Women’s Soccer Picks Up 250th Program Win in Red Line Rivalry Victory Over DePaul

The Ramblers returned to Rogers Park with bragging rights after a 1-0 victory over DePaul.

Loyola women’s soccer returned uptown to Rogers Park with bragging rights Sunday afternoon after a 1-0 victory over their Red Line rivals DePaul University Blue Demons, earning the 250th win in program history in the process. 

The Ramblers boarded a CTA Red Line train together to make the journey to Wish Field on DePaul’s Lincoln Park campus sitting at 3-4 on the year and coming off a home loss against the University of Wisconsin.

DePaul, who entered play with a record of 3-1-1, was led by fifth-year goalkeeper Elena Milam who worked incredibly hard to keep her team in the match. Milam held the Ramblers’ near constant offensive attack at bay and put on a clinic in the goal box as she finished the game with 11 saves. 

Coming into Sunday’s game, the Blue Demons led the head-to-head matchup in the Red Line Rivalry 8-7-1. After the game, Loyola head coach Barry Bimbi said he was proud of his team for how they performed in a tough road environment with the added meaning of a rivalry matchup. 

“We see their coaches on the recruiting trail all the time and a lot of times, we will recruit the same kids,” Bimbi said. “It’s a rivalry, the girls take it seriously, and it means a lot to Loyola and the program any time you can beat a school in the city.”

Loyola took control right out of the gates and made the DePaul backline work hard early in the first half. Meanwhile, the Rambler defensive effort started well as the Blue Demons weren’t able to mount a strong push deep into Loyola’s side of the pitch until the 14th minute of play. 

Offensively the Ramblers were propelled by fourth-year forward Madeleine Barone and second-year forward Meghan Economos who both got off strong shots early in the half. Neither could score however as Blue Demon keeper Milam was lights out — she made several heroic diving stops and even took a direct shot off her head to prevent a Ramblers goal in the 32nd minute. 

The Blue Demons were able to wrestle away control in the middle of the half and managed to push down field a few times. Loyola’s backline, led by fourth-year defender Alaina Abel, repelled DePaul’s talented forwards, allowing just two shots on goal during the first half. 

While Loyola pushed deep into Blue Demon territory nearly every time they had possession, DePaul was completely shut down by the Ramblers’ rock-solid defense. DePaul only managed to get off four shots in the entire 90 minutes of play, being held to just one in the second half. Loyola finished with 24 shots, 12 being on goal. 

Milam kept the Blue Demons in the match as she was stellar in goal. She recorded three saves in the first five minutes of the second half. First-year forward Zoe Hevey was all over the place offensively for Loyola in the second half. Seemingly every time down the pitch Hevey created an opportunity to score with her speed and footwork, outwitting Blue Demon defenders but was still unable to crack Milam. 

The Blue Demons managed to break through the Ramblers midfield a couple of times but Abel was there to shut it down and regain possession for the Ramblers on nearly every occasion. Bimbi said the preparations they made for the style which DePaul’s forwards play really came to fruition as they had no answers for the Rambler defenders. 

“[DePaul’s] central four wasn’t able to get their team possession to get their team going offensively, and that’s a credit to them being tuned in all the time,” he said. “It’s hard in the back where in a game like this when we are attacking so much, you can fall asleep in the back and lose players but I thought the backline stayed tuned in the entire 90 minutes.”

Loyola continued to try and break the nil-nil tie, but Milam stayed locked in through the second half. She made seven saves in the second half, several of them on dives, and it seemed with just over five minutes left to play she might carry her team to a tie. 

In the 86th minute the Ramblers offense finally triumphed and broke the game open. As she did all day, Hevey created a chance for the Ramblers when she broke past a DePaul defender and was able to find third-year midfielder Taylor Harrison open in the middle of the box. Harrison shot to the right of Milam who made her first mistake of the day and prematurely dove left, giving the Ramblers a 1-0 lead. 

DePaul made one last press in the final minutes. Loyola fifth-year goalkeeper Naya Lipkens stepped up during the final stretch and put the breaks on the desperate Blue Demon push, nabbing a corner kick out of the air in the final minute to secure a Loyola victory. 

Bimbi said the coaches have been talking all year about putting together a “complete performance” and on Sunday the team finally put everything together in this game with lots of shots and strong defensive play. 

“We’ve been telling them all season we’re a talented group, but we doubt ourselves in some moments,” he said. “Today we had the belief we had the quality and we scored a goal at the end which was coming and coming and coming.”

The Ramblers now turn their attention to the beginning of Atlantic-10 conference play in the coming week. Bimbi said the team learned a lot last year and is working on continuing to learn how to get results in the conference. 

“Now everything we’ve learned in the non conference is all about how we can use the things we’ve learned in non-conference play and implement them in conference play,” he said. “This group has grown so much from Aug. 1 when we started pre-season to now and I think the future is bright this season and we’re excited for it.”

The Ramblers will return home to Loyola Soccer Park Thursday, Sept. 14 where they will open up their A-10 schedule against Saint Louis University. Kick off is scheduled for 7 p.m. and the game will be broadcast on ESPN+.

Featured image by Aidan Cahill | The Phoenix

Griffin Krueger

Griffin Krueger