After the selection show drawing, the Loyola women’s soccer team (8-1-1) is set to play the University of Denver (16-2-1) in the opening round of the NCAA Tournament April 27.
The Pioneers are ranked 33rd out of 316 teams by the NCAA’s Rating Percentage Index (RPI), while Loyola is ranked No. 57. But Loyola head coach Barry Bimbi said he isn’t concerned about the rankings and is focused on Ramblers’ gameplan.
“Their rankings are all kind of out of whack this year with no non-conference games on our side,” Bimbi said. “Don’t put too much stock in the RPI. We’ll take care of our business and what we do well and try to do what we do well on gameday.”
Denver is headed into the NCAA Tournament coming off its 11th Summit League conference title with a 3-0 win against University of Nebraska-Omaha April 17 — the Pioneers’ eighth consecutive win. Loyola’s current winning streak is only two games, but the Ramblers have won eight of their last nine.
Senior defender Jenna Ross is excited for the team to be going up against someone of Denver’s stature. After the Ramblers were bounced in the first round of the past two NCAA Tournaments, Ross thinks this is finally the year Loyola makes it to the second round.
“Having someone similar to our caliber is way more exciting,” said Ross. “Obviously last year we lost in an overtime heartbreaking loss to Hofstra. I think it’s our year to finally make it past the first round and it’s been our goal since the beginning.”
Senior midfielder Freya Glen said the team has been ready for this since the beginning of the season.
“I think we’re really ready to play this year like Jenna [Ross] says,” Glen said. “This was our goal from the beginning, winning our first round game,” said Glen. It’s exciting to play someone who is at a similar level to us and we’ll just do everything to win.
Glen scored the Ramblers’ lone goal in a 1-0 victory over Valparaiso University in the Missouri Valley Conference Tournament championship, bringing her season tally to three goals. Glen also has two assists and has started in all 10 of the Ramblers’ games this season.
Denver’s top two players could pose a challenge. Junior forward Natalie Beckman leads the charge with 10 goals and 14 assists in 19 games played. This performance coupled well with junior forward Sami Feller, who notched eight goals and eight assists in 19 games.
Loyola will square off against Denver in Matthews, North Carolina, April 27. Kickoff is scheduled for 2 p.m. and and to be broadcast on YouTube.