On a scorching hot day at Loyola Soccer Park, the Loyola women’s soccer team (5-2-2, 2-0) defeated La Salle University Sept. 18 to win the first ever Atlantic 10 (A-10) conference game in program history. The match also marked the Ramblers’ first time hosting an A-10 game across all sports.
Loyola kicked off the match by turning the ball over deep into LaSalle territory. Despite the Explorers receiving the ball, they fell victim to Loyola’s high offensive pressure — unable to push possession in Loyola’s half of the field until five minutes into the game.
In the fourth minute of the game, a cross sent by senior defender Olivia Knab sailed over LaSalle defenders to find graduate midfielder Abby Swanson in the box, who headed the ball just wide of the left post.
Despite facing an opponent they’ve never played before, Loyola Head Coach Barry Bimbi said his team’s preparation remained the same. He said being true to who they are is their main priority and it showed to start the game.
“The first 20 minutes of the game I thought we were great,” Bimbi said. “Kind of unlucky to not put one or two away early on.”
Both teams then headed for the benches in the 24th minute of the game for their first hydration break. La Salle came back hot, earning two corner kicks but failing to capitalize off either, with the second one sent behind the goal line for a Ramblers goal kick.
Loyola responded in the 30th minute with a powerful strike by senior midfielder Amanda Cassidy from outside the box and off the fingertips of La Salle goalie Michela Auguadro. The ball fell behind her, where she was barely able to grab it before it crossed the goal line, preventing the Ramblers from scoring.
Loyola kept creating shot opportunities, the most notable when junior forward Sarah Noonan received a cross with her chest and volleyed the ball to the lower right corner of the goal. However, Auguadro lept and deflected the ball with her finger tips for a corner kick. Nemec’s subsequent corner kick was sent into the box and met by a Swanson header, but was saved again by Auguadro for her fourth save of the game.
Going into halftime, Loyola proved to be the dominating team, recording 10 shots compared to La Salle’s two. The Explorers were able to keep the game scoreless, however, as Auguadro tallied six saves. Meanwhile, Loyola graduate goalkeeper Naya Lipkens had yet to see any action as La Salle was unable to record a shot on goal by halftime.
La Salle came back into the second half looking like a different team. In the 54th minute of the game, Ricshya Walker found possession in the box and blasted the ball off Loyola’s crossbar for LaSalle’s fourth shot of the match. Just under four minutes after, the Explorers were able to find two more shots to establish momentary dominance in the game.
After some back-and-forth action, Noonan led a counter-attack in the 71st minute dribbling past a defender to send a low cross into the middle of the box. Sprinting towards a loose ball, Loyola first-year midfielder Corissa Koontz was able to beat her mark to the ball, sliding and booting it into the net for the Ramblers’ first and only goal of the match.
The Explorers’ final promising opportunity of the game came with 11 minutes to go, as Walker found the ball off a cross and struck it in a sliding effort, but Lipkens was ready for the save.
Loyola overwhelmed the Explorers most of the game, recording 11 shots on goal compared to La Salle’s two. Bimbi said that despite the big moment, his team was able to overcome the pressure of hosting the university’s first A-10 game.
“You could see in the first half that some nerves crept in with the girls,” Bimbi said. “They felt the pressure to get the result. To fight through the occasion of hosting the university’s first Atlantic 10 home game and getting a result makes me very proud.”
The Ramblers will travel to St. Louis to face the No. 1 ranked team in the A-10 preseason poll — No. 12 St. Louis University — Sept. 22. Kick-off is scheduled for 7 p.m. and is set to be broadcast on ESPN+.