Another Loyola sports team is going to the NCAA Tournament after the No. 2-seeded men’s soccer team outlasted No. 1 seed Missouri State University in penalty kicks Sunday afternoon.
The Ramblers and Bears played to a 1-1 tie through 110 minutes of the Missouri Valley Conference (MVC) Tournament championship, and Loyola outscored Missouri State 5-4 in penalty kicks to seal the victory. Loyola sophomore midfielder Ethan Stoneman scored the game-winning penalty kick to send the Ramblers to the dance after nearly three hours of soccer on a bitter cold day at Loyola Soccer Park.
With the victory, Loyola advances to the NCAA Tournament for the first time since 2016 and sealed its first ever MVC Tournament victory. It also marks the first time both the men’s and women’s soccer teams made the big dance since 2006.
“We battled,” Loyola head coach Neil Jones said after the game. “We’re a resilient team. … We were able to make enough [penalty kicks] and save enough to be the Missouri Valley Conference Tournament champions.”
Missouri State entered the game with a perfect 17-0-0 record and had beaten Loyola twice this season by a score of 2-1 each time. The Bears were the only undefeated team in Division I and are likely going to receiving an at-large bid to the NCAA Tournament. Since the game ended in penalty kicks, Missouri State’s record is now 17-0-1.
“It [was] going to be a clash of the titans,” Jones said. “We’re a good team, too. [Missouri State’s] record is obviously outstanding. We need to respect them, but we don’t need to be scared of them. … To win a championship on your own field is a phenomenal feeling.”
Neither team was able to find the back of the net in the first half, despite Missouri State having three shots on goal in the first period and Loyola firing two shots on goal. The Bears opened the scoring early in the second half with a goal in the 57th minute to take a 1-0 lead.
Loyola struggled to break through Missouri State’s defense as the seconds ticked away in the second half. Loyola registered two shots on goal midway through the second half, but Bears goalkeeper Michael Creek saved them both.
Missouri State committed a foul in the 89th minute and gave Loyola one last chance to tie the game — a free kick from roughly 40 yards out. Junior midfielder Justin Sukow lofted a ball into Missouri State’s defensive box, and junior midfielder Tyler Biggs headed the ball into the goal to tie the game 1-1.
89’: GOAL. TIE GAME. pic.twitter.com/TeTUGhTnfP— Nick Schultz (@NickSchultz_7) November 17, 2019
After the game, senior midfielder Aidan Megally — who was named the MVC Tournament most valuable player — said he was “confident” the momentum had shifted Loyola’s way when Biggs’ goal went in.
“I knew at that moment we were going to win the game,” Megally said. “I’m just really proud of the guys … and super thrilled for Biggs to put the team on his back and score a great goal.”
The game went to overtime after both teams were knotted at one goal apiece after 90 minutes. Neither team scored through two 10-minute overtime periods and the game went to a penalty kick shootout. The NCAA’s penalty kick system is a best-of-five format where a player and goalkeeper go 1-on-1, and teams can trade kicks until one emerges victorious.
In penalties, the two teams went until the seventh player on each side until Stoneman’s goal sealed the victory for the Ramblers. The Bears converted four of their seven penalty attempts, while Loyola went 5-for-7.
As for how the team would celebrate, graduate transfer goalkeeper Marcel Kampman said the team would enjoy the next 24 hours or so — and he’d make sure Biggs was rewarded for his efforts.
“I think I owe Tyler Biggs a beer,” Kampman said. “We’ll get together as a group and celebrate, I think that’s important … [but] our season’s not done.”
The Ramblers will find out their NCAA Tournament opponent during the NCAA selection show Nov. 18 at noon. The show will be broadcast on NCAA.com.