After reaching the NCAA Tournament for the first time since 2007, the Loyola University Chicago women’s soccer team announced its 17-game regular season slate Tuesday afternoon that is once again highlighted by a tough non-conference schedule.
There are a few familiar faces on the schedule including two exhibition games against former Horizon League foes Green Bay (Aug. 11) and Milwaukee (Aug. 17) in addition to DePaul and Wisconsin, which accounted for two of the Ramblers’ seven losses last season.
Two noticeable absences from the schedule this season include Northwestern, who Loyola played in an exhibition last season, and Notre Dame, who hosted the Ramblers in mid-August.
“To us, it is very important to play a tough non-conference schedule,” head coach Barry Bimbi said in a release announcing the schedule.
“It proved extremely beneficial last year in preparing us to win the MVC regular season and tournament championships. We will be tested again this season with teams from the Big Ten, Big 12, SEC, Big East, an improving South Dakota team, and four quality teams from the MAC. Although we lost some key players, I know our 2019 roster is ready for these challenges and is excited to make another run at the MVC title.”
With that in mind, Second City Soccer takes a look at five games to be on the lookout for next season:
- AT Illinois (Aug. 22)
These two schools will meet for the first time since the 2010 season when Illinois defeated Loyola 2-0 at Loyola Soccer Park. The Fighting Illini won the only other meeting between the two schools the year prior in Champaign, Ill. also by a score of 2-0. Illinois rebounded after winning just 11 games spanning two seasons to finish with a record of 11-8-1 last season before losing to Penn State in the Big Ten Tournament semifinals. This is the first of two tough road games to begin the season for the Ramblers.
- AT Kansas (Aug. 25)
The tough road trip continues to Lawrence, Kan. where the Ramblers will look to recapture some of the same magic they had in 2008 when they upset the then 18th ranked Jayhawks 2-1 in their only other meeting. This will also be a matchup of two teams that reached the NCAA Tournament a year ago, with the Jayhawks advancing to the second round after beating Saint Louis 2-1 in double overtime before falling to No. 3 North Carolina 4-1.
- DePaul (Sept. 12)
This is always a fun matchup between two schools that are separated by under 10 miles. The Blue Demons got the better of this matchup last season at Wish Field thanks to a goal from Morgan Turner in the 52nd minute. This has been a tough matchup for Loyola as the Ramblers have won just once since 2012, although that did come at Loyola Soccer Park in 2017 which will be the site of this game as well.
- Wisconsin (Sept. 5)
Arguably the toughest test Loyola will face during the non-conference portion of its season will come in the first week of September when Wisconsin visits Loyola Soccer Park. Led by sophomore forward Dani Rhodes, who scored four goals in Wisconsin’s second-round win over Hofstra, the Badgers finally got past the second round of the NCAA Tournament before falling to No. 1 Stanford, 1-0. The Ramblers have lost all six meetings against the Badgers but put a scare into the Badgers last season when freshman Abby Swanson gave the Ramblers the lead in the 41st minute before the Badgers responded with two goals of its own to hold on for a 2-1 victory.
- Drake (Sept. 28)
After Loyola finishes that tough non-conference slate, things don’t get any easier as they will open conference play with a rematch of the MVC Championship game last season with a trip to Des Moines, Iowa to face off against Drake. The Ramblers won both games last season, although each came by a one-goal margin. That included a back-and-forth championship game both teams cashed in from the penalty spot within the space of a minute that later saw the Ramblers rally from a 2-1 deficit thanks to second-half goals from Swanson and sophomore Katharine Stephens. The good news for the Ramblers after playing Drake is they will begin a season-long three-game homestand that opens one week later (Oct. 5) against UNI.