Women's Soccer

Loyola Women’s Soccer Heads to Third Consecutive MVC Championship

Abby Schnable | The PhoenixThe Loyola women's soccer team celebrates after a goal in 2018.

With 11 days since the last game of its regular season, the Loyola women’s soccer team won 2-1 over Illinois State University in the semifinals of the Missouri Valley Conference (MVC) Tournament April 14. The victory at Loyola Soccer Park sends the Ramblers ahead to fight for their third consecutive MVC championship April 17.

Loyola came into the tournament as the No. 1 seed after securing its third consecutive regular season title. The Ramblers also had 11 days between their last game — a loss to University of Evansville on Senior Night April 5 — whereas the No. 4 seed Redbirds won over No. 5 seed University of Northern Iowa on penalty kicks three days prior in the MVC tournament. 

Loyola came into the match No. 1 in the MVC for shots on goal, followed by Illinois State at No. 2. The two teams are also top in the MVC for goals as well, with Loyola scoring 17 this season and the Redbirds scoring 11.

The first half was a face-paced race to score, but nobody was able to find the net for the larger part of the half. Senior forward Katharine Stephens shot wide for the Ramblers in the third minute, starting off with some pressure on the Redbirds. Out of Stephens’ two goals this season, one of them came in the 3-2 win against Illinois State March 21.  

Loyola managed six corner kicks in the half — none of which converted to points — as the team ranks sixth in the country for corner kicks per game. However, the Ramblers were able to find success before the half ended. First-year midfielder Kyrsten Pellikan scored her first goal of the season off an assist from sophomore midfielder Megan Nemec in the 36th minute to put the first point of the game on the board. 

In the first half alone, the Ramblers registered nine shots and one on goal compared to Illinois State’s five shots with none on goal. 

The second half started out with two shots on goal from Loyola in the first five minutes from junior defender Aly Kilburg and senior midfielder Freya Glen, but both were blocked by Illinois State goalkeeper Priya Gillan. Junior midfielder Abby Swanson managed to head the ball off a corner kick from sophomore defender Olivia Knab in the 58th minute, but it missed the net going just over the crossbar. 

Although the Redbirds tallied two back-to-back shots in the 61st minute, neither made it to the net. Illinois State’s Sarah Ochitwa also received a yellow card — the only one of the game — a few minutes later for tripping Nemec. 

However, the Redbirds were able to score the equalizer when junior Riley O’Brien sent a header past Loyola’s sophomore keeper Grace Droessler in the 83rd minute, sending the game to overtime. Both teams managed nine shots overall in the second half, with Illinois State taking three on goal compared to the Ramblers’ two. 

Overtime began with a shot from Abby Swanson in the 91st minute that went wide of the net, and the first 10 minutes remained scoreless. But with a goal from senior midfielder Lindsey Hardiman in the 103rd minute, Loyola scored the winning goal to head to the MVC championship. 

Head coach Barry Bimbi said he gives Illinois State credit for giving the Ramblers “everything [Loyola] could handle.”

“Today was a battle,” Bimbi said in the post game press release. “We keep reminding the girls that this is a new, young group, which is a little different from what we had in 2019.  I thought we came out fine, but took our foot off the gas a little bit in the second half.”

The Ramblers will take on No. 3 seed Valparaiso University April 18 at Loyola Soccer Park. Kickoff is scheduled for 1 p.m. and broadcast information has yet to be released.

Loyola won over Valparaiso 1-0 March 13 in the only other matchup between the two teams this season. The Ramblers currently rank No. 78 in the NCAA Rating Percentage Index (RPI) out of 316 Division I teams while Valparaiso checks in at No. 229.

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