Introducing Loyola Women’s Soccer’s New ‘Old Alaina’ Abel

Senior defender and captain for the Loyola women’s soccer team Alaina Abel lives with the effects of an autoimmune disease called alopecia.

Senior defender and captain for the Loyola women’s soccer team, Alaina Abel, faces the challenging responsibilities of being a leader for the program. Though her struggles aren’t public, Abel lives with the effects of an autoimmune disease called alopecia. 

Alopecia is a common disease that causes the immune system to attack hair follicles which leads to hair loss, according to the National Institute of Health. The effects may be sudden, but for Abel, it took until she was 21 when the majority of her hair loss occurred. 

Before finding out about her diagnosis, Abel said she started playing soccer at 4 or 5 years old. From small town club organizations to playing for the Ramblers, Abel said she has the necessary knowledge and experience to be a leader for the team, on and off the pitch. 

Playing soccer at the collegiate level was not always the plan for Abel. She said she thought about continuing playing basketball, which she started in high school, but decided against it. After being noticed by Seth Mason, former Dominican University assistant coach and friend of Loyola Head Coach Barry Bimbi, Abel was pushed into Loyola’s direction and the relationship was sparked. 

“One summer, [Mason] was at a random event and he said, ‘We saw this kid play, she’s too good for us,’” Bimbi said. “‘You guys should really see her.’ So, we made the point to get out and see Alaina play.” 

Abel is a senior defender and captain for the Loyola women’s soccer team. (Courtesy of Steve Woltmann | Loyola Athletics)

Bimbi reflected on Abel’s growth throughout her time at Loyola, saying she started as someone who always wanted to do more, including the responsibilities of leading the team right away. In her fourth year, Abel got the leadership role she’d been working for when she was named team captain.

Bimbi said Abel has always had confidence leading the team and has all of the qualities of being a leader, but this confidence was struck down with the instability and unknowingness of her disease.

Abel was in middle school when her diagnosis with alopecia came to her in the middle of the night.

“I woke up from a sleepover with my best friend, and I had this huge bald spot in the back of my head,” Abel said. “She was like, ‘Um, Alaina. What’s that?’ I had never seen it before, since it was kind of a hidden spot in the back of my head.” 

After the sleepover, Abel went to see a dermatologist and was officially diagnosed with alopecia.

Throughout the rest of middle school and high school, Abel said she didn’t experience much hair loss. Abel said the majority of her struggles with the disease was the mental stress that came with it, when small spots of hair would fall out and not knowing if it would grow back. 

Even though she has been living with alopecia for the majority of her life, Bimbi and the Ramblers were only recently made aware of Abel’s diagnosis. 

Bimbi said that in the beginning of the 2023 spring semester, Abel told him about her diagnosis and how the effects were getting more serious. Once she felt ready, Abel told the team about her diagnosis and said they were nothing but supportive. A week later, she shaved her head.

Bimbi said that following Abel’s announcement, current first-year defender Ava Bryan and a few of the upperclassmen reached out to him to set up a private GoFundMe. The proceeds would be used to purchase wigs for Abel. After 24 hours of the creation of the page, current and former teammates and coaches raised over $2,000 for Abel. 

To Abel, the gesture from her teammates was life changing. The care the team had for her brought her out of the low she was feeling, and helped support her financially, with buying her wigs and, emotionally, by being there for her. 

On Friday, March 31, Abel tweeted pictures and a note, sharing she shaved her head. 

“The day that I shaved my head, I felt a sense of eternal peace come across me and a sense of, ‘How can I use this to help other people,’” Abel said. “I saw how much I struggled with it, and I can’t imagine not having my Rambler family to support me, especially with buying me a wig.”

Abel said the support she received from the team inspired her to discover and collect donations for an organization called Wigs for Kids and to do whatever she can to help kids in her same position. Wigs for Kids is a non-profit organization that helps children who are suffering with hair loss due to medical causes, according to the website. Each wig is approximately $1,800. 

In her tweet, Abel included a Venmo username that would direct proceeds straight to Wigs for Kids. As of April 5, Abel said she has received over $4,400 in donations. 

“My main motto in life that I realized, especially now it’s quite visible to me, is that when you can’t change something that is happening in your life, how can you use it to change your story, or how can you use it to empower others,” Abel said. 

To donate money to Abel and the Wigs for Kids organization, visit @Wigs4Kids-Alaina on Venmo. For more information about the organization, visit its website at

Featured image courtesy of Alaina Abel

Andi Revesz

Andi Revesz