In the midst of finals week of her masters of science in marketing program, graduate transfer Simone Wark is winning Missouri Valley Conference (MVC) weekly awards and helping grow the women’s soccer program.
Wark, 23, is originally from Ontario, Canada, but came to Loyola from the University of South Carolina. She played three years there, only missing out on her junior year due to a torn muscle in her knee. At the end of the 2018 season, she said she found herself wanting more.
Her senior year season ended during a 1-0 upset against Penn State University in the second round of the tournament, and she said she felt cheated.
“I went into my coach’s office literally the day after we lost to Penn State and I was like, ‘It doesn’t feel right waking up and not going to training the morning,’” Wark said. “I feel like I’m owed one more season because it was taken away from me from my injury.”
She had one more year of eligibility, but she finished her four years at South Carolina and was ready for a change.
She immediately crossed off South Carolina because it didn’t have the program she wanted.
Among her list of potential schools was Baylor University, University of Central Florida, Loyola Marymount University and Loyola University Chicago. She ultimately chose Loyola for its marketing program.
“… If I was going to take my fifth year, I wanted to study something that was going to pay dividends down the road.”
— Simone Wark, graduate transfer
“At that point in time, soccer was a huge factor to me,” Wark said. “But at the same time, if I was going to take my fifth year, I wanted to study something that was going to pay dividends down the road. Just knowing where I was at in my academic career, I knew I wanted to study marketing.”
At South Carolina, she was a sport entertainment management major with a minor in advertising and public relations, but she didn’t want her graduate degree to be redundant. She said she wanted to diversify her tool kit.
“I’ve always been fascinated with the persuasion and communication methods involved in marketing,” Wark said. “Also, realizing that it’s often deemed as an unethical field, I want to be a part of changing the narrative of the industry.”
The Jesuit background of Loyola helped, too, she said. She loved how everything was taken from an ethical approach and she felt she could use that to one day “shift the paradigm” of marketing.
She’s made an immediate impact, playing in every match this season and sitting tied for second in scoring with first-year Megan Nemec. It goes further than the numbers though, according to head coach Barry Bimbi.
Wark has played in three NCAA tournaments after South Carolina qualified her four years — she missed one due to injury. Loyola made the NCAA tournament for the first time last season and is currently in first place in the MVC, which could lead to another berth if they win the conference tournament.
“We talked to her on her visit about what we saw her role as,” Bimbi said. “Bringing her experience, not necessarily experience on the field, but off the field. How can she help? She’s been unbelievable educating and building bonds with our freshmen.”
“She’s been unbelievable educating and building bonds with our freshmen.”
— Barry Bimbi, head coach
Her worth has not gone unnoticed by her teammates. Wark’s “locker buddy” and junior teammate Lindsey Hardiman said Wark is full of advice for her teammates.
Hardiman said because their lockers are right next to each other, she’s often getting advice from Wark.
“She just puts things into perspective,” Hardiman said. “She’s always giving a lending hand. She’s always talking to Megan [Nemec], giving her tips on positioning and just kind of life in general as a freshman going into college.”
Wark said it wasn’t her direct intention to be focusing on the first-years. Rather, she said she just wanted to be able to contribute immediately. She said she’s been glad to help out the team through her goal scoring and through her experience from playing at a power five program.
“I try to lead by example,” Wark said. “I do try and be there for the freshmen in any way that I can, whether that’s moral support, if anyone wants to get extra touches on the ball, maybe people who aren’t seeing the field as much. … Honestly, just trying to give them advice and guide them through because honestly freshman year is the most difficult year.”
Wark and the Ramblers finish out their conference season Oct. 31 at 4 p.m. against the University of Evansville in Evansville, Indiana. The game will be broadcast on ESPN+.