CHICAGO — For Loyola women’s soccer’s senior class, conference championships are all they’ve known — and it never gets old.
“No it definitely doesn’t,” laughed senior defender Aly Kilburg.
Four seasons in a row, the Ramblers have run away with the Missouri Valley Conference regular season and tournament title after topping Evansville 4-0 on Sunday to punch their fourth straight ticket to the NCAA Women’s Soccer Championship.
“Our mindset has been consistent and so has our work ethic,” said senior defender Abby Swanson. “It doesn’t matter who we play, we treat it all the same.”
During this historic four-year run for Loyola, the Ramblers have shown they can dominate conference opponents compiling a 34-2-2 record against the Valley. But what remains missing from their resume is an NCAA tournament win.
“It’s definitely something we’ve been striving for, especially coming off past three years not making it past the first game,” Kilburg said. “This year is looking good to get past the first game for the first time.”
“It would be a feather in your cap as a program,” said head coach Barry Bimbi. “These girls won so many individual awards and team trophies, this would be a piece that’s missing for the upper classman. They do want it and are not just happy to be here.”
Maybe as impressive as the Ramblers success on the field is their long list of pregame routines—or superstitions.
“Personally, I have to eat a PB&J sandwich, Rice Krispies treat and skittles before the game, so do most of the girls. It stems a lot from our coach Barry Bimbi,” Kilburg said.
“I think our head coach Barry Bimbi was the main driving force with [the pregame superstitions],” Swanson added.
“I think I’m getting a bad rap on that,” defended Bimbi. “I have some pregame rituals, like the blue pennies have to go out first before the yellow pennies. I usually do so when they are in the locker room so they don’t see how crazy I am.”
One routine Bimbi is not privy too is the players pregame dance party, saying he “hasn’t been invited yet.”
“It’s definitely the hype factor and energy, it connects you all and takes some pressure off not thinking about game yet and just dancing, laughing, and singing with your friends,” Swanson said of their locker room dance parties before every game, home or away.
If the Ramblers can pull off the upset Saturday at Purdue, there’s sure to be a postgame party — and maybe this time coach will get the invite.