Sports

Not Done Yet: Loyola Women’s Soccer Advances Into the Postseason Hoping to Continue to Make History

Steve Woltmann | Loyola AthleticsThe Ramblers boast a strong roster for the 2021 tournament, including 2020-21 Player of the Year Megan Nemec.

With a dominating 5-0 win against Valparaiso University Oct. 28, the women’s soccer team ended the regular season 11-2-2 and are the first team in Missouri Valley Conference (MVC) history to win the regular-season title for four consecutive years.

“[It’s] really cool to be making history and being the first team to win four straight regular season titles,” graduate forward Katharine Stephens said. “[Winning] goes back to what we work on every day — the little things we do [to] separate us from all the rest of the teams.”

Next up for the Ramblers is the MVC Tournament, which includes the six MVC teams and will be played on Oct. 31, Nov. 5 and Nov. 7. With a final conference record of 7-0-1, the Loyola women’s soccer team earned the No. 1 seed, giving them a bye into the semi-finals. 

The Ramblers have had successful runs in the past three MVC tournaments. In 2018, the team beat Drake University 3-2 to take home its first MVC title. The streak then continued as the team beat Illinois State University 2-0 in 2018 and Valparaiso University 1-0 in the 2020 tournament.

In hopes to continue this streak and overall success in the 2021 season, the Ramblers will have a week of no games to prepare for their semi-final game against fifth-seeded Drake, who beat fourth-seeded University of Northern Iowa 3-2 during the first round of the tournament Oct. 31.

Loyola defeated Drake 4-1 in an impressive 30 shot game earlier in the season and hasn’t lost to Drake since 2017. Having a recent winning history with the Bulldogs, however, doesn’t mean the team can get comfortable, head coach Barry Bimbi said.

Off days can happen, said Bimbi. He also added that the team tries to focus on themselves, rather than their opponents — this strategy helps improve its game.

According to senior goalkeeper Maddie Hausmann, the team plans to keep the competitive and fixated mentality it’s had all year despite the change in risk level. Every game the team plays is the most important for the team because it’s their game and their primary focus, and only once the game ends does the team look to the next task, said Hausmann. 

As far as postseason strategy goes, Bimbi said that not much is going to differ from the regular-season. One technique he said will continue is rotating, which lets the team rely on various players and allows the team to perform at a higher level.

Bimbi said, playing anywhere from fifteen to seventeen players in most games allows the team to bring in new talent and layers to the game — keeping the team able to play at a high level and speed throughout the entire game. 

14 different Ramblers have scored goals this season, reflecting the versatility of everyone on the team.

Recently, the MVC implemented new rules, stating that the regular season winning team will host the semi-final games and the championship game of the MVC Tournament. This means that with Loyola securing the regular season title, they also gained a home-field advantage — which according to Stephens, can have a significant impact, especially when fellow student athletes pack the stands.

“The support from other sports teams is huge because we just want to keep that championship culture going, and it’s great to have the support of other people,” Stephens, 22, said. 

The Ramblers’ matchup against Drake will be held at Loyola Soccer Park Nov. 5. Kick-off is scheduled for 6 p.m. and this game, along with all the MVC tournament games, is set to be broadcast on The Valley on ESPN. 

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