The Loyola women’s soccer team advanced to the NCAA Tournament for the second straight year. The Ramblers are facing Hofstra University Nov. 16. Kickoff is set for noon CST.
What a season for the Loyola women’s soccer team. Undefeated in conference and locking up another NCAA Tournament appearance was certainly better than I expected — and that’s partially because I’m not the biggest soccer head in the world.
The Ramblers have a good team. There’s a reason why they cleaned up at the Missouri Valley Conference (MVC) awards last week. But if we filled out brackets for the NCAA women’s soccer tournament, I’d probably have to take Hofstra to win.
Loyola dominated the MVC this year, going 7-0-0 in league play and winning a program-best 12 games in a row to close out the regular season. But Hofstra was a tough draw. The Pride’s one of the best teams in the country, and although the Ramblers could give them a run for their money, it might not be enough.
That’s not to say they can’t pull it off. I certainly didn’t expect them to run away with the conference the way they did. Who’s to say they can’t surpass my expectations again?
Two questions come up for me when discussing Loyola advancing to the NCAA Tournament. 1. How successful can they be this season? 2. Since it’s their second consecutive year playing in the tournament, what does the future hold for the women’s soccer program?
First, Loyola versus Hofstra is a fairly even match and the Ramblers have an opportunity to advance to the second round. Even though Hofstra is ranked higher than Loyola according to ratings percentage index (RPI) — the Pride sits at No. 16, while the Ramblers are No. 56 — neither team is a clear standout due to having similar records.
Hofstra has the advantage of being undefeated at home, but senior defender Madison Laudeman said momentum is a strong motivator — Loyola is undefeated in its last 12 games.
Second, two consecutive NCAA Tournament berths is nothing to bat an eye at. I thought losing Jenna Szczesny would be the fall of the team, but they proved me wrong. This team continues to be a powerhouse in the MVC and they could become a perennial NCAA Tournament team.
While the women’s soccer team has been a great story for Loyola athletics, I don’t want to get carried away with the hype. The Ramblers have had a great season, but they are going up against a very good Hofstra team.
I’m not saying Loyola can’t beat Hofstra, but the Pride should definitely be viewed as the favorite in the matchup. Hofstra has just three loses this season, compared to Loyola’s four. However, Hofstra’s losses all came in road games against teams ranked within the top 22 in the RPI rankings — No. 10 Brown University, No. 13 Rutgers University and No. 22 Pennsylvania State University. Loyola’s losses were against less impressive teams.
Also, Loyola players have talked about the momentum the Ramblers have, but Hofstra arguably has even more momentum entering the matchup. The Pride are unbeaten in their last 15 games and haven’t lost a game since Sept. 5 against Rutgers.
This isn’t to say Loyola can’t pull off the victory. This year’s matchup is more favorable to the Ramblers than last year’s matchup Florida State University — who went on to win the entire tournament. Yet, Hofstra’s resume is noticeably more impressive and the Ramblers will have an uphill battle if they hope to advance.