The sun may finally be shining, but the uptick in weather also brings about the dog days of the regular season, where sectional seedings have already been decided and the focus of the players seems to be geared more towards playoffs.
Even with all the potential distractions, such as a future matchup with St. Francis, Loyola managed to cut through the St. Ignatius defense and the wind, for an important 2-0 win to keep them within reach of a GCAC conference title.
“We had a rough week last week with four games and coming up with three draws and we needed to get back on the right track,” said Loyola coach Craig Snower. “Ignatius has had a resurgence since Sean [Palacios] has taken over, they gave us everything we could handle today so it was a good win.”
Despite nearly perfect conditions, both Loyola and St. Ignatius had some trouble getting their feet under them in the beginning of the contest.
Both sides made a few minor mistakes in the back which led to a few chances for St. Ignatius, but no goals as Loyola survived the opening passage of play.
In the seventh minute, Loyola capitalized on their their first opportunity of the match when the strong gusts of wind held up the ball that looked to be under watchful eye of the St. Ignatius keeper.
Loyola’s Stephanie Ramsay pounced on the mistake, and slotted the ball home from the left side of the box to give the Ramblers a 1-0 lead.
“The wind is tough for both teams and it creates advantages and disadvantages all over the field,” said Snower. “Having the wind against us actually creadted opportunities and probably helped us score that first goal because it held the ball up enough for Steph catch the goalie in between and get it around her.”
As it turned out, that was the only goal Loyola needed for the rest of the contest.
With the exception of a few lapses, the Rambler defense held strong for the next 73 minutes of the match, closing down gaps to shut down St. Ignatius through balls, and limiting the Wolfpack’s possession in midfield.
St. Ignatius did have a golden opportunity midway through the second half on a counter attack from Hailey Laurenson, but the Loyola back line got back just in time to alter her shot to make goalkeeper Maggie Avery’s life just a little bit easier.
“Their best chance was off a counter on our restart and we’ve been talking about how we need to get better at that,” said Snower. “Kiersten Kerrane had a great recovery run to give enough pressure so Maggie could make the big save.
Loyola easily withstood the late Wolfpack attack and even put an exclamation point on the match in the dying seconds on a goal line scramble that was put away by Maggie Brett.
Despite currently sitting second in the GCAC standings, Loyola control their own destiny with a Wednesday match against Providence Catholic before facing off against league leaders St. Francis next week, while St. Ignatius will get a break from conference play with a match against South Elgin.
“You know we only have six seniors but all of them contribute,” concluded Snower. “In a big conference game that you really need we had our seniors hustling and making big plays to make it a winner take all game next week, and that’s what you need this time of year.