After knocking off the top three seed in the Horizon League Men's Soccer Tournament, it is clear that not much phases the League champion Loyola Ramblers. Loyola will look to carry that poise downstate, when they meet Bradley in the first round of the NCAA Men's Soccer Tournament Thursday at 8 p.m. ET.
Loyola (7-11-2) took its time to warm up in the regular season, but as the temperatures dropped the Ramblers got hotter, reeling off five straight wins (one technically a penalty kick draw) en route to the conference title. Along the way, Loyola figured out its best style, going with a defensive mindset and relying on senior goalie Peter McKeown to have the defense properly arranged.
Since Oct. 26, McKeown has not allowed a goal; not coincidentally, the Ramblers have not dropped a match in that same span.
While Loyola and Bradley have met this season, it was not McKeown in goal for the 2-1 loss the Ramblers suffered on Sept. 18. Christian Krueger made eight saves for the Ramblers in the defeat; a mighty Bradley attack took 28 shots in the match.
28 shots may have seemed overwhelming for Loyola in September, but after advancing to the League championship after surrendering 21 shots to Valparaiso, the Ramblers have the confidence to play stingy defense with solid, well timed counter-attack and will look to pick up the program's first win in NCAA Tournament play.