In a highly-contested match, fourth-seeded University of Evansville (4-13-2, 3-6-1) upset second-seeded Loyola (9-5-2, 6-3-1) in the semifinals of the Missouri Valley Conference (MVC) Tournament Nov. 12. Following a 2-2 playing time draw, the Purple Aces punched their ticket to the tournament final with an 8-7 penalty kick shootout result.
Placing second in the MVC regular season, the Ramblers earned a bye week and a straight ticket to the MVC semifinals. The Purple Aces, however, had to play their way into the semifinals against fifth-seeded Drake University (6-9, 3-7).
Evansville came into the semifinals hot after a 4-2 victory over Drake — the team’s first time scoring four goals since 1995. The last time the Ramblers and the Purple Aces met, Loyola won the game 5-1 Oct. 16.
In the midst of tough playing conditions, the players hit the pitch with winds of up to 15 mph. Without wasting any time, an Evansville ball sent to the box in the fifth minute of the game bounced into Loyola senior forward Fabian Becerra’s hand, setting up a penalty kick for the Purple Aces.
Evansville’s Pablo Guillen capitalized off the Ramblers’ first mistake with a perfectly placed ball at the bottom-right corner of the goal, putting the Purple Aces up by one.
Evansville’s first goal set the pace for its team, applying heavy pressure against Loyola, but the Ramblers were quick to break out of it. In the 20th minute of the game, junior defender Andrew Mitchell stole the ball and immediately rifled a powerful strike from deep, scoring his first goal of the season to tie the game 1-1.
Following its first goal, Loyola dominated the game. In the 36th minute, a through ball sent by graduate midfielder Tyler Biggs intended for junior forward Alex Moskal, was deflected by an Evansville defender for an own-goal. The Ramblers led the Purple Aces 2-1.
Evansville was quick to respond, as a successful slide tackle by Mitchell in the 39th minute set up a wide-open shot for Carlos Barcia. The Evansville forward sent the ball straight into the bottom left corner of Loyola’s goalie for the equalizer, sending the game to halftime with a score of 2-2.
For the vast majority of the second half, the game became stagnant. Coming out of halftime, the Ramblers dominated with high pressure and multiple scoring opportunities, but were unable to capitalize off them.
With three minutes left on the clock, a foul on Biggs gave the Ramblers a free kick in Evansville territory near the right corner of the field. Senior midfielder Billy Hency sent a brilliant cross into the box, powerfully headed into the crossbar by junior midfielder Oscar Dueso, missing on the Ramblers’ final opportunity of the second half.
Loyola maintained dominance during both overtime periods, but were unable to make any shots on goal. Evansville made two, both saved by graduate goalkeeper Marcel Kampman. With a final regulation time of 2-2, the semifinal went to a penalty shootout for the first time in the MVC Tournament since 2018.
Loyola began the shootout with a successful penalty kick by junior defender Marc Torrellas. Evansville responded with a goal by Oliver Hald. Both teams were flawless through seven rounds.
In the eighth round, a penalty kick to the low, mid-right section of the goal by Loyola redshirt junior defender Andrew Schweinert was saved by Evansville goalkeeper Jacob Madden. However, Madden crossed the goal line before Schweinert kicked the ball, giving Loyola a second chance. In his opportunity for redemption, Schweinert kicked the ball into the exact same spot — guessed and saved by Maddon.
With the potential game-winning penalty kick, Evansville’s Davis Peck drilled the ball into the upper left corner, sending the Purple Aces to their first MVC Tournament final in 12 years.
In Loyola’s nine years in the MVC, this was their seventh appearance in a semifinals match — its fourth straight. The Ramblers’ hopes for a second title in three years were cut short by Evansville’s Cinderella run.
Evansville is set to face Missouri State University (16-1, 11,0) in Springfield, Missouri for the final of the MVC Tournament Nov. 14. The game is scheduled for 1 p.m. and is set to be broadcast on ESPN+.