The Loyola men’s soccer team (8-3-1, 3-1-1) closed out its non-conference schedule with a convincing 3-1 win over University of Illinois at Chicago (UIC) Tuesday night.
With the win, the Ramblers have now defeated all three other teams in the Chicago area this season as they’d previously beaten DePaul University and Northwestern University earlier in their non-conference season.
“It’s always a goal of ours to be the best team in Chicago and there are three other very good teams in this city that we always battle with every year,” Loyola head coach Neil Jones said. “It’s always nice to be the best and I’m proud of the guys for that.”
Senior midfielder Aidan Megally continued his torrid scoring pace as he scored his sixth goal in four games to get the Ramblers on the board in the 11th minute. The goal came after they were awarded a penalty kick for a foul in the box, and Megally easily beat the goalkeeper to record his eighth goal of the season.
Despite Loyola’s fast start, the Flames were able to fight back into the match almost instantly. Scoring off a deflection from 15 yards out, UIC junior forward Bukola Abdulwahab tied the score at one apiece in the 17th minute.
The Ramblers quickly regained the lead as sophomore winger Billy Hency headed home a Justin Sukow corner kick in the 22nd minute.
“Sukow served in a great ball, and it just went over the front post and the defender’s head,” Hency said after the game. “I just tried to get to it, and I guess I got lucky. But it felt great to see that one go in and regain us the lead.”
Following a few more scattered chances, the teams headed for the locker rooms with the score at 2-1 at halftime.
The second half saw UIC come out aggressive as the Flames attempted to get an equalizer and eliminate the deficit. This aggression backfired in the 62nd minute as sophomore forward Fabian Becerra — who had missed the last seven contests with an undisclosed injury — slotted past UIC’s goalkeeper to extend the Ramblers’ lead and put the game out of reach.
“It’s huge [to have him back],” Hency said. “He’s a great player, and it’s good to have him back in the lineup, so congrats to him on his debut back in the lineup for us.”
With the win, the Ramblers closed out the non-conference portion of their schedule with a 5-2 record and now head into the second half of their conference slate — a stretch Jones called pivotal to the success of the team this season.
“We just need to take it one game at a time going forward,” Jones said. “Obviously, we know every match from now on is crucial and points are on the line, but these past two conference games have been really important for us and I think the team is in a really good place right now.”
The Ramblers’ season is scheduled to continue Oct. 23 against Bradley University in Peoria. The game will be broadcast on ESPN3 and kick-off is set for 7 p.m.