I’ve heard lots of thoughts and opinions on Rambler sports through the years, and one thing has always been fairly clear to me — Loyola is known for its men’s basketball team. The game atmosphere is jam-packed with fans and spirit squads, the team has historically made it farther in the NCAA Tournament than other Loyola teams in the last few years and our stories about the team consistently get clicks.
However, as I currently work through my last year of covering Loyola sports, I feel it’s finally time to make my pitch to the masses. Although I always hear the most talk about Loyola athletics around campus during basketball season, I think it’s time the playing field was evened out — we should be just as excited about soccer as we are about basketball.
To be honest, I could make this pitch about more than just soccer at Loyola, but today I’ve chosen to narrow it down to this sport alone. You may also be wondering — Lu, aren’t you just a soccer fanatic in general? Maybe so. But I have my solid reasons as to why I think this is an underrated sports season at Loyola.
I come bearing a concrete three-point argument to convince you, the readers, why I’m right.
Of Course, The Weather
This point includes two parts — you, the fan, watching a game outside, and the athletes playing a game outside. First of all, fall weather in Chicago is often quite beautiful, and who doesn’t want to spend more time out in that? Although the atmosphere of games at Gentile Arena can be exciting for fans, there’s something extra nice about getting to enjoy some good weather and good sports. Think of it as a two-in-one win.
Second of all, I’ve covered my fair share of soccer games, so I won’t pretend it’s always 70 degrees and sunny. However, I think that makes the game that much more exciting to watch.
I’ve seen teams play through chilling winds, blazing heat and torrential rainstorms and still pull out wins. There’s something highly respectable about teams powering through the elements, and that’s what soccer season provides. If being out in the harsher weather isn’t your thing, you can stream the games online, which are often on ESPN2 or ESPN3.
The Stats Don’t Lie
Looking at the teams themselves, there’s also a strong argument to be made that if you’re into winning teams, you’d like a Loyola soccer game. The women’s soccer team has won three consecutive conference championships, and the men’s team has also made it to every Missouri Valley Conference (MVC) Championship of the last three years, winning in 2019.
This year, both teams also boast the current MVC Players of the Year, with senior midfielder Billy Hency representing the men’s side and junior midfielder Megan Nemec representing the women’s side. Not only that, but because of the NCAA’s allowance for an extra year of eligibility due to the COVID-19 pandemic, some great players including Jenna Ross, Katharine Stephens, Marcel Kampman, Tyler Biggs and Giann Magno are back for one last hurrah for Loyola. Fall 2021 isn’t a season you want to miss.
The Tense Excitement
Soccer is a low-scoring game, meaning much of the game is spent in the buildup to those few points that decide a victory or defeat. If you’re into those small moments of a match that can make or break the result, then this is the sport for you. These could include holding your breath as you wait for a corner kick that could lead to a golden goal, or watching a quick and direct pass in the midfield that clears the way for a goal. Those are just some of the small moments that make soccer exciting to watch.
If I’ve convinced you — which I hope I have — you can follow Loyola’s soccer teams in their upcoming home and away games.
The women’s team will play two away games — University of Evansville Sept. 29 and Drake University Oct. 3 — before heading back to Loyola Soccer Park to host Missouri State University Oct. 9. The men’s team will face off at Bradley University Sept. 29 before coming home to host Southern Illinois University Edwardsville Oct. 3.