After becoming the first-ever team to win four straight Missouri Valley Conference (MVC) outright regular season titles Oct. 28 and securing its fourth consecutive MVC Championship Nov. 7, the Loyola women’s soccer team (13-2-2, 7-0-1) now turns its attention to the upcoming NCAA Tournament.
The Ramblers have been selected to play Purdue University, as announced in the NCAA Selection Show Nov. 8. The team will travel to West Lafayette, Indiana to face the Boilermakers in the first round of the tournament.
“Going into the fourth year we’re doing this, there’s definitely a different level of expectation for us,” Loyola head coach Barry Bimbi said. “With the experience coming back, with the quality we have coming back, we really put the pressure on ourselves to perform in the NCAA Tournament.”
Bimbi said playing Purdue as an opponent has its benefits — the team will only have to take a bus trip to reach its destination, and the Ramblers have faced Purdue before.
The Ramblers’ Big 10 opponent checks in at No. 19 in the NCAA Rating Percentage Index (RPI), whereas Loyola currently sits at No. 45. Loyola played two other Big 10 opponents this year — University of Wisconsin and University of Nebraska — finishing with a 0-0 draw in double overtime against the Badgers Sept. 2 and falling 3-0 to the Cornhuskers Sept. 5.
Loyola has fallen in the first round in each of its last three NCAA Tournament appearances, but not without a fight. The spring 2021 tournament was the only time the Ramblers lost by two points, losing by only one in the two previous years and forcing overtime against Hofstra University in 2019.
“I was thinking about how we did lose 3-0 to Nebraska,” graduate defender Jenna Ross said. “So I’m hoping Purdue looks at that and underestimates us a little bit, and then we just come out as strong as we have been in the past couple games and we just shock them.”
The date and time for Loyola’s matchup with the Boilermakers have yet to be announced, but all games in the first round of the tournament are scheduled to be played between Nov. 12 and Nov. 14.