Barry Bimbi, head coach of the Loyola women’s soccer team, reached 100 wins with his team in a 2-0 victory against Southern Illinois University Edwardsville Aug. 28. The accolade came during Bimbi’s 12th season at the helm, garnering several other achievements in what has been a highly decorated career with the Ramblers.
Already the winningest coach in program history, Bimbi’s overall record with the team sits at 102-84-27 — a 1.21 win-to-loss ratio. However, Bimbi said personal milestones don’t feel as rewarding as what he has accomplished with his team.
“It’s an exciting individual achievement but that’s not why we’re in it,” Bimbi said. “100 wins, a lot of people are involved in, and I don’t put too much into it…The last four years and all the trophies we’ve won, that’s more exciting.”
During his tenure at Loyola, Bimbi has led the Ramblers to an unprecedented four consecutive Missouri Valley Conference (MVC) Championships. Winning its first in 2019 and its fourth straight in 2022, the Loyola women’s soccer team has demonstrated its dominance in the MVC, but Loyola wasn’t always a powerhouse.
Bimbi arrived at Loyola as head coach following four years as an assistant women’s soccer coach at the University of Pittsburgh and four years as an assistant coach on the men’s soccer team at Marquette University. During his first four years at Loyola — two in the Horizon League and two in the MVC — Bimbi’s team posted losing records.
Bimbi said that recruiting played a significant role in turning the team around. His formula was finding players that understand the system and “kids that are gonna compete every moment of every game.”
Graduate midfielder Abby Swanson — currently playing in her fifth season with the Ramblers — shares all four MVC Championships with Bimbi. The United Soccer Coaches Second Team All-America selection (2020-2021) and two-time MVC Defensive Player of the Year (2020-2021, 2021) said Bimbi’s recruitment formula includes one more essential component.
“He’s always said from the first day I was here that we recruit people first and then players,” Swanson said. “Yes, you need to be good at soccer, of course. It’s a division one program, but at the end of the day the first priority is that you’re a good person.”
Following his first four seasons as a Rambler, Bimbi posted a winning record in six of his next seven seasons, going undefeated in conference play twice — 2019 and 2021. He has also proven himself to be an outstanding player developer, overseeing 59 all-conference selections and the only two United Soccer Coaches All-American players in program history.
Swanson said that despite having a new team every year — posing different challenges, strengths and weaknesses — Bimbi has always been able to keep the team at its best.
“I think he’s been our constant throughout,” Swanson said. “He’s been able to adapt and make our group as strong as it needs to be to keep winning and it’s shown, each for a new year, four rings kind of thing… It all stems from him. He designs everything, he leads everything.”
This year’s move to the Atlantic 10 (A-10) will mark Bimbi’s second career conference transition. Moving from the Horizon League to the MVC in 2013, Bimbi said that Illinois State University set the standard at the time. The Ramblers later surpassed them and became top dog, adding that his players were in their comfort zone competing in the MVC.
The A-10 features more teams, stronger opponents and a more demanding schedule. Loyola was voted third in the A-10 preseason poll — announced by the conference Aug. 11 — behind Saint Louis University (SLU) and the University of Dayton. Bimbi said that once again, they are not top dog in their conference, but believes the transition is going to push them to another level.
“SLU right now is definitely the top dog,” Bimbi said. “It’s their conference and if we want to compete and win the league we know we’re gonna have to go through them. I think it’s in us, but we’re still not firing out of all cylinders this year yet.”
Just like Illinois State upon Loyola’s arrival to the MVC, Bimbi has SLU — a new standard for his team to surpass. Regardless of reaching 100 wins, Bimbi remains focused on team achievements like winning championships and becoming top dog wherever his team goes.
The Ramblers are set to start conference play Sept. 18 when they host La Salle University at Loyola Soccer Park. Kick-off is scheduled for 1 p.m. and is set to be broadcast on ESPN+.