After a hard-fought first half and a scoreless second half, the Loyola women’s soccer team came out of the April 18 matchup with Valparaiso University as conference champions for the third year in a row. The 1-0 Missouri Valley Conference (MVC) championship win at Loyola Soccer Park will send the Ramblers on to the NCAA Tournament.
A lone goal from senior midfielder Freya Glen in the 36th minute — her third of the season — served as the Ramblers’ ticket to the upcoming tournament. No. 1-seeded Loyola registered a total of 19 shots during the match compared to only four from No. 3-seeded Valparaiso.
“We kind of told the girls, ‘It never gets old, winning,’” Loyola head coach Barry Bimbi said after the game. “It’s always hard work and the prep that goes into it, I was really proud of the way we came out today.”
The first half started out with a corner kick from Loyola senior defender Jenna Ross, but the team was unable to convert it to a goal. The Ramblers are ranked fifth in the nation for corner kicks, averaging eight per game.
Loyola took 11 shots in the first half alone, but the Valparaiso defense held the Ramblers back until the 36th minute. With an assist from 2021 MVC Player of the Year Megan Nemec, Glen found the back of the net to give Loyola the lead. Valparaiso responded with two shots, but neither was successful. Heading into the half, Loyola had four shots on goal compared to Valparaiso’s three.
The second half proved to be slower for both teams. Although Loyola was able to register eight more shots, the Ramblers held Valparaiso to only one. However, three yellow cards were issued in the half — to Valparaiso’s sophomore defender Peyton Flynn and junior defender Nicole Norfolk as well as Loyola’s senior midfielder Lindsey Hardiman.
The Ramblers had a final chance to add another point to the score off a corner kick from sophomore defender Olivia Knab in the 89th minute but were unable to do so. However, the one first half goal was enough for them to secure the championship title.
Bimbi said he was proud of the way his players were able to limit Valparaiso’s opportunities throughout the match, especially in the final minutes.
“The end of the game, I think that’s one of the things I’m most proud of,” Bimbi said. “They’re learning how to kill a game off, kind of started with five or six minutes to go, and started making those smart decisions.”
Loyola’s NCAA Tournament seed and opponent will be announced during the NCAA Selection Show April 19 at noon, broadcast from NCAA.com. The first round of the tournament is scheduled for April 27-28 in Cary, North Carolina and the surrounding areas.