2014 Women’s Soccer Preview

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:

  1. Illinois State
  2. Loyola
  3. Indiana State
  4. Evansville
  5. Missouri State
  6. Northern Iowa
  7. Drake

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.

2014 Women’s Volleyball Preview

Loyola brings back all but one top player from last season’s team that went 7-11 in conference and 13-18 overall.   The 2013 Ramblers—tied with Bradley for sixth in conference play—missed out on the MVC conference tournament because of a tie-breaker.

Last year’s team was new to the league and sophomore heavy.  After starting out 3-7 in conference play, the team finished out the season on an up note, winning four of their last eight matches—including a 3-0 road win at #5 Illinois State and forcing conference runner up Northern Iowa to a fifth set in Cedar Rapids.

In 2014, the Ramblers will benefit from returning all but one player, another year of experience, and having seen the rest of the league at least once.  Meanwhile, the top teams in the league have lost many players to graduation.  Defending champ Wichita State lost the top player in the league in hitting percentage and two others ranking in the top 20.  Missouri State lost three players in the top 25, including two in the top 10.  Southern Illinois lost two of the top players in kills.

Northern Iowa has been the powerhouse of the league for more than a decade under coach Bobbi Petersen.  She’s guided the Panthers to five regular season titles, seven conference tournament titles, and two NCAA Sweet 16 appearances– winning 20 or more matches in 12 of her 13 seasons as coach. The Panthers were undefeated in league play from 2009 to 2011, and even in somewhat of a rebuilding mode the past two seasons, they managed to go 15-3 in conference in both 2012 and 2013.  Like Loyola, the Panthers lose only one top player to graduation, and given their history, coaching advantage, and returning roster, they’re the easy projection to win the conference.

The Ramblers have a chance to make a big move with a junior-heavy team and a couple of seniors in the starting lineup.  The core of the 2014 Ramblers have been playing together for two years, and now have MVC experience.  And there’s no telling how much confidence Loyola’s women’s squad might have gained from the men’s volleyball team winning the National Championship in May.

Here’s the Ramblermania prediction for the 2014 MVC women’s volleyball standings:

  1. Northern Iowa
  2. Loyola
  3. Southern Illinois
  4. Missouri State
  5. Illinois State
  6. Bradley
  7. Wichita State
  8. Indiana State
  9. Evansville
  10. Drake

The 2014 women’s volleyball season begins August 29 with the Delaware Invitational Tournament in Newark, Del. The first home match is against the Missouri State at Gentile Arena on Fri., Sept. 26 at 7:00 p.m., but Chicago area fans can check out the Ramblers when they play in the Wildcat Challenge at Northwestern University on Fri. and Sat., Sept. 12 and 13.

Loyola Sports and Broadcasting

Loyola has a long history of outstanding broadcasters.

Red Rush

Red Rush

The first highly-identified broadcaster involved with Loyola sports was Red Rush, the play-by-play announcer for the Loyola Ramblers in the early 1960s. The Southern California native went on to become one of the announcers for the Kansas City A’s, Chicago White Sox, and later the Oakland A’s. He earned a World Series ring as the A’s announcer in the early 1970s. Rush’s signature line for Loyola basketball sponsor Gonnella Bread—“Gonnella—It’s swella, fella!”– became a household catchphrase in the Chicago area as familiar as the Empire Carpet jingle.

Red Rush’s epic radio call of the end of the 1963 NCAA Championship game still brings goose bumps more than 50 years later.

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