Loyola’s first Missouri Valley Conference game didn’t go how it wanted, but with a first-year head coach entering a brand new conference, things will naturally be tough. The Ramblers dropped a 75-57 contest Thursday night to Evansville at the Ford Center. I caught up with Ramblers head coach Sheryl Swoopes after the game to get her thoughts on her first Valley game and how she envisions her first season.
Q: That wasn’t how you wanted your first MVC game to go, but how was it?
Swoopes: We talked a lot about joining a new conference and starting a new conference and making an first impression because you only get one time to do that. It’s unfortunate we didn’t play the way we wanted to play nor the way we’re capable of playing. I think for the girls, it was good to get the first one out of the way. They were definitely nervous for a lot of reasons. I think any time you join a new conference, people are going to be watching you, even though I don’t feel there’s a lot of pressure on us. I don’t think there’s a lot of expectations on us this year, but you always want to go out and play well and have a great performance. Unfortunately we came up short (Thursday night).”
Q: You mentioned expectations, but nobody really knows about Loyola. It’s kind of a new experience for everybody, right?
Swoopes: Absolutely. Being the new team joining the league, all the teams are trying to get to know who we are and what we’re going to do, and vice versa — we have to do the same thing. My biggest thing for the team is ‘let’s go out and play hard; the effort is always going to be there.’ My biggest frustration was the effort. I feel like there were moments where the effort was there, and there were moments where we got tired or felt sorry for ourselves and let up. … The good thing about this conference is we don’t have time to sulk and deal with this loss. We’re on the road (Thursday night) and have another game Saturday, and hopefully we’ll bounce back.
Q: You travel to Carbondale to take on Southern Illinois, but will it be good to get back home to play a conference game?
Swoopes: It’s always good to play at home, but if you’re going to make some noise and compete and eventually want to be one of those elite teams and win championships, you have to win games on the road. It’s a lot harder on the road — you’re battling the other team, the fans. We’re very young; we’re a young team, and we’re learning things. It was good to get this one under our belt. I think they have a feel what everything’s about, what the valley’s about. It’s conference time; it’s one of those things where you have to step up and what happened in preseason doesn’t really matter. This is a completely different season — everybody’s going to come out to play, everybody feels like there’s something to prove. We’re no different than that.
Q: Will it be easier facing teams the second time around?
Swoopes: I hope so. We know there are a lot of things we can learn from this game. There are players that definitely know they didn’t play up to their potential, didn’t compete. There are also players that I was very pleased with — Troy Hambric and Becca Smith. I thought the two of them really came out and played hard.
Q: Troy had 26 points and 10 rebounds. Was she your bright spot (Thursday) night?
Swoopes: I think with the team last year and what they did in the Horizon League, everybody really talked about what Simone Law and Taylor Johnson did. Nobody really paid much attention to Troy. After this game, I can probably guarantee you everybody in the Valley is going to know who Troy Hambric is. She’s a senior, she wants to go out on top. She’s a competitor, she’s a fighter, no matter what the score is, she’s going to go out and going to play hard and leave everything out on the floor.