Loyola head coach Mike Hengelmann said this season would be different than those in years past.
After finishing in the top five at the state meet every year since 2010, the Ramblers are in rebuild mode. Gone are Olivia Andrew and Ella Tierney, both of whom swam on Loyola’s 2014 state title team and led the Ramblers to second place last year as seniors. Andrew is swims at UCLA, and Tierney is at Texas.
But Hengelmann is optimistic that the Ramblers will improve as the season wears on.
“We have some girls with experience, but we are looking for girls to fill roles, looking for girls to step into bigger roles,” he said. “We still are figuring out the lineup, but it’s a long season.”
Loyola lost to St. Ignatius 120-66 on Wednesday at Illinois-Chicago. The Ramblers finished first in three events. Senior Shannon Kearney won the 100-yard backstroke in 57.11 seconds and helped the 200-yard medley relay to first place in 1:51.48. Junior Emily Rourke took first in diving with 212.80 points.
Kearney is one of three returning state-qualifiers, along with senior Cassidy Coughlin and senior Margaret Guanci. Hengelmann said Kearney had a good meet Wednesday.
“She was part of our two wins, leading off the medley and winning the backstroke,” he said. “She had some nice swims and looked good in the backstroke.”
Sophomore Stephanie Udzielak and freshmen Ally Mulvey and Maddy Reed are three swimmers Hengelmann said he expects to become major contributors this season. He called Udzielak the most improved swimmer on varsity.
“She was in our JV group last year,” Hengelmann said of Udzielak. “She’s really come a long way and stepped up.”
At UIC, Udzielak swam the 100 free, 200 free and on Loyola’s top 200 free and 400 free relays. Mulvey competed in the 100 breaststroke and swam on all three relays, while Reed swam the 100 butterfly and 500 free and on the 200 medley and 400 free relays.
Loyola next swims Saturday at Lyons’ invitational, where several of the top teams in the state will be competing.