The Loyola men’s soccer team (9-5-1, 6-3-1) concluded its regular season in a physical contest against conference-rival No. 11 Missouri State University Nov. 6, falling 2-1 on Senior Night at Loyola Soccer Park.
Missouri State started the match by pushing the ball deep into Loyola’s end of the pitch. Five minutes in, the Bears had an early scoring chance when senior forward Jesus Barea broke away and sent a ball across the pitch, but it was blocked by Loyola’s defense.
Loyola’s defense stood up to Missouri State’s relentless attack on a threatening corner kick, heading the ball out of the box. The Bears’ consistent presence in the Ramblers’ end of the pitch forced Loyola to commit two fouls in the seventh minute.
In the 15th minute, Loyola senior forward Fabian Becerra notched the game’s first shot on goal with a header saved by Missouri State red-shirt senior goalkeeper Michael Creek. Following more crosses and scoring chances by Loyola, Becerra sailed a shot high of the net.
The first half was a physical battle as Loyola committed seven fouls compared to Missouri State’s three. Head coach Neil Jones said the tough play is nothing his team isn’t used to facing.
“Every game in this conference is physical, so I don’t think that was anything we weren’t used to,” Jones said. “It’s the nature of Division I college soccer, especially in this conference.”
Before the second half, Jones said he had to make changes to his team’s tactics. He said he changed his formation in response to Missouri State’s offensive pressure.
“We had to [change formation] because they threw a few things at us that we weren’t quite defending well enough and had to make different areas of the field a little more difficult for them to play in,” he said.
The Bears ended the scoring drought in the second half. In the 48th minute, a Missouri State cross from senior forward Nicolo Mulatero through the midfield was received by Barea, who sent the ball into the back of the net for his fourth goal of the season.
Shortly afterward, the Bears extended their lead in the 56th minute. Barea passed the ball to senior forward Josh Dolling, who launched the ball towards the post for his third goal of the year.
Down but not out, the Ramblers struck back with their first goal of the night in the 65th minute to cut Missouri State’s lead to one. On a penalty kick, Loyola senior midfielder Billy Hency powered the ball into the top right corner of the net for his ninth goal of the season.
The physical play continued throughout the rest of the match. In the 84th minute, while Loyola was on a break towards Missouri State’s goal, Barea earned a yellow card while nearly throwing down Loyola junior midfielder Oscar Dueso, who also earned a yellow card.
After the altercation, the following Loyola free-kick resulted in the ball hitting the left post. Once again, a Loyola foul ended the opportunity as Creek was knocked down in his own goal.
Ultimately, the Ramblers couldn’t net an equalizing goal, losing the match 2-1. Despite the loss, Jones said his team played much better in the second half in both its defensive abilities and offensive chances.
“I thought the guys executed defensively better in the second half,” he said. “[Down] two to one, you are one play away from tying the game. We almost made that play a couple of times there at the end, credit to them for hanging on.”
Jones said senior night meant a lot to him and his players. He said he is going to miss his seniors who have been the backbone of his team.
“Always an emotional night saying goodbye to five incredible characters,” Jones said. “Some of them have been here for longer than others, but they have all put in the same amount of effort, that means a lot to me, their teammates, and alumni.”
The Rambler’s focus now turns to the MVC Tournament as the team will travel to Springfield, Missouri for its semifinal match Nov. 12. Loyola will play the winner of the match between the third and sixth seeds, and kick-off is scheduled for at 3 p.m. on ESPN+.