Women's Soccer Missouri Valley Champions
A winning season
Senior Jenna Szczesny was practically vibrating in her seat on Tuesday afternoon, thinking about the week ahead. It had only been 48 hours since the Loyola women’s soccer team had qualified for their fourth NCAA tournament appearance in school history (and their first in 11 years). In a few hours, she and her teammates would hold one final practice in Chicago. The next afternoon, they’d hop a plane to Charlotte and then another to Tallahassee, Florida. And on Friday night, they’d suit up for a first-round tilt with the Florida State Seminoles, one of the country’s most dominant teams.
When the bracket was released, Szczesny’s jaw dropped. Her teammate, freshman Abby Swanson, was equally stunned, and thrilled about the opportunity: “I don’t think any of us have played in a game of this magnitude before.”
In Tallahassee on Friday, the Ramblers needed all the grit they could muster. From the start, Loyola held strong, until early in the second half when the Seminoles scored the first and only goal made by either team. Florida State entered the NCAA tournament as one of four one-seeds, coming off a conference tournament victory, in the powerhouse Athletic Coast Conference. The Seminoles are deep and skilled, rostering several players with youth and national team experience. When the draw was announced on Monday afternoon, Bimbi had a few minutes to glance at game film, an exercise that left him slightly intimidated but mostly motivated. “Our girls have played some tough teams, in some tough environments,” Bimbi said. “They’ll stand tall in the moment, I know that.” Even in the final minutes of the match-up, the Ramblers refused to give Florida State an easy pass on to the next round of the tournament.
Szczesny, for her part, couldn’t wait to walk onto the pitch for her first NCAA tournament match, the culmination of a decorated collegiate career. Her Ramblers, after back-to-back winning seasons, are decidedly on the rise. And while they hadn’t beaten a ranked opponent in 2018, Szczesny and company were ready and able to show some Floridians, and the rest of the soccer world, what they could do.