On a cold, rainy afternoon at Eastgate Field, Valparaiso played to a 1-1 double-overtime draw with Southern Utah. The tie, coupled with Oakland's 3-2 loss at IUPUI gives Valpo back-to-back Mid-Continent Conference titles, including its first outright crown in school history.
?I'm obviously very excited about our team's accomplishment this season," Valpo head coach Stephen Anthony said. ?Going undefeated in conference is certainly a tremendous achievement due to the quality and parity of Mid-Con schools."
Valpo appeared in control of the match early, holding a 7-1 shot advantage in the opening half. The Crusaders took the lead at the 26:27 mark as Sarah Jewell (Kansas City, Mo./Park Hill H.S.) fired home a free kick from 25 yards out to put Valpo up 1-0 at the break. The goal, her team-leading tenth of the season, moves her into third place on Valpo's single season goal scoring list, one shy of the school record.
The Brown and Gold maintained its advantage throughout most of the second half, despite pressure from the Thunderbirds. Brookly Phillips then knotted the match with 3:34 left on her blast from 30 yards out into the upper left corner of the goal.
Southern Utah (5-8-3, 2-1-2 Mid-Con) outshot Valpo 13-7 in the second half as the match headed to overtime tied at one.
Valpo had a golden opportunity with approximately three minutes remaining the second overtime as Jackie Thomas (Overland Park, Kan./Blue Valley Northwest H.S.) hit the far post from five yards out and the match ended in a draw.
Both teams fired 17 shots in the contest, with Valpo holding a 9-5 advantage on net. Erin Murray (Pleasanton, Calif./Amador Valley H.S.) made four saves for the Crusaders while Sutton Cherrington made seven stops for Southern Utah. The Crusaders also had six corner kick opportunities, while the Thunderbirds had two.
The Crusaders and Thunderbirds have been accustomed to overtime matches this season, entering the match combined for 11 extra session contacts. For Valpo, this match was a school-record seventh of the season, and the Crusaders have still not lost an overtime contest since 2003, going 6-0-9 during the span.
Valparaiso finishes the regular season with a school-best 12-3-3 record, including a 4-0-2 mark in Mid-Continent Conference play. The Crusaders also allowed more than one goal in a match just once in 18 contests this season.
The Crusaders will head to Rochester, Mich. to defend their Mid-Con Tournament title beginning Thursday with semifinal play. Valpo will face either IUPUI or Western Illinois with the start time to be determined later this weekend when the official tournament pairings are announced.
?As we look ahead towards the conference tournament, we definitely have challenges in front of us," Anthony said. ?Based on the league standings, all four qualifying teams will have a chance to win for the tournament crown and we're excited to have the opportunity to defend our Mid-Con title and because of the quality of our competition, it makes our regular season conference championship so special."