The four-time defending Missouri Valley conference tournament champion Illinois State Redbirds were eliminated in the first round of this year’s tournament Sunday. The fifth-seeded Loyola Ramblers defeated the fourth-seeded Redbirds 2-1 at Adelaide Street Field. The loss ends the 2015 season for ISU; the Redbirds finished the year with a record of 6-10-2.

Loyola came out firing in the first half. High energy on both sides of the ball gave the Ramblers the advantage early on. ISU goalkeeper Vanessa Niestrom made a fantastic save in the eighth minute on Loyola’s Taylor Lambouris. Shortly after, Lambouris sent a long lead pass ahead of Avalon Senn-Raemont who beat Niestrom to the loose ball to give the Ramblers a 1-0 lead just nine minutes in. Just five minutes later, Shelby Koch launched a free kick from the center of the field just above the box, which deflected into the net for a 2-0 Rambler advantage.

“I thought we put ourselves in a hole because we didn’t execute very well in the first half,” Head coach Eric Golz said. “We made some defensive errors and it cost us. We gave up two goals that were highly preventable and we gave up goals that we talked about before the game.”

Following the two Loyola goals, the Redbirds controlled the remainder of the half despite being outshot 7-6. Although the ‘Birds held the edge in possession, they were unable to capitalize on their offensive chances.

More of the same was shown in the second half, as ISU controlled the ball consistently but stingy defense from Loyola kept the Redbirds off the scoreboard. The Redbirds outshot the Ramblers 7-3 in the second half. A last-ditch effort by ISU resulted in a goal from Lauren Koehl with 42 seconds remaining to cut the Loyola lead in half. Koehl received a crossing pass from Sophomore Haylee Eastridge and tallied her eighth goal of the season, a team high. For Eastridge, it was her third assist in two games. A final shot from the ‘Birds nearly at the buzzer went wide and Loyola held on for the victory.

“Our execution was very poor,” Golz said. “From then on out we had to dig ourselves out of a hole an we just didn’t have enough.”

The Redbirds outshot the Ramblers 13-10 and had two corner kicks to Loyola’s one. Loyola goalkeeper Maddie Ford made four saves in net for the Ramblers. Niestrom made five for ISU.

A new champion will be crowned this year in the MVC for the first time since 2010. Loyola will move on to play top-seeded Drake next Friday in Evansville, Ind.

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