After a historic 9-0 start to its season, the Loyola women’s basketball team (15-7, 6-5) stumbled out to a 4-5 start to Missouri Valley Conference (MVC) play. Now, the team is “starting from scratch” in an effort to break the slump.
The Ramblers burst onto the scene at the start of the season, becoming the first Division I team to reach an 8-0 record on the road. Since then, Loyola has lost three consecutive road games.
“Our January didn’t go how we wanted it to go or what we thought it might be,” Loyola head coach Kate Achter said after Loyola’s win over the University of Evansville Feb. 8. “A lot of that was in our control. That edge that we had with proving people wrong and competing seemed to become complacent. Some of that’s on me, and some of that’s on them.”
The Ramblers opened Missouri Valley Conference (MVC) play in the beginning of January riding a 9-2 non-conference record. But Loyola has struggled in conference play, currently sitting at 6-5 — with four of those wins coming against the bottom two teams in the league.
Loyola suffered a 13-point second half collapse on the road against Valparaiso University Jan. 24, after which Achter called out her players.
“They need to grow up,” Achter said following the loss to the Crusaders. “We haven’t played well in a long time. It’s on them. They need to decide.”
The Ramblers were visibly upset — and verbally in Achter’s — after the two-point loss to the Crusaders, but the worst was still to come. Immediately following the Valparaiso game, the Ramblers lost to the University of Northern Iowa Jan. 31 and Drake University Feb. 2 by a combined 48 points.
“A lot of [Achter’s message] has been that we need to refocus ourselves,” junior forward Abby O’Connor said following the win over Indiana State Feb. 6. “This week, we kind of started from scratch with the start of the second half of conference [play].”
This three-game skid prompted the team’s fresh start — and so far, it has paid dividends.
Loyola snapped the losing streak in a 65-55 victory over Indiana State Feb. 6. After the game, Achter said she thought this was the best her squad has looked in more than a month. That was just the second double-digit victory of conference play for the Ramblers after Loyola had six such wins against non-conference foes.
Loyola followed the win over the Sycamores with a 77-45 drubbing of last-place Evansville — its second-largest margin of victory this season.
It’s important to note that while the Ramblers looked good in their recent victories over Indiana State and Evansville, most teams look good when they play the two MVC cellar dwellers. The Sycamores and Purple Aces have a combined 6-39 record this season.
With the season winding down, Achter stressed the importance of competing. After she said she felt the team has lost a bit of its competitive edge, she used the new month as a way to encourage her players to step up their game.
“We just said if we want February to be different, we gotta lock in differently,” Achter said. “And what better [time] than the turn of a month than to start fresh.”
If Loyola’s fresh start is legit, it’s not a moment too soon. The Ramblers are currently tied for fourth place out of 10 teams in the MVC with only seven games remaining in the regular season.
Loyola’s upcoming slate gets a little tougher. This upcoming weekend, the Ramblers are scheduled to travel to Illinois State University and Bradley University. The Ramblers managed to beat the sixth-place Redbirds at Gentile Arena, but couldn’t handle the second-place Braves at home.
Loyola is scheduled to travel to Normal to take on the Redbirds Feb. 14. Tip-off is set for 7 p.m. on ESPN+.