It was a picture-perfect day at Loyola Soccer Park when the top-seeded Loyola women’s soccer team achieved its season-long goal of winning the “four-peat,” securing its fourth consecutive Missouri Valley Conference (MVC) Championship title.
The Ramblers will now head to their fourth straight NCAA Tournament after winning over sixth-seeded Evansville 4-0 Nov. 7.
The Ramblers came into the tournament as the No. 1 seed after winning their fourth consecutive outright regular season MVC title — the only team in MVC history to achieve such a feat. The team then secured an appearance in the championship after winning 4-1 over fifth-seeded Drake University Nov. 5.
The championship match started out with some back-and-forth action from both teams, however Loyola was able to keep possession the majority of the time. Leading Evansville in shots throughout the start of the match, the Ramblers finally got on the board in the 29th minute with a goal from graduate defender Jenna Ross off a corner kick from senior forward Bailey Faulkner.
The goal marked Ross’s first of the season and her second goal in history throughout her five years at Loyola. She chose to take her extra year of eligibility offered by the NCAA due to the COVID-19 pandemic and stay for a fifth year on the team.
This goal made Ross the 15th player to score a goal for the Ramblers this season.
“[Ross] is a girl that has given her heart and soul to this program over the last five years, so for her to score the game winning goal in the championship game for the Missouri Valley Conference?” Loyola head coach Barry Bimbi said. “I’m very happy for her.”
Another goal came quickly behind Ross’s when junior midfielder Amanda Cassidy sent one in three minutes later — her third of the season — giving the Ramblers a 2-0 lead in the 32nd minute.
The Purple Aces got into a potential scoring position in the 39th minute, but sophomore defender Alaina Abel swiftly guided the ball back and away from Loyola senior goalkeeper Maddie Hausmann.
At the half, Loyola led the Purple Aces in shots eight to one, and shots on goal four to one.
“Today is about experience and being really proficient in those moments,” Loyola head coach Bimbi said. “Once we got the first goal, we started rolling and relaxed a little bit.”
The second half started off with some disciplinary action as both Faulkner and Evansville senior midfielder Abby Phelps received yellow cards in the 52nd minute. However, the Ramblers quickly came back after the Purple Aces scored an own goal less than a minute later, giving Loyola a three-point lead.
Loyola also came out hot in terms of shots, making four shots with two on goal within the first 12 minutes of the second half. In that time, Evansville only managed one, not on goal. The second half of the match took place almost completely with Evansville on the defense.
The physicality of the second half kept up when Evansville’s graduate defender Emily Olson was shown a red card after pulling Loyola junior midfielder Megan Nemec’s shirt, causing her to trip.
The Ramblers weren’t done scoring yet, though — junior defender Megan Demski sent one in off an assist from sophomore midfielder Madeleine Barone in the 77th minute.
With four goals, Loyola equaled its record for number of goals in an MVC Tournament match. Hausmann also broke a Loyola individual record, setting a new single-season record for shutouts with 10.
Ross plays closely with Hausmann as a defender and credited her talent on the pitch
“Maddie is the leader of [the backline],” Ross said. “So getting that for her is the icing on the cake for today.”
Loyola also put four players on the All-Tournament Team — senior defender Abby Swanson, Nemec, Ross and Tournament MVP, Cassidy.
Now, the Ramblers will focus their attention on the upcoming NCAA Tournament, which they will be heading to for the fourth straight season.
“We’ll train hard,” Bimbi said of the upcoming competition. “It’s all gas, no brakes.”
Loyola’s seed in the NCAA Tournament and opponent will be announced in the selection show Nov. 8. The program is set to begin at 3:30 p.m. CT and can be streamed live at NCAA.com.