Sports

Loyola Women’s Basketball’s Conference Opener Set for Jan. 1 Against Valparaiso

Nick Schultz | The PhoenixLoyola senior guard Ellie Rice defends against Southern Illinois last season.

The Missouri Valley Conference (MVC) released the conference schedules for women’s basketball Sept. 22. The Ramblers are scheduled to open conference play Jan. 1 on the road against Valparaiso University. This comes less than a week after the NCAA announced the return of men’s and women’s basketball. 

In a press release, Loyola Athletics announced season tickets wouldn’t be offered for men’s and women’s basketball this season. However, it said there’s still the possibility of purchasing tickets on a single-game basis, but more information would be released later.

The Ramblers’ conference opener comes after Loyola lost by two points on the road to the Crusaders last season. Loyola senior guard Ellie Rice said she was disappointed in last year’s loss to Valparaiso, but she’s confident in the work she and the team have put in during the offseason.

“We’re starting to mesh really well as a group,” Rice said. “And I think we’re just really excited to be able to play again, whoever it is. But yeah, I think it’s going to be a good game like it always is.”

Loyola head coach Kate Achter wasn’t available at the time of publication.

In general, Rice said she gets excited for every conference game, but she doesn’t have a particular game she’s looking forward to this season.

“I get excited to play every conference game just because our conference is super competitive,” Rice said. “The past couple years that I’ve been playing at Loyola, every year we are competing with all the teams. I’m just really excited to be in those close games, and just being able to compete again for the first time in what feels like forever.”

Loyola returns most of its lineup from last season, but lost two of its top-three scorers. The Ramblers will be tasked with replacing graduated guard Tiara Wallace’s 10.1 points per game and Abby O’Connor’s team-high 12.3 points per game after the forward transferred to Gonzaga University.

Rice averaged 6.9 points and 5.0 rebounds per game last season. She said she thinks it’s going to be a team effort in filling the production lost from the departure of Wallace and O’Connor. 

Nick Schultz | The Phoenix Loyola senior guard Ellie Rice talks with head coach Kate Achter at the Athletics-Recreation Center against Valparaiso University last season.

“I think it’s really just going to depend on matchups, and whoever we’re playing on a specific night,” Rice said. “Obviously, I’m a senior and I have a little bit of experience from the past three years playing. I just hope that I can be a leader for the younger players because they are going to have a big role on the team this year.”

Across the MVC, five of the top six scorers from last season graduated. Rice also said there are a lot of talented younger players that will have bigger roles this season.

“I think it’s definitely going to give people opportunities to step up into roles that they previously hadn’t been in,” Rice said. “A lot of the top scorers from our league are now graduated so that’s going to be really interesting to see how all the other teams are maturing and progressing when we get to conference.”

The Ramblers are set to finish their conference season by hosting Valparaiso Mar. 4 at Gentile Arena.

The MVC has yet to announce the preseason rankings for the upcoming season. The women’s basketball MVC Tournament is scheduled for March 11-14 in Moline, Illinois.

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