For the third year in a row, the Loyola women’s soccer team lost in the first round of the NCAA Tournament. This season, the Ramblers’ season-ending loss came at the hands of a 3-1 defeat to the University of Denver April 27 in Matthews, North Carolina.
While Loyola wasn’t able to come out on top, the Ramblers opened with a goal courtesy of junior midfielder Abby Swanson just 43 seconds into the contest — her second goal of the year. This was Loyola’s sixth all-time NCAA Tournament appearance, and Swanson’s goal was the first in program history.
The Ramblers held the lead for the next roughly 20 minutes until the Pioneer’s Sami Feller tied the game at 1-1 in the 25th minute. The two squads would head into halftime knotted at one goal apiece.
Both first half scores came shortly following corner kicks. Swanson headed the ball in directly after the feed from Olivia Knab to give Loyola the lead. Meanwhile, Loyola goalkeeper Grace Droessler blocked Feller’s initial shot following the corner kick, but the ball rebounded back to Feller and the junior forward put the follow-up shot away.
Despite the even score at halftime, Loyola had better chances than the Pioneers. The Ramblers managed five shots on goal compared to Denver’s two, and Loyola had six corner kicks while the Pioneers had three.
Denver took the lead shortly after halftime, with sophomore forward Sydney Sharp scoring in the 61st minute off an assistant from Feller. The Pioneers managed to cushion their lead as sophomore midfielder Kaitlyn Glover tacked on another goal in the 84th minute.
While Loyola couldn’t manage to find the back of the net in the second half, the Ramblers once again had multiple opportunities. Loyola recorded four shots on goal in the second half, while Denver had five.
“I thought we did enough to win today,” Loyola head coach Barry Bimbi said in a Loyola press release. “We created enough chances. Their goalkeeper made two unbelievable saves in the first half. If we put one of those away, maybe it’s a little bit of a different story. At the end of the day, I couldn’t be prouder of the performance from the girls.”
The intensity between the two sides increased as the clock grew closer to the 90th minute signaling the end of the game. There were a combined four fouls between Loyola and Denver in the first half, but there were 11 between the two teams in the second half — however, no red or yellow cards were awarded.
This was the third year in a row Loyola made the NCAA Tournament but failed to make it out of the first round. In 2018, the Ramblers fell to eventual-champion Florida State University 1-0. In 2019, the Ramblers lost to Hofstra University 1-0 in overtime.
With the win, Denver advanced to play No. 2-seeded University of North Carolina in the second round of the NCAA Tournament April 30 at 2 p.m.