The Ramblers enjoyed one of their best seasons in recent memory last fall, and Loyola head coach Baer Fisher sees no reason why they can’t be better this year.
Seven starters return from a team that captured the Catholic Blue championship, advanced to a Class 3A regional final and finished 15-2-4. Eight other players with varsity experience also are back.
“Without a doubt this team is the best team, in terms of talent from top to bottom, since I’ve been at Loyola,” said Fisher, who’s entering his fifth season.
Back to the starting lineup are senior midfielder Nick Roscoe, senior defender John Wilson, junior defender Oscar Blazer, junior defender Mario Hrvojevic, junior midfielder Michael Sullivan, junior midfielder Tommy Zipprich and sophomore goalkeeper Alex Ainsworth.
While Loyola lost offensive leaders David Gripman and Collin Leider to graduation, Zipprich (8 goals, 4 assists), Hrvojevic (4 goals, 7 assists), Sullivan (3 goals, 4 assists) and Blazer (2 goals, 2 assists) were valuable contributors. Senior forward Austin Agyemang had six goals and two assists off the bench.
“The biggest unknown right now is finding ways to create scoring opportunities,” Fisher said. “Last year, we relied on two guys to break down opponents. This year, it will be more of a team effort.”
Ainsworth, Blazer, Hrvojevic and Wilson anchor a defense that totaled 12 shutouts and allowed 18 goals in 21 games last year.
Roscoe, Zipprich and senior midfielder Andrew Hoepfner are captains.
A highlight of Loyola’s schedule includes a trip to Massachusetts to play Deerfield Academy, of Deerfield, Massachusetts, and Hotchkiss School, of Lakeville, Connecticut. The Ramblers plan to attend a college game between Wesleyan and Williams.
“This is the first time we’ve done something like this, and it will be a cool opportunity for the kids,” said Fisher, who played soccer at Middlebury College.
Since taking over in 2015, Fisher has infused excitement into the program. Furthermore, the Ramblers have been successful, posting a 56-21-7 record and have played in four regional finals. Last year’s conference championship in which the Ramblers went 5-0-1 in league play was the first in Fisher’s tenure.
“We’ve worked really hard — the staff, the players, the families — on building this program, and it’s something we are really proud of,” he said. “We had a terrific season last year, but this is a new year. We won’t be given anything, and teams will be gunning to beat us. The players need to define who they want to be.”