March Madness

‘It’s Bittersweet’: Fans Disappointed After Loyola’s First Round Exit from NCAA Tournament

Aidan Cahill | The PhoenixLoyola fans watch the first round NCAA Tournament matchup between Loyola and Ohio State March 18.

Students gathered across Loyola’s campuses, from Damen Student Center to the Schreiber Center stairs, to watch as Loyola fell to Ohio State University in the first round of the NCAA tournament March 17.

Senior Lucas Manuszak — who said he’s been to dozens of games during his time at Loyola — watched the game in Damen’s student-run Ireland’s Pub 10, decked out in Ramblers merchandise. For him, this game was a “defeating” end.

“It’s bittersweet,” the 22-year-old chemistry major said. “It was a fun ride. Tough for it to end, but I really enjoyed it.”

First-year Relu Awodein said she was “in shock” after the loss. 

“I’m kinda disappointed,” Awodein, who watched the game in Damen, said. “I was a big contributor to the Ohio State slander and now I feel really embarrassed because I literally tore that team apart.” 

A fervent supporter who made it to most home games and traveled to Missouri for Arch Madness, Awodein said the team was “not the team” she’s seen all season. 

“I was so confused,” Awodein, 18, said. “I am devastated, and now I have to go to class.”

Although she was sad to see the Ramblers lose, she said the atmosphere from “loyal” fans in Damen and on campus was “so great.”

Across the city on Loyola’s Water Tower Campus, students watched the game on a projector in Schreiber, enjoying free popcorn and Loyola merchandise.

Aidan Cahill | The Phoenix Loyola was eliminated from March Madness after falling to the Buckeyes 54-41 in Pittsburgh.

Humbarto Aranda, a junior studying marketing and business management, said the watch party allowed students like him to enjoy the game with friends while supporting their university.

“I think it’s great, it’s a way to motivate students to come to support the university,” Aranda said. “It’s a great incentive to hang out with your friends, you’ve got popcorn, you’ve got all these special free gifts.”

Natalie Zayed, a junior studying human resource management and information systems, said it was her first time watching Loyola play in the NCAA Tournament on-campus, adding that she wants to travel to watch next year’s tournament if Loyola is selected.

“It’s really fun,” Zayed said. “This is actually my first time watching it as a school here in Schreiber, but I hope I can go to the next tournament in person and experience it live.”

As the Ramblers struggled offensively, Zayed said she trusted their defense to keep them in the game, adding that the defense led by graduate guard Lucas Williamson gives the team bragging rights. 

Aranda said watching the game was stressful for upperclassmen, adding that the matchup might be the last time he watches Loyola play in the NCAA Tournament as a student, with Loyola’s transition to the Atlantic-10 (A-10) next season. Although the conference has more at-large bids, he said the stiffer competition could make it harder to get back to the tournament.

“I think this year it’s more stressful because they changed [conferences] and they’re going to play harder games,” Aranda said. “Who knows if they’ll make it to March Madness again when you’re a student. The older you get in your class, the more stressed you get in these games.”

It wasn’t just students who sat in Ireland’s in agony as the Rambler’s fell to Ohio State. Loyola alumni Brittney Swiggum and Julie Hartney – who graduated in 2012 and 2014, respectively – said they remembered a time when basketball games at Loyola “weren’t good” and free textbooks were the main attraction. 

Hartney said after she graduated, the team started to gain more success, eventually turning her into a season ticket holder. 

Back on Lake Shore Campus in a nook of Ireland’s pub, first-years Daphne Kritikakis, Maida Mulalic, Taylor Jordan and Sabina Matezic watched their first March Madness game as students. 

“We never missed a game,” Mulalic said. “I enjoy watching basketball in general, but when you’re a part of the school and the community, it’s just so much better.”

Austin Hojdar | The Phoenix Students gathered in Damen Student Center to watch the NCAA Tournament matchup alongside other fans.

Jordan said it was a “fun season” regardless, and she’s proud of the team’s run.

After the game, Mary Baertlein, a junior studying finance, said she was sad to see Loyola lose but enjoyed watching the game with fellow students in the business center. 

“[I’m feeling] pretty sad,” Baertlein said. “I’m glad I got to [watch] it with other students rather than alone. You get a better sense of community with other people.”

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