Forward Megan Nemec is racking up high numbers for Loyola despite this being her first year on the women’s soccer team. But she said in her eyes, those numbers don’t carry much weight as long as they’re winning games.
Nemec has been taking off for the Ramblers, winning the Missouri Valley Conference (MVC) Newcomer of the Week Award in back-to-back weeks and playing the most time of any first-year this year — at least 40 minutes per game, and more than 80 minutes in most of them so far.
Her biggest game was against University of Missouri Sept. 8 when she scored two goals in three minutes to propel Loyola to a 2-1 win. She also found the back of the net against Ball State University Sept. 1, scoring the lone goal in the Ramblers’ 2-1 loss.
The breakout first-year is currently tied for first on the team in both goals and assists. With three goals, she’s tied with senior midfielder Aleksa Tataryn. She’s also tied for two assists with senior forward Savannah Cruz.
Nemec began her soccer career on a recreational team when she was five years old and then joined Windy City Pride Soccer Club — a Chicago-based club — at age eight. She said she played for them through high school and was recruited by the Ramblers during her sophomore year after coming to a camp at Loyola. She verbally committed during her junior year.
“I just really liked the atmosphere and all,” Nemec said. “The academics, too … [and] it’s a really good soccer program.”
Head coach Barry Bimbi said he was mainly drawn to recruit Nemec because of her aggression on offense, adding she plays with an edge younger players don’t usually have. He said he was looking for attacking players after the last class graduated — including the 2018 MVC Player of the Year Jenna Szczesny — and the way Nemec fought hard through every game caught his attention.
“The almost anger she plays with in the final third … when we watched her play, every game was the most important game she ever played in.”
— Barry Bimbi, Loyola women’s soccer head coach
“The almost anger she plays with in the final third … when we watched her play, every game was the most important game she ever played in,” Bimbi said.
Senior midfielder Sienna Cruz said Nemec stepped up to fill those open roles — left by Szczeny and five other players who graduated last year —through her strength and her speed.
“Replacing someone like Jenna Szczesny, I think [Nemec] has definitely filled a similar role,” Cruz said.
Once she started playing with the Ramblers, she also received a team nickname: “Peanut.” Bimbi said whenever there are two players with the same first name, at least one of them will need to be called by something different to avoid confusion.
“We have Megan Demski and Megan Nemec, and [Nemec] is allergic to peanuts,” Bimbi said. “So she is affectionately known as ‘Peanut.’”
As far as individual goals on the team, Nemec said hers is to grow as much as she can as a player and help others around her improve, too. She said she thinks her biggest strength is her versatility on the pitch as well as her speed, which she said makes up for other aspects in which she may be lacking.
Bimbi said off the pitch, Nemec is quiet with a dry sense of humor but has been “coming out of her shell … her peanut shell.” Cruz said she agreed and said Nemec has opened up more after preseason and now seems more comfortable on the team.
Outside of soccer, Nemec said she likes to hang out with her friends and watch movies.
Bimbi said she’s doing well for the Ramblers so far and has a drive to be a good player for them, but as a forward player, he doesn’t want to give her strict instructions.
“Attacking is so much improvisation and kind of just instinct so we don’t want to coach that out of her,” Bimbi said. “We’re trying to just get her into the framework of what we want out of forwards, and then just let her go.”
Compared to other first-years both this season and in recent years, Bimbi said Nemec’s self-confidence is what sets her apart. He said some first-years come in and second guess their place on the team, but Nemec was ready and willing from the start.
“From day one, she showed that same edge that we saw in the recruiting process,” Bimbi said. “She just came in and worked.”
One thing that motivates Nemec on the pitch is making her family proud, but she said she also has a competitive nature driving her.
“I like competing against myself and others, so I guess that would be my biggest motivator,” Nemec said.
Nemec and the Ramblers are set to take on Western Michigan University Sept. 20 in Kalamazoo, Mich. Kickoff is scheduled for 3 p.m.