Crusaders Take On Preseason Conference Favorite Oakland Saturday at Eastgate
Friday, September 29, 2006
THIS WEEK: Oakland at Valpo (Saturday, 12:00 p.m.)

THIS WEEK'S MATCH: The Crusaders come back home looking to rebound after last week's tough Mid-Con loss at Centenary when they take on defending Regular Season Champion Oakland. WVUR, 95.1 FM, will air the match on a tape delay basis Monday with Ron Castor and Adam Tein on the call.

SCOUTING OAKLAND: The 2005 Mid-Continent Conference Regular Season Champions, the Oakland Golden Grizzlies were picked to repeat in this summer's preseason conference poll, but the results so far have been a bit disappointing. Oakland is just 2-7 overall and has already lost as many Mid-Con matches this year (one) as they did all of last season. The Golden Grizzlies have played a tough schedule, falling to nationally ranked Saint John's, UCLA and Akron, but lost their last match 4-0 at home to Western Illinois. Offense has been a struggle for the Grizzlies who have only six goals and have been shutout six times. Last season, Valpo beat Oakland on the road 1-0 in their biggest win of the season, but then re-matched with the champs in the Mid-Con Tournament's semifinals and lost 4-2. Oakland leads the all-time series 6-2-1.

VALPO IN THE MID-CON: Only once since 1996 has a Valpo team won twice during the Mid-Con season and not qualified for the conference tournament, and the Brown and Gold are already halfway there thanks to a conference-opening win over Oral Roberts two weeks ago at Eastgate. Unfortunately, Valpo's loss at Centenary puts the Crusaders in an unenviable spot, looking for points against conference power Oakland at home Satruday. Valpo has one Mid-Con home match remaining on the schedule after Saturday, October 14 against IUPUI, but has road tilts with UMKC and Western Illinois. The Crusaders are trying to get back to the Mid-Con Tourney this season after earning the #4 seed last year. Valpo has not made back-to-back trips to the league's premier event since three straight berths from 1996-98.

LAST WEEK: The Centenary Gents evened the all-time series with the Crusaders at 2-2-1 with a 4-2 win in Shreveport, La. Saturday. Valpo is 0-1-1 all-time on the Gents' home turf, and lost their second straight match Saturday despite scoring first in both losses. D.J. Catrow got Valpo on the board in the 16th minute, but the Gents had the score tied by halftime and took advantage of the near 100-degree heat in the second half, scoring three times to earn the win. Jon Brighton had the other Crusader tally in the 67th minute.

SCORING SURGE: A new attacking system implemented this season by Head Coach Mis' Mrak has thus far paid big dividends for the Crusaders and is a big reason why Valpo is off to a 5-4 start. Mrak's squad has scored 20 goals through the first nine matches of the season, tops in the Mid-Continent Conference and 20th in the country. The 2005 Valpo team that won six times and went to the Mid-Con Tournament scored only 27 goals, and in fact no Crusader team under Mrak has scored more than 29 goals in a season, meaning the 2006 club has eight more regular season matches to hit that plateau. The program record for goals in a single-season is 41, set by the 1985 club that won seven times and scored five or more goals three times that year.

IT'S MY FAULT: The man who deserves most of the credit for the offensive outburst this season is senior forward D.J. Catrow. Catrow leads the Mid-Con in points with 13 by way of five goals and three assists. The transfer from Ohio State has 13 career assists, tied with teammate Jeremy Stacy for third all-time, 39 career points, 10th all-time, and 13 career goals, two shy of tenth all-time. Catrow is trying to become one of only five Valpo players to ever compile at least 15 goals and 10 assists in a career and is within striking distance of the top 10 on Valpo's single-season goals, assists and points lists.

NO SHY SHOOTERS: The Crusaders lead the Mid-Con with 137 shots this season, and three Valpo players, Catrow, Paul Leitelt and Jon Brighton are in the top five in the conference individually. Leitelt is the leader with 28 shots, three more than Catrow and four more than Brighton. The trio has combined for 56.2% (77 of 137) of all Crusader shots and, not surprisingly, 12 of 20 goals on the season.

THE SENIOR SEVEN: This veteran laden Crusader team is led by seven seniors, each of whom has made an impact this year. Catrow and Brighton have been major stars offensively, but so has Stacy who leads the Mid-Con with four assists. J.J. Eschenburg has two goals and three assists, Mark Wolka has two goals, John Allendorf has found the net once, and Henrik Turk has played solid on defense.

QUICKLY: Keeper Ryan Schwarz leads the Mid-Con with 49 saves.