Club sports may not receive the same attention or funding as Division I sports, but it still provides an opportunity for student-athletes to showcase their athletic ability.
Two of Loyola’s club teams, football and men’s rugby, have seen successful 2019 seasons and are advancing in their respective playoffs.
Club Rugby Heads to National Semifinals
The Loyola men’s club rugby team is advancing to the national semifinals to take on Norwich University after defeating Middle Tennessee State University 40-12 Nov. 16. The game was played on St. Thomas More College’s campus in Crestview Hills, Kentucky. Senior fullback Ryan Maxfield said he was especially proud of his team’s win on Saturday as it was the culmination of weeks of preparation.
“We defended with everything we had,” Maxfield said. “We were tenacious and our big boys played their hearts out.”
The win propels the Ramblers further along the most successful season in the program’s 26-year history. After losing their home opener on the last play of the game against Illinois State, the Ramblers proceeded to win the rest of their regular season games to finish with a 5-1 record.
Their performance in the regular season provided the team a path to the national tournament, an opportunity they capitalized on by winning three of their next four games.
Loyola head coach Lance Houia competed against his alma mater. Houia, still in his first season at Loyola, has made a sizeable impact on the team’s performance and their desire to win, according to his players.
“From day one he said our goal is to make it to the national tournament,” Maxfield said. “We got better and better throughout the season to the point where everyone really bought in.”
Sophomore wing Nick Barone said he enjoyed this season’s success and is excited to continue competing at a high level.
“We have the Sweet 16 and Elite 8 next in South Carolina, and we are excited to play the number one team in the country and show what we are about,” Barone said.
Club Football Season Ends in NCFA Playoffs
Meanwhile, the Loyola club football team finished its season with a 5-1 record — its best since club football returned to Loyola in 2012. The Ramblers’ season ended with a 44-7 loss in the quarterfinals of the National Club Football Association (NCFA) playoffs to Oakland University in Rochester, Michigan Nov. 16. The NCFA is the biggest club football association at the collegiate level with seven conferences and 27 teams.
The Ramblers entered the postseason ranked fourth in the NCFA, one spot ahead of Oakland. Five players won NCFA player of the week awards over the course of the season — quarterback Mike Hurias Jr., wide receivers Ryan Luft and Jack Ryan, defensive end Jack Tauber and linebacker Jack Aleman.
This was the Ramblers’ first undefeated season since 2012. The team ended the regular season with a perfect 5-0 record to win the Great Lakes West conference. Sophomore captain Jack Aleman says the team’s success can be attributed to the team’s chemistry and determination.
“We had such a tight-knit core this year,” Aleman said. “Lots of guys that know how to play the game and want to do more than just throw some pads on. Every day, people are willing to put in the work and it shows.”
In six games, the Ramblers outscored opponents 125-67, breaking the single-season record for points allowed. The Ramblers are set to return 21 players for the 2020 season.
Sophomore captain Jack Aleman said he’s already looking forward to what the Ramblers can do next season.
“This season was a building block,” Aleman said. “We had a great senior class to lead the way for the younger guys and show us what this team is all about. We [have] a great core, young leaders and the determination to get us where we need to be. Looking forward to a successful offseason. We’re coming back dangerous.”