Even before Saturday’s 4-0 defeat to St. Charles North in Wilmette to start the season, Loyola was dealt a big loss.
During a practice jog earlier in the week, junior defender Riley Burns, a returning starter and Iowa commit, fractured the mid-portion of her right foot, also known as a Jones fracture, and will need season-ending surgery, according to head coach Craig Snower. It was an injury that first occurred during the offseason, he said.
“That’s tough,” said Snower, who’s in his 14th season. “It will take us a couple of weeks to reset. We will piece it back together. I still expect us to be a good defensive team, even though we didn’t look like one [Saturday].”
A sectional champion and 20-win club from a year ago, the North Stars struck first in the seventh minute of the game and led 1-0 at the half. They then scored another goal within the first four minutes of the second half and followed with their third less than 10 minutes later.
“We just weren’t really together [Saturday],” Snower said. “We were too disjointed out there. The second and third goals were the backbreakers. They were defensive breakdowns that can’t happen. We will have a good film session Monday and figure out where the mistakes were. We will iron things out.”
Senior Kayleigh Purcell stepped up in Burns’ absence, and Snower remarked about how well she did on the back line, given the circumstances.
“She saw a lot of time, and she did a real nice job for us,” he said.
Snower said the offense wasn’t good enough Saturday to win the game. The Ramblers struggled to possess the ball for the first part of the first half and never got into any rhythm, according to him.
“We know what we can do, and we didn’t do it like we did during our training,” Snower said. “That was a culprit as much as anything.”
Burns was one of six returning starters from a team that finished 18-4-4 and captured a regional championship. Other starters back to lineup include senior midfielder Bella Broccolo, junior goalie Maggie Avery, junior defender Lauren Daffada, junior midfielder Kate Shellenback and junior forward Stephanie Ramsay.
Senior midfielder Ally West and sophomore forward Maggie Brett are two varsity veterans who are expected to make bigger contributions this season.
Sophomore forward Megan Kurtz and freshman forward Vanessa Murray are two newcomers to watch, according to Snower.
Last season, Loyola went unbeaten in its first 15 games (13-0-2) but finished the season 5-4-2. The Ramblers lost to Evanston 1-0 in the Class 3A sectional semifinals at Maine South. Loyola plays the Wildkits in Evanston on Tuesday.
“We are a well-balanced team, and we are much better set up for the rigors and style of high school soccer,” Snower said. “We are set up for the big games and for the last 10 of the season. We would rather flip the results of last year.”