The defensive midfield position in soccer, according to women’s soccer head coach Barry Bimbi, is one that’s “really known for going unnoticed.” However, Loyola senior Abby Swanson — a defensive midfielder — breaks the mold.
Swanson’s hard work and talent have brought the “unnoticed” position into the spotlight. Her abilities have been recognized from the start of her career. In 2018, Swanson was named Missouri Valley Conference (MVC) Freshman of the Year. Since then, Swanson has continued to be noticed, holding a spot on the MVC All-Tournament Team every year she’s played.
Recently, Swanson’s talents have been noticed again, and she has been nominated for the 2021 Senior Celebrating Loyalty and Achievement for Staying in School (CLASS) award, which recognizes talents on and off the field.
For the Senior CLASS award, 60 Division I male and female soccer players are nominated based on their achievements in the classroom, competition, character and community. Later, the pool of nominees gets narrowed down to ten men and ten women, and then, the public votes for the final winners, which are announced in December.
Swanson’s past performances certainly reflect successes in competition. In the past two NCAA tournaments, Swanson scored Loyola’s only goal of the 2020 tournament and led the team with 5 shots in 2019.
This season, Swanson has started in all 13 games, playing an average of just under 88 minutes per game. Additionally, Swanson has 20 shots this season and scored an instrumental goal in Loyola’s 2-1 win against Indiana State University.
Swanson’s successes continue off the field. She maintains a 3.51 GPA in Loyola’s nursing program, which earned her a spot on the 2020-2021 MVC Scholar-Athlete first team and a spot on the 2020-2021 College Sports Information Directors of America (CoSIDA) Academic All-District Team, which focuses on performance in the classroom.
Even with numerous accolades — including winning the 2020 MVC Defensive Player of the Year — Swanson said the Senior CLASS nomination is different.
A more encompassing award like the Senior CLASS award “speaks more to your character,” Swanson said. This holds more significance to Swanson because to her, being good at soccer without being a good person isn’t enough.
As a nursing major and a D1 athlete, Swanson lives a busy lifestyle, though her teammates said that doesn’t stop her from giving it her all. Sophomore defender Alaina Abel, Swanson’s friend and teammate, said that Swanson “always shows up 100% ready to go” in school, soccer and serving her community.
Swanson spends time volunteering at the Lakeview Pantry with other girls on the team. This volunteer work, combined with working towards becoming a nurse, reflects Swanson’s considerate ability to put others first, Bimbi said.
“She’s definitely a person for others and that goes right along with her wanting to be a nurse,” Bimbi said. “She’s definitely out to help and support other people.”
The combination of consistently working hard while also putting others first has set Swanson up to be an exemplary athlete for her teammates. According to Abel, Swanson naturally falls into the leadership position and “sets the tone” for the team.
Swanson takes advantage of her place on the team to constantly work towards improvement, said Bimbi, adding how Swanson always “wants to compete to the highest level.” This fierce determination and dedication to working hard, reflects everything the Senior CLASS award and Swanson represent.
Swanson and the Ramblers are scheduled to take on Valparaiso University at Loyola Soccer Park Oct. 28. Kick-off is scheduled for 4 p.m. and the game will be broadcast on ESPN+.