Second-seeded Loyola (9-5-2, 6-3-1) was upset by fourth-seeded University of Evansville Nov. 12, as the Ramblers couldn’t capitalize off key opportunities in a game that was theirs to lose. The match ended in a 2-2 draw, following an 8-7 win by the Purple Aces in the penalty shootout.
Loyola’s strength throughout the 2021 fall season had been its offense. The team led all teams in the MVC with 21 goals scored in conference play, followed by Missouri State University’s 19. Evansville ranked fifth out of the six teams with nine.
Prior to the game, two-time MVC Player of the Year senior midfielder Billy Hency said the team had the potential to win the MVC Tournament this year.
“Our opponents don’t really matter,” Hency said about the team’s tournament preparation. “We just have to work and play our own game. If we play the way that we can to our potential, we should have no problem.”
Hency was accompanied by five other Loyola players on the First Team All-MVC this season. Redshirt junior defender Michael Hong, junior defender Marc Torrellas, graduate midfielder Giann Magno, junior forward Oscar Dueso and senior forward Fabian Becerra, as they set a program record for most All-MVC selection in a season with six.
Regardless of the talent on the team, the Ramblers failed to play at their peak, scoring just two goals on 23 shots in a crucial elimination match.
With 21 goals and 154 shots during regular season conference play, Loyola averaged 2.1 goals and 15.4 shots per game. Statistically speaking, this means Loyola scored a goal for every 7.33 shots they took, but were unable to meet their goal per shot projection against Evansville with 23. The last time the Ramblers recorded over 19 shots was Oct. 23 vs. Drake University, with which they got a 3-0 win on 24 shots.
Evansville, on the other hand, exceeded its regular season average off the back of a highly efficient offense. The Purple Aces were able to score two goals in just five shots taken, opening the game with a penalty kick goal in the fifth minute. Their scoring efficiency was much better than in their regular season conference play, as they averaged one goal for every 11.89 shots.
Loyola was quick to respond with a pair of goals, but its second one in the 36th minute would be their last of the match, which was soon to be equalized in the 39th minute.
Despite Loyola’s dominance outshooting Evansville 23 to 5, the Ramblers failed to outscore the Purple Aces, which in the end, lost the Ramblers the game.
With 26 minutes remaining in the second half, a strike from Dueso sailed over the crossbar in what seemed like a clear opportunity for the Ramblers.
Just five minutes later, a dangerous Hency dribble resulted in a dangerous cross into the box, which got deflected just inches wide from the post.
Loyola’s final and most promising opportunity was missed with two minutes to go in the match. Evansville fouled Loyola in the far right corner of Purple Ace territory, setting the Ramblers up for a free kick near the corner.
With the clock about to run out, Hency sent a cross into the box — one which already looked like a goal while the ball was still in the air. The cross was met by a wide open Dueso, powerfully heading the ball into the crossbar. The ball was then cleared from the box by the Purple Aces, sending the match into overtime.
In the overtime period alone, Loyola was able to put up five shots — none successful, taking the game into a penalty kick shootout. The Ramblers and Purple Aces were perfect in penalty kicks through seven rounds, until redshirt junior defender Andrew Schweinert got his turn.
Evansville goalkeeper Jacob Madden got the save, but crossed the goal line before Schweintert kicked the ball, giving Loyola a second chance. Unfortunately for the Ramblers, Schweinert kicked the ball towards the exact same place in his second-chance kick. Madden saw it coming and got the game-winning save for the Purple Aces.
Finishing as the No. 2 seed in the MVC regular season, the Ramblers earned a bye week in the MVC Tournament, heading straight to the semifinals. However, the Ramblers came from an offensive slump. In its final two matches of the regular season, Loyola scored one total goal and lost both contests — one against Southern Illinois University Edwardsville and the other against Missouri State University.
Evansville, in contrast, went into the semifinals hot with a dominant 4-2 win against Drake University. The Purple Aces’ strong quarterfinals appearance against the Bulldogs was the first time they scored four or more goals since 1995.
Evansville then faced the current No. 16 ranked Missouri State University in the MVC Championship — Evansville’s first appearance in 12 years. Putting an end to the Purple Aces’ Cinderella run, the Bears won with a 3-0 mark, winning their second straight MVC Tournament title.