needed depth.
“We’re attacking the basket more,” Achter said. “We can get some breathers, and we can continue to attack … in an aggressive style.”
Achter said having another addition to the lineup allows other players to rest — particularly leading scorer and rebounder O’Connor. With more options to put players in different positions, Achter said she’s able to move O’Connor out toward the perimeter, where she’s been finding more success. Overall, Achter said moving players to different positions has benefitted the team and it speaks to its versatility.
Meyer is also a vocal and positive player, so having her on the court every day has helped younger players such as Dunson and Day, according to Achter.
“[Meyer has] been a really big part of our development as a team,” Achter said. “It’s another player that’s familiar with our system, has been in it for two years and has the confidence to do some of the things that we’re asking them to do during a really important stretch of basketball.”
O’Connor also spoke to the importance of having someone like Meyer back in the lineup, saying she’ll be a big part of the post rotation in the upcoming games. There are good post players in the MVC, O’Connor added, so the depth Meyer adds will help them during games.
With conference play kicking into gear, Achter said the team’s strength is playing against different types of teams, especially with short turnaround times between games. She credits this to the experience they gained from playing against the non-conference teams this season.
“We faced a lot of different teams … a lot of different styles,” Achter said. “We’re prepared … and you know it should really help us when we only have one day prep. This group is really versatile.”
The Ramblers are set to take on University of Evansville at Gentile Arena Jan. 18. Tip-off is set for 3 p.m. and the game will be streamed on ESPN+.