The Missouri Valley Conference (MVC) released its women’s basketball preseason poll Oct. 19, placing Loyola seventh among ten teams with 193 votes. This is a one place jump from the 2020 preseason poll, likely due to the team having its first postseason appearance in program history last season.
The poll is voted on by the MVC’s head coaches, sports information directors and select media members. Teams can earn up to 400 possible points, earning 10 points for a first place vote and one point for a 10th place vote.
Nationally ranked No. 20 Missouri State University sits at the top of the list with 362 votes, including 35 of the 40 first place votes. Drake University and University of Northern Iowa follow with 316 and 298 votes respectively, though neither received more than three first place votes. Bradley University saw the most drastic change, dropping three places to fifth place after losing 119 points.
Loyola earned 60 more votes than last year despite the loss of key player Ellie Rice, who graduated at the end of last season. The former guard broke the 1,000 point threshold in her final game with the Ramblers, averaging 10.1 points and 4.6 rebounds per game in her senior season.
However, the team returns its other four starters, including 2021 MVC Freshman of the Year sophomore guard Maya Chandler and All-MVC First Team selection senior forward Allison Day. Day’s selection was only the fifth time a Loyola player had made the MVC First Team, and it was well deserved — Day finished the season averaging 11.7 points per game and led the team with 187 rebounds.
Heading into the season, Ramblers’ head coach Kate Achter said she challenged Day to make her playstyle, specifically at the post, “more versatile.”
“It just wasn’t where she found the most comfort,” Achter said in an Oct. 19 MVC press conference. “It was a welcomed challenge and she’s been really great at it so far.”
Last season, the team made its deepest run into the MVC tournament — making it to the semifinals — and earned a spot in the Women’s Basketball Invitational (WBI), its first postseason appearance in program history. The maroon and gold finished sixth in the conference, finishing with an 11-13 record, going 8-10 in conference play.
After completing the fourth year goal of her five-year plan, Achter said the milestones achieved during her fifth year of coaching have increased players’ expectations of themselves, but also their self confidence.
“I think in everything we do, the expectation is a little bit different,” Achter said. “I think that gives them a lot of confidence that they can do big things. … I haven’t been the one leading that charge, that’s player driven.”
Achter’s sixth season at the helm of the Ramblers has a tough lineup of competitors. The team will face Missouri State to open and close conference play as well as play a non-conference matchup against DePaul University, which recently received votes in the AP Top 25 poll. Additionally, the team will be back to playing 10 non-conference games, an increase of six from last year’s abridged season.
Despite this, Achter said she remained confident in her team’s ability to take on their opponents.
“Anything worthwhile isn’t easy,” Achter said. “We’re not done. We’re not satisfied or complacent with where we’re at. … and I’ve got some good players that are hungry to do that.”
The Ramblers start non-conference play when they host University of Detroit Mercy Nov. 9 at Gentile Arena. Tip-off is set for 4 p.m. though the broadcasting details have yet to be released.