Senior Day may have come and gone for four Loyola Chicago Seniors, but their rejuvenated love for the game is something that will stay with them forever. During a regular season that has seen a few bad losing streaks, more than a few injuries, and increasingly tougher conference opponents – the seniors had nothing but great things to say regarding the Loyola program and coaching staff. Senior Sam Galanopoulos was very open when she told the media after their loss on Saturday, “This staff has brought so much positivity and energy to us, and that gave all of us life. Their energy made me love basketball again even more”. I think this points to the million dollar question I’ve been getting a lot recently from family or friends, which is: What is there to look forward to about the Ramblers Women’s basketball team? The staff and the young student athletes that are here now and will be here next year have this energy about them. They may have lost 15 games in a row, but they fully expect to win the next game and the next game – one game at a time.
Now some may think that could be a little cocky or simply preposterous. How could a team with 6 wins in 29 tries, expect to go out and win their next game? But this team prepares each player for success. They prepare together as one unit. They all talk as if they are one unit. They each trust the work that they have put in to where they expect to see results based on their efforts. I was able to attend their practice on Friday Feb 24th. Head Coach Allison Guth would remind the team after a forced turnover by the opposing practice team or after they had to run a down and back in 11 seconds as punishment that, “We all want the same thing!” That thing is to win. There has never been any quit to the Ramblers game in a season in which some may have. The players have stayed true to their goals, and so have the coaches. In mid-January I had asked Coach Guth if playing 6 players for the remainder of the season was sustainable. The team had recently sustained a few injuries to some key role players. I was wondering if they should try to play their younger players and prepare them for the future. Guth’s answer was simple. She told me that they were playing the players that they thought gave Loyola the best chance to win games. She also added that the players who hadn’t seen the court during the games were doing a great job preparing those 6 for game action. Everyone has a role, everyone has to do their role to the best of their abilities, and everyone wants the same thing.
Yes, the result of the last regular season game on Saturday did not go to plan. St. Louis has been on a tear of late, and they imposed their will defensively. Loyola scored 1 point in the first quarter. That was Loyola’s worst scoring output of a quarter this season. But the Ramblers didn’t go down quietly. The second quarter showed how much fight these young women have. Anna Brown and Kira Chivers each hit 2 three pointers in the second quarter. When the Ramblers went on a 13-0 run, you could see what this team is capable of. Unfortunately, the Ramblers came out cold in the third quarter and couldn’t climb back into the game. Saint Louis won 73-55. There have been many “small wins” as Guth has described throughout the season, but at the end of this game the Ramblers couldn’t add one to the “dub column”. Coach Guth reflected after the game about the lack of wins, “When we haven’t gotten the results in the dub column, it’s pretty special to hear that people have been coming to practice through adversity and loving it.”
These seniors may not have a legacy of trophies or records to leave this year. The numbers won’t show that, but there is something else brewing in Rogers Park. Allison Guth has breathed new life into a program that needed to be torn down and built back up from the inside out. The players can see it too. Senior Jala Johnson drove home the point that the staff has been crucial to their mindset this year, “Their [the coaching staff] momentum going forward and how they carry themselves off the court is huge to me.” And if it’s huge to an outgoing senior who was only able to play in roughly half of the games this year due to injury, then I’m certain it will be crucial to next year’s team, incoming freshman, and Ramblers still yet to decide to commit to play for Loyola Chicago and Allison Guth.