Second-half goals from freshman Abby Swanson
and sophomore Katharine Stephens
helped the top-seeded Loyola University Chicago women's soccer team erase a one-goal deficit and defeat second-seeded Drake by a final score of 3-2 this afternoon in the championship game of the 2018 Missouri Valley Conference Women's Soccer Championship at Loyola Soccer Park. The win, which clinches The Valley's automatic berth to the NCAA Tournament, moves the Ramblers to 11-6-1, while the Bulldogs finish their season at 9-9-1.
Barry Bimbi's Thoughts…
"It was a wild game. I definitely thought we saw the two best teams in the league this year today. It was a battle of wills, with Drake being very strong defensively. As far as the season goes, this was one of our goals from day one. We set a three-stage goal and we still have more that we want to accomplish."
How It Happened
Both teams cashed in from the penalty spot inside the game's opening quarter hour. Senior Jenna Szczesny
calmly finished after being taken down inside the 18-yard box, before Olivia Bruce leveled the match at 1-1 with a spot kick after a foul in the area just 28 seconds later.
Drake goalkeeper Kelsie Stone developed into the main story of the first half, making multiple key saves to keep Loyola at bay. Stone used a diving effort to deny sophomore Lindsey Hardiman
at her near post in the 18th
minute, and then stepped up again six minutes later to turn away junior Sienna Cruz
as the tournament's top two seeds headed to the locker room locked up at 1-1.
The weather became an important factor in the second half, with a steady rain falling throughout the final 45 minutes of play. Drake took full advantage of the half's first opportunity, with Bruce finishing off a deflection by an attempt from Cassie Rohan to put the visitors in front, 2-1. Stone continued to shine in goal, turning away Szczesny and fellow senior Taylor Lambouris'
tries in the ensuing minutes.
With time quickly becoming a factor, Swanson put the Ramblers back on level terms in the 70th
minute. The Valley's Freshman of the Year received a pass from Szczesny and wasted no time in depositing her attempt past an onrushing Stone and in at the far post to knot up the score at 2-2.
The afternoon's defining moment came just six minutes after Swanson's equalizer. A Lambouris corner kick set off a wild scramble in front of goal, with the ball ultimately finding the feet of Stephens, who pushed her attempt over the line to complete the turnaround and put Loyola back on top, 3-2.
Junior goalkeeper Kate Moran
put away any hopes of a Drake comeback in the 88th
minute, coming up with arguably her biggest stop of the day as she dove to corral Bruce's bid for a hat trick. Loyola was able to salt the game away from that point on as the final whistle set off a wild celebration for the Ramblers before their home crowd.
Looking At The Numbers
- This afternoon's victory gives Loyola its first Missouri Valley Conference Tournament Championship in program history and clinches the Ramblers' first NCAA Tournament berth since 2007.
- Szczesny's opening goal was her team-leading 11th
of the season and brings her career total to 32.
- Swanson chipped in her fifth goal of the year, while Stephens' game-winner was her second of the season.
- Szczesny was named the tournament's Most Valuable Player after scoring a pair of goals and notching an assist. She was joined on the All-Tournament team by Stephens, Swanson and junior Madison Laudeman
Loyola will await to find out its NCAA Tournament opponent and destination on Monday, November 5.