Loyola has overcome an 0-3 start, an injury to one of the state’s best players in senior Riley Burns and a mid-season system switch to earn a spot in the Class 3A sectional final at Glenbrook North.
After all that, the players and coaches see no reason why the third-seeded Ramblers (18-6) can’t upset top-seeded New Trier (21-2-1) on Friday. The Trevians are the three-time defending Class 3A state champions.
“Everything seems to be clicking,” said Loyola senior defender Kayleigh Purcell, who is winless in her three varsity seasons against New Trier. “We have a lot of momentum right now, and we are approaching this game with the mindset that we can win.”
In the first meeting between the two teams on April 15, New Trier beat Loyola 3-0. Since that defeat, the Ramblers have won 12 of 13 games, including their last 11 in a row.
“We have a monumental challenge Friday, but we’ve answered every challenge so far this year,” Loyola head coach Craig Snower said.
Sophomore forward Maggie Brett, who scored the game-winning goal in Loyola’s 2-1 win over Evanston on Tuesday, said the team is playing with confidence. Evanston ended Loyola’s season in the sectional semifinal a year ago.
“We know what we are capable of doing,” she said. “I mean, I don’t see why we can’t beat them.”
A key to Loyola’s success was Snower’s decision to change formations from three forwards and three defenders to two forwards and five defenders. Although it’s one less offensive player, Purcell said the switch actually has helped the offense become more productive.
“We have a lot of speed up top, and it seemed like it got too crowded with three people,” she said. “It was a really good move for us.”
Loyola, which has matched last season’s win total, is looking for its first sectional title since 2013.
“What a season we’ve had,” Snower remarked. “We wanted to get one step farther than last year, and we hit our goal. But we have a lot left to play for.”
Photo credit: Melissa Krein/Loyola