During the 2020-2021 season the Loyola women’s basketball team played 27 games, had its best conference record since the 2015-2016 season at 8-10 and made it to the Women’s Basketball Invitational — its first postseason tournament in program history. A major contributor to the team’s success was current sophomore guard Maya Chandler.
The Martinsville, Indiana native joined the team last season as a first-year and immediately started to build her legacy as a Rambler. In Chandler’s collegiate debut, she scored 14 points and played 25 minutes during Loyola’s 70-57 win against Chicago State University Nov. 28, 2020.
Chandler’s success continued to grow from there. By the end of the season, she had tallied some impressive stats — started all 27 games, played on average 27.3 minutes per game, scored 236 total points (the third highest of the team), averaged 8.7 points per game (also the third highest of the team) and above all, named Missouri Valley Conference (MVC) Freshman of the Year.
According to head coach Kate Achter, Chandler’s presence quickly established her as a leader for the Ramblers. Achter said that Chandler’s competitive habits during practice and games provide a good example for the first-years on the team to look up to.
Sophomore forward Sitori Tanin said she agrees, saying Chandler does provide the role of the dedicated leader for the team. Another way Chandler contributes to the team, Tannin added, is through supplying the comedic relief the team needs.
“Maya is a little bit of our resident goofball,” Achter said. “She keeps it light and loose in the locker room … you never know what Maya is going to do in there or what [she] is going to say.”
The driving characteristic behind Chandler’s successes, however, is her competitive nature, said Tanin and Achter, which blends with her sense of humor.
“[Chandler is] good at balancing the humor part [and] bringing in some fun aspects to practice or a game,” Tanin said. “But then she’ll get really competitive when we’re on the court or in practice and is great at balancing.”
Chandler’s competitive nature can also be seen in her stats from her first year — she had 15 offensive rebounds, 61 defensive rebounds and 26 steals. According to Chandler, competitiveness has always been part of who she is.
“I come from a big family and everyone was an athlete … so growing up we were always playing games,” Chandler said. “It was always you’re either winning or losing and I think that’s always made me a pretty competitive person.”
Loyola hit the ground running to start the 2021-2022 season with a 63-40 win against the University of Detroit Mercy Nov. 9. During the game, Chandler found a strong start to her sophomore season as she put up 10 points while making every shot she took from the field during her 22 minutes on the court.
With no fans allowed at games last year due to the COVID-19 pandemic, it was Chandler’s first time playing with a crowd in the stands. Chandler said the energy on the court and the ability to see relatives watching in person was exciting.
During practice and competition, Achter said Chandler has a fearlessness that makes her easy to coach. Achter continued, saying that without that fear of messing up, Chandler is more comfortable with the ball and can more easily grow as a player.
“She’s not afraid of the moment,” Acheter said. “[She’s] not afraid of screwing up in college athletics … her approach, in terms of finding success and learning from failure, is a very refreshing and welcome sight on our team.”
In regard to how receiving the award impacts her game, Chandler said winning the award has given her more confidence in her game as well as more trust and freedom with the coaches.
Looking ahead to the rest of the season, Tanin and Chandler share similar goals for the team — keep winning, keep improving, win the conference and reach a postseason tournament for the second year in a row. Personally, Chandler hopes to make the all-conference team.
“Individually, I just want to do my job well enough for our team to be able to achieve our team goals, but I’d also like to make an all-conference team this year.”
Coming up next, the Ramblers will travel to Evanston to take on Northwestern University Nov. 17. The game is scheduled for 7 p.m. and is set to be broadcast on Big Ten Network Pus.