Last year, Loyola was picked to finish seventh (last) in the MVC women’s soccer standings. The Ramblers surprised many in their first season in the MVC, finishing third with a 3-3-0 conference record and 6-8-6 overall—but Ramblermania wasn’t surprised, picking Loyola to finish second in the conference. Only a double-overtime home loss to Missouri State kept the Ramblermania prediction from coming true.
The 2014 Ramblers promise to be a more experienced version of the 2013 team. For the past several years, the Ramblers have been one of the stingiest teams in their league on defense. The Ramblers were second in the MVC in goals allowed in their inaugural campaign in the league, while ranking fourth in goals scored. Last year’s roster featured only four seniors, only two of whom were regular starters. Unfortunately, one of the lost players was Loyola’s most prolific scorer, Monica Stonebreaker, who scored or assisted on eight of Loyola’s 18 goals on the season.
The additional goal scoring in 2014 will have to be made up from experienced players like senior forward Sammy Gage, who ranked first in goals scored and second in points despite only starting six of Loyola’s 20 matches. Loyola’s second highest returning goal scorer is sophomore defender Hailey Merrill, who was named to the pre-season MVC team. It’s likely that Loyola will have to see more scoring from midfielders like senior Monika Lee, junior Jessica Bean, and sophomore Alex Gage– each of whom scored only one goal last season.
The back line for the Ramblers will be experienced and solid once again in keeping the pressure off senior goalkeeper Monica Gonyo. The Ramblers lost defender Alex Brown to graduation, but the core of the back line remains otherwise intact. The defensive philosophy of Loyola’s fourth-year head coach Barry Bimbi should be familiar to the players seeing most of the minutes.
The 2014 MVC Preseason poll nearly mirrored the finish of the 2013 conference standings, with the Ramblers picked to finish third behind Illinois State and Indiana State. However, the young Ramblers have been very competitive with those two teams the past two seasons, going 2-0 against Indiana State and 0-2 (in two 1-0 road losses) to the powerful offense of Illinois State. The difference this year is Loyola will face preseason conference favorite Illinois State at home on Sat., Oct. 11. If the Ramblers can steal a victory against Indiana State for the third consecutive year in the conference opener at Terre Haute on Fri., Sept. 26, Loyola might be able to challenge for the conference title.
Here is the Ramblermania prediction for the 2014 MVC women’s soccer standings:
- Illinois State
- Indiana State
- Missouri State
- Northern Iowa
Loyola kicks off the regular season Fri., August 22 at Marquette in the Marquette Invitational. The first home match is Fri., Aug. 29 at 7 p.m. against Western Illinois.