Best of Sports 2023-24

In this year’s review, the most exciting game recaps from the season are featured, including the final moments of the nail-biting men’s soccer quarterfinals and men’s basketball winning a share of the A-10 regular season championship title. 

The sports section had a writer cover every home sporting event this school year, and profiled at least one athlete from all of Loyola’s 13 Division I sports. 

In this year’s review, the most exciting game recaps from the season are featured, including the final moments of the nail-biting men’s soccer quarterfinals and men’s basketball winning a share of the A-10 regular season championship title. 

Also highlighted are key news moments from throughout the year, including when the beloved Sister Jean was inducted into the Chicagoland Sports Hall of Fame and the celebration of National Girls and Women in Sports Day by Loyola Athletics. 

It’s been a pleasure to cover each and every sport for Loyola in this section. We loved bringing athletes’ stories to life in our pages and reporting, along with giving our writers the platform to share their sports opinions in columns. 

Thank you for following the Loyola Ramblers through student media. Enjoy the summer and see you next year. 

Alaina Abel Celebrated for Advocacy at Alopecia Awareness Match

Originally published Sept. 6, 2023

Loyola women’s soccer captain and defender Alaina Abel made the story of her alopecia diagnosis public after shaving her head last spring, The Phoenix previously reported. Since then, Abel has brought more attention to the cause and what it means to have alopecia while supporting children who are facing similar challenges. 

On Sunday, Sept. 3, the Ramblers hosted Ball State University during their alopecia awareness match, defeating the Cardinals 2-1. Abel said having the support from her team and the athletic department meant “everything” to her, knowing she will always be supported by her community at Loyola. 

Alopecia is a disease where the immune system attacks hair follicles causing hair loss, according to the National Institute of Health. Abel started dealing with physical side effects recently but has struggled with the mental side effects since her diagnosis in middle school. 

People who have been diagnosed with alopecia are 30 to 38% more likely to be diagnosed with depression, according to the National Alopecia Areata Foundation. Abel’s advocacy regarding the disease has focused on helping more kids who are diagnosed see they aren’t alone.  

Read the rest of the article written by Andi Revesz here.

Sister Jean Inducted Into Chicagoland Sports Hall of Fame

Originally published Oct. 12, 2023

Sister Jean Dolores Schmidt, BVM — the 104-year-old chaplain of the Loyola men’s basketball team — was inducted into the Chicagoland Sports Hall of Fame Oct. 4 for her impact in sports ministry in Chicago.

“It has given me a second life,” Schmidt said about Loyola basketball during an interview with The Phoenix at the ceremony.

The Hall of Fame’s Class of 2023 featured Schmidt among other members, including Illinois Governor J.B. Pritzker, NASCAR driver Ben Kennedy and more. 

Schmidt’s induction is largely based on her integral role in pushing Loyola’s men’s basketball to reach the NCAA Final Four during March Madness in 2018 for the first time since 1963, according to a video played prior to Schmidt’s recognition. Schmidt said even though she received this recognition for what she has given to Chicago athletics, the field of sports has given so much back to her.

“I express my gratitude to all of these people who are responsible for where I am today,” Schmidt said during her speech. 

Read the rest of the article by Julia Pentasuglio here.

Men’s and Women’s Cross Country Secure Back-to-Back A-10 Championships

Originally published Nov. 1, 2023

The men and women’s Loyola cross country teams both earned first place and conference titles at the Atlantic-10 Conference Championships Oct. 29, 2022 in Mechanicsville, Virginia, capping off a successful conference season.

A year later, they’ve done it again.

In Dayton, Ohio Oct. 28 at the Elvin R. King Cross Country Course, the 9 a.m. start time was delayed for 40 minutes due to an earlier thunderstorm overhead. The course was able to absorb the rain to the point there was hardly any visible surface water upon the event’s resumption, according to head coach Gavin Kennedy.

The late start had little impact on the squad as both teams dominated the leaderboards in their respective competitions — the men’s 8K and the women’s 6K — for the title. Additionally, the performances marked the first time a program had gone back-to-back in A-10 history since La Salle University captured titles in 2006 and 2007.

Read the rest of the article by Alexander Sciarra here.

‘Fans Are Critical’: The Crowd at the A-10 Men’s Basketball Tournament

Originally published March 20, 2024

Commuting from across the Midwest and along the east coast, NCAA men’s basketball fans gathered at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn for the Atlantic 10 Championship Tournament March 12-17

For the quarterfinal round between Loyola and St. Bonaventure March 14, Abraham Garcia and Jorge Blanco — 2010 Loyola graduates — showed out in maroon and gold to support their team. 

The duo met while living in Campion Hall during their first year. Now states apart, the Loyola men’s basketball team has helped keep Garcia and Blanco connected.

Blanco, who was a manager for the men’s basketball team when he was a student, currently lives in Manhattan, but Garcia flew out from Chicago to continue their yearly tradition.

“It was always cool to follow the team, and we made a tradition to go to Arch Madness and all these tournaments to have some fun and meet up,” Garcia said.

Read the rest of the story by Austin Hojdar here.

Men’s Basketball Wins Share Of A-10 Regular Season Title With 64-54 Win Over La Salle University

Originally published March 9, 2024

It was a bittersweet evening in Gentile Arena as head coach Drew Valentine and the Loyola men’s basketball team cut down the nets celebrating their share of the Atlantic 10 Regular Season Championship following a 64-54 victory over La Salle University. The team also used the evening to honor the seven graduating Ramblers playing their final home game.

Loyola moved into a tie for first place with Richmond University after the Spiders fell short against George Mason University 64-44 earlier in the day. Valentine said after the team finished in last place just a year ago, this year has been all about pride, which he feels has been restored in the program.

“At the end of last year, there wasn’t a lot of people that probably believed that this was real,” Valentine said. “But the people in that locker room did, whether they were newcomers, freshmen, transfers or returners, they believed that this was possible and going to happen.” 

The departing members of the squad who were celebrated during a pre-game ceremony along with their loved ones were Greg Dolan, Patrick Mwamba, Will Smythe, Dame Adelekun, Philip Alston, Tom Welch and Braden Norris.

Read the rest of the story by Griffin Krueger here.

Men’s Soccer Falls to Dayton On Penalty Kicks in A-10 Quarterfinal

Originally published Nov. 5, 2023

The Loyola men’s soccer team fell short against the University of Dayton on penalty kicks 5-4 in the quarterfinal round of the Atlantic-10 Men’s Soccer Championships. 

The two teams couldn’t settle the score as they were left knotted at 2-2 after playing all of regular time and two ten-minute overtime periods, setting up the decisive penalty-kick shootout. 

In the shootout, each of the 10 players who had the opportunity found the back of the net except for graduate midfielder Marc Torrellas who beat the Flyer goalkeeper but his ball struck the post and bounced away, prematurely ending the Ramblers’ season in heartbreaking fashion.

After the game, head coach Steve Bode said he was proud of how his team competed and said the game could’ve been the championship as both Dayton and his side were some of the best the A-10 had to offer.

“Back and forth, we made plays, they made plays and obviously it comes down to [penalty kicks] at the end,” he said. “Which, as we say as soccer people, ‘Flip the coin and see who wins the game.’ And that’s what it was today.”

Read the rest of the story by Griffin Krueger here.

Ramblers Secure A-10 Championship Spot with Win Against VCU

Originally published Nov. 19, 2023

The Loyola women’s volleyball team took down Virginia Commonwealth University in four sets Saturday afternoon to secure their spot in the Atlantic 10 Conference championship. 

Fifth-year outside hitter Addie Barnes led the Ramblers in kills, digs and aces with 17, 20 and three, respectively. Third-year setter Bree Borum followed closely with 42 assists and 16 digs. 

The Ramblers started the first set high at 6-1 with a four-serve streak by fourth-year outside hitter Karlie McNabb that resulted in kills from graduate middle blocker Taylor Venuto, fourth-year right side hitter Emily Banitt and Barnes. 

Banitt would secure two more kills with assists credited to Borum to put the Ramblers ahead 8-3. Two attack errors and a kill from VCU’s third-year outside hitter Kialah Jefferson and a kill from Barnes shortened the Ramblers lead to three at 9-6. 

Read the rest of the story by Andi Revesz here.

National Women and Girls in Sports Day Celebrated in Norville by Loyola

Originally published Feb. 14, 2024

Most days, the Norville Athletic Center is home to Loyola’s 13 Division I sports. But Feb. 11, it was packed with young children who were there to celebrate the National Girls and Women in Sports Day event hosted by the Loyola Athletic Department.

The event took place at 12:30 p.m. before the women’s basketball team faced Davidson College at 2 p.m., which resulted in a 48-45 loss for the Ramblers. 

Loyola’s women’s soccer, golf, volleyball and spirit teams were in attendance, as well as multiple club sports like field hockey and lacrosse. At each table, kids were given the opportunity to try out a new sport with guidance from members of each team. 

With over 250 attendees, the majority being young girls, Rambler athletes from all organizations helped kids try out new and different sports. 

Read the rest of the story by Andi Revesz here.

Loyola Women’s Basketball ‘Surviving and Advancing’ Over Fordham in A-10 Second Round

Originally published March 8, 2024

The eighth seeded Loyola women’s basketball team won their first ever A-10 post-season game 53-52 against ninth seeded Fordham University in the second round of the Atlantic 10 conference tournament in Henrico, Virginia March 7. The Ramblers will face No. 1 seeded University of Richmond March 8 at 11 a.m. 

Graduate guard Alyssa Fisher led the Ramblers with 14 points and graduate guard Sam Galanopoulos scored 10 in the victory. Graduate guard and forward Ali Berg recorded a team high of 10 rebounds. Fordham’s fourth-year guard and A-10 leading scorer Taylor Donaldson scored 15 points in the Rams’ loss. 

Galanopoulos opened scoring with a mid-range jumper, and first-year center Aminata Ly tied it on a second chance after rebounding a missed 3-pointer from Donaldson. A steal from Ly led to an offensive possession ,and Ly gave the Rams the lead on a third-chance bucket. 

Fourth-year guard Thoranna Kika Hodge-Carr tied the game again on a reverse layup, then Donaldson made a 3-pointer to gain the advantage over the Ramblers. Fordham stayed hot as graduate guard Emy Hayford made a driving layup followed by two pull-up jumpers from Donaldson.

Read the rest of the story by Andi Revesz here.

Men’s Basketball Loses Heartbreaking Double Overtime Thriller in A-10 Quarterfinal

Originally published March 24, 2024

The Loyola men’s basketball team came up short in a heartbreaking 75-74 loss against St. Bonaventure in a back-and-forth quarterfinal matchup at the Atlantic 10 Men’s Basketball Championship that went into double overtime. 

Fourth-year forward Philip Alston was the leading scorer for the Ramblers finishing with 22 points and eight rebounds. Loyola’s big men made a big impact as graduate forward Dame Adelekun dropped a double-double with 12 points and 10 rebounds and first-year center Miles Rubin scored 12 points. Fourth-year guard Daryl Banks III led the Bonnies in scoring and was crucial down the stretch, finishing with 22 points and eight rebounds. 

The second-seeded Ramblers finished the regular season 23-8 overall and 14-3 in conference while the seventh-seeded Bonnies wrapped up their campaign 19-12 and 9-9 in A-10 play. In their only regular season meeting, St. Bonaventure got the best of Loyola, taking the win 79-64 Feb. 27.

Loyola head coach Drew Valentine credited St. Bonaventure on playing a tough and physical game.

“It was a gritty, intense college basketball game where it looked like two teams really, really wanted to win,” he said.

Read the rest of the article by Griffin Krueger here.

Featured image by Holden Green | The Phoenix

The Phoenix Staff

The Phoenix Staff