CHICAGO - Under the direction of head coach Barry Bimbi, the Loyola University Chicago women's soccer team unveiled its 2017 schedule on Thursday morning. The Ramblers, coming off their second consecutive year with a postseason victory, will play an 18-game regular-season schedule that is highlighted by eight home contests.
"Both our staff and players are very excited about our 2017 schedule," Bimbi said. "We've put together a very competitive non-conference schedule with games against the Big 12, SEC and Big 10 to go along with matchups against top teams from both the BIG EAST and Colonial Athletic Association. We expect these games to challenge our team to step up their level of play and will prepare us for another challenging season in the Missouri Valley Conference."
Following home exhibition tilts with former Horizon League foes Milwaukee (Aug. 8) and Green Bay (Aug. 13), Loyola will head to Oklahoma to open the regular season. Oklahoma State, a 2016 NCAA Tournament participant, will provide the opposition in the 2017 opener, Aug. 18, in Stillwater, Okla. before the Ramblers head east to Tulsa for a Sunday matinee at Oral Roberts two days later (Aug. 20).
The home schedule opens the following weekend when the Maroon & Gold hosts the Loyola Invitational, welcoming Drexel (Aug. 25) and Akron (Aug. 27) to the friendly confines of Loyola Soccer Park.
Loyola returns to the road to kick off the month of September, traveling to Milwaukee, Wis. for clashes with Mercer (Sept. 1) and Central Michigan (Sept. 3) as part of the Marquette Invitational. Missouri Valley Conference play gets underway on Sept. 8 when Indiana State visits Rogers Park.
Following a road test at Iowa on Sept. 10, the Ramblers will be back in the Windy City to take on local rivals Chicago State (Sept. 15) and DePaul (Sept. 17). A two-game road swing through Indiana closes out September. Loyola will open the road portion of its conference schedule on Sept. 22 at Arad McCutchan Stadium against Evansville ahead of a Sept. 24 non-conference matchup with Fort Wayne.
October opens with a crucial three-game MVC stretch. Missouri State (Oct. 1) and league newcomer Valparaiso (Oct. 7) visit Loyola Soccer Park before a midweek showdown with Illinois State, the reigning Valley champion, on Oct. 11. Loyola closes out the non-conference portion of its schedule just four days after its visit to Normal, Ill. when it stays on the road to take on Southeastern Conference (SEC) foe Kentucky (Oct. 15).
The Ramblers are scheduled to wrap up the regular season with consecutive meetings against teams from the state of Iowa. Loyola will take to the Loyola Soccer Park turf for the final time during the regular season on Oct. 21 to clash with Northern Iowa, who the Ramblers upset in last year's conference tournament, before traveling to Des Moines, Iowa for a final-day tilt with Drake (Oct. 26).
The opening round of the 2017 Missouri Valley Conference Women's Soccer Championship will be hosted at campus sites on Oct. 29 prior to moving to Springfield, Mo., Nov. 3-5, where the league's automatic bid to the NCAA Tournament will be up for grabs.
Bimbi is expected to welcome back 20 letterwinners from last season's team that led Loyola to its second berth in the semifinals of the Missouri Valley Conference Women's Soccer Championship in as many seasons. That group, highlighted by All-MVC honorees Jenna Szczesny and Sienna Cruz, will be joined by a talented group of seven newcomers.