It’s November. Prime sports journalist time for us at The Phoenix. We’re in the stage where fall sports and winter sports cross over. Soccer and basketball at the same time? I’m here for this.
Three Missouri Valley Conference (MVC) tournaments in the next three weeks — both soccers and volleyball. Loyola has a chance to come out on top of all three. Plus, men’s basketball and women’s basketball start this week.
I’m in sports heaven.
Women’s soccer has the best chance to walk away with an NCAA tournament berth. That’s not to count out women’s volleyball and men’s soccer, but women’s soccer is undefeated in conference. The others aren’t.
Newcomers Grace Droessler, Simone Wark and Megan Nemec are all dominating the women’s soccer team on top of their returning players. The Ramblers already won the regular season title — their first back-to-back title since joining the MVC — and if they win the tournament, they’ll be back in the NCAA tournament.
This year, with secret weapon Wark, who has played in three NCAA tournaments with her former team, University of South Carolina.
I honestly didn’t think they were going to be this good this year. I’m so glad they proved me wrong, though.
Without former powerhouses Jenna Szczesny and Madison Kimball, the offense already took a hit. Then, losing starting goalkeeper Kate Moran to injury, it was going to be a challenge for sure.
Despite a 5-4-1 non-conference season, the Ramblers destroyed conference play and haven’t lost yet. I’d be surprised if they don’t walk away with Coach of the Year, Newcomer of the Year, Goalkeeper of the Year and Freshman of the Year. That’ll be announced in the next few days since the MVC tournament is Nov. 8-10.
The Loyola men’s soccer team is a different story. It currently sits second in the conference with a 4-2-3 record.
While usually a second place finish in the regular season would mean their chances of winning the tournament are likely, this year is an anomaly. Missouri State University is in first place and is the only undefeated men’s soccer team in Division I.
Unfortunately for the men’s soccer team, it’s going to take a stroke of divine intervention for them to win this tournament. I’d be most impressed if they did.
They’ve had a pretty solid season — despite an unnecessary amount of ties in conference play.
Junior transfer Justin Sukow has been a stand out player for the team. He’s the second leading scorer for the Ramblers, behind three goals from senior forward Aidan Megally. Sukow has been a much needed offensive playmaker for the Ramblers.
Alongside Sukow in midfield is sophomore Billy Hency, who is the assists leader with four. He also has tallied four goals. Megally leads the team with nine of Loyola’s 25 goals.
Any other season, this team would be a contender for the MVC’s bid to the NCAA tournament, but because of Missouri State’s absolute baller season, second place is probably going to be where the finish.
Here, I thought not having University of Central Arkansas in the conference would give Loyola the chance. But the Bears had to come in and mess that up.
The men’s soccer team is scheduled to round out conference play Nov. 9 against Valparaiso University before the MVC tournament Nov. 13-17.
Let’s talk that women’s volleyball.
After a multitude of losing seasons, the women’s volleyball team has come out and shocked the Phoenix Sports section.
They were ranked fifth out of 10 teams in the MVC preseason poll, but currently sit in second with a 10-2 record, only a game and a half behind University of Northern Iowa (UNI).
Much like the women’s soccer team, the newcomers have been a strong force for women’s volleyball this year. First-years Addie Barnes and Taylor Venuto are leading the team in kills with 283 and 261, respectively, and both have won two MVC Freshman of the Week awards.
Guided by the veteran players, this team came out of nowhere and has a real chance of winning the MVC tournament. It’s been the Ramblers’ best MVC start ever and their best conference start since 2002 when they were in the Horizon League.
UNI is their biggest competition. The Ramblers lost to the Panthers 3-1 when they matched up against each other Oct. 21. Loyola had just come off a tough weekend, so I think the fatigue definitely factored into the loss. UNI is also just a really good team.
The two teams are set to play each other one more time Nov. 22 before heading on to the MVC tournament Nov. 28-30.