The Loyola women’s soccer team didn’t become consecutive regular season conference champions overnight. It’s taken three years to bring the team from a losing record to where it’s now, and the 2020 class has been a consistent asset in this turnaround.
According to the six seniors, their class’ close bond has been a crucial part in pushing them to work for success. They will play their final MVC Tournament together Nov. 8-10 in Springfield, Missouri, with Loyola playing in the semifinal Nov. 8. If they win, they will play the championship game Nov. 10.
The six seniors are goalkeeper Kate Moran, defender Madison Laudeman, forward Savannah Cruz and midfielders Aleksa Tataryn, Sienna Cruz and Ari Banks.
The Ramblers had a record of 5-11-3 in the 2016 season — the seniors’ first year on the team — and finished sixth out of seven teams in the Missouri Valley Conference (MVC). All of the Loyola seniors played the majority of those games except Moran and Savannah Cruz, who was out with an injury. In 2017, the record improved to 13-7, and it was 11-7-1 the following season when the team won its first MVC Championship. The senior players have tallied 41 total wins during their time at Loyola.
The Ramblers were picked to win the conference in the MVC preseason poll — a survey of MVC coaches — in 2018 and 2019. In 2018, the Ramblers went on to win the MVC championship game, sending them to the NCAA tournament, where they lost 1-0 to Florida State University, the eventual champion.
Head coach Barry Bimbi said this class is made up of “high achievers” who have grown a lot since their first year on the team. He said after working through their initial losses and learning the importance of hard work, they set a good example for younger members of the team.
“Success is easy for those [players] that weren’t around [for the losses] — it looks really easy,” Bimbi said. “But it takes dedication, it takes sacrifice to be … a successful Division I athlete. And they’re really educating the younger players on what it takes.”
Laudeman said the seniors’ bond came from the transformation. The Chesterfield, Missouri native said they all take pride in themselves for being a part of such a turnaround for the program.
Bimbi said the seniors are all competitive, which has been an important part of their success. He said the players help push each other to improve, especially with all of them getting more playing time this year.
“No matter if it’s a scrimmage, non-conference game, conference game, a game in practice, they compete,” Bimbi said. “That kind of separates them from classes in the past.”
“No matter if it’s a scrimmage, non-conference game, conference game, a game in practice, they compete.”
— Barry Bimbi, head coach
Moran — who missed her senior season due to a torn ACL — said she’s thankful for the support of her class through the ups and downs of playing in college.
“Always having those girls by [my] side has meant a whole lot,” the Denver, Colorado native said.
Savannah Cruz, who has played alongside her twin sister the last four years, said they have been the ones to reach out if anything was happening outside of soccer, even getting together for group meals to check in.
“Coming in as seniors, we knew the expectation of us … and the picture we wanted to put in the entire team’s head,” the Cottage Grove, Wisconsin native said. “We need to be a good senior class, we need to be there for the freshmen.”
Redshirt graduate senior forward Simone Wark transferred this year from the University of South Carolina to pursue a master’s degree in integrated marketing. Since arriving in Rogers Park, she has been a strong force, scoring five goals and winning MVC Offensive Player of the Week Oct. 21 and Newcomer of the Week Oct. 21 and Oct. 28.
Even though it’s her first year on the team, Wark said she’s picked up on the seniors’ camaraderie on and off the field. At South Carolina, Wark was the only member of her class on the team since her sophomore year. The Whitby, Ontario native said the welcoming and outgoing nature of the Loyola senior class has helped her transition here.
“I was the only graduating senior, junior and sophomore, in my experience,” Wark said. “I think just having that support system … strength in numbers is truly something that signifies our senior class.”
With their final college games on the horizon, many of the seniors, including Laudeman, said they will always keep soccer in their life even without professional playing careers.
“I definitely hope to maybe coach my kids someday,” Laudeman, 21, said. “I could never completely let it go. I have little cousins and family friends who are younger and just dying to play, and they look up to me, as well.”
Tataryn said her favorite memory on the Ramblers, even above the NCAA Tournament, was winning the 2018 MVC championship at home.
The Plymouth, Minnesota native said she’ll be taking away a lot from her Loyola career, especially the memories of the program’s turnaround. She said she wants to leave that legacy of success.
“[From] a losing season to sophomore year [when] we scored so many goals, and then last year making it to the NCAA Tournament,” Tataryn said. “It’s been … a really great career.”
The Ramblers are set to take on Drake University in Springfield. Nov. 8. Kick-off is scheduled for 6 p.m and the game will be broadcast on ESPN+.