VALPO THIS WEEK: Wednesday, Oct. 25, 3 p.m., Eastgate Field, Eastern Illinois at Valpo; Friday, Oct. 27, 3 p.m., Macomb, Ill., Valpo at Western Illinois
ON THE AIR: Wednesday's match against Eastern Illinois will be broadcast live on WVUR, 95.1 FM, and online at www.valpo.edu/athletics. Ron Castor and Adam Amin will be on the call. Friday's match will not be broadcast.
THIS WEEK'S MATCHUPS: Both Eastern Illinois and Western Illinois have held the edge historically over the Crusaders. The Panthers are 8-1-1 overall against Valpo, including a 2-0 win on their home field last year. The only Valpo win in the series came back in 1997, as the Crusaders won 2-1 at EIU. Against their conference rival Western Illinois, Valpo has fared a bit better, but the Leathernecks still hold the all-time series lead, 14-5-1. Last year's matchup at Eastgate Field resulted in a scoreless draw. Prior to that game, the Leathernecks had won three straight in the series, as Valpo last won in 2001, 2-1.
SCOUTING EASTERN ILLINOIS: The Panthers enter Wednesday's match with a 9-6-1 overall record, but are just 1-3-1 in Missouri Valley Conference play. Defense has gotten it done for EIU this year, as goalkeepers Paul Jennison and Mark Hansen have combined for five shutouts and a goals against average of 0.92. Offensively, Brad Peters leads the way for the Panthers, with nine goals and three assists for 21 points on the year. EIU has excelled against Mid-Con opponents thus far this season, with victories over UMKC (1-0), Western Illinois (1-0, OT), and IUPUI (2-0).
SCOUTING WESTERN ILLINOIS: The Leathernecks will be looking to clinch their first ever outright regular season Mid-Con championship on Friday. Western Illinois has dominated its opponents this year, outscoring them 35-14 on their way to a 10-7-0 overall record. Freshman goalie Stephen Paterson leads the Mid-Con in goals against average (0.88), save percentage (.831), and shutouts (5). On the offensive side, Martin Browne and Matt Wieclaw are 1-2 in the Mid-Con in scoring. Browne has netted eight goals and dished out six helpers, while Wieclaw has tallied eight markers to go with four assists.
LAST WEEK: The Crusaders fell at Big Ten foe Michigan State 2-0 Wednesday and lost in a key Mid-Con matchup against UMKC, 2-1. Ryan Schwarz started in net for Valpo in both matches, making five stops against the Spartans and eight against the Kangaroos. Jon Brighton netted the lone Crusader goal of the week, knotting up the match against UMKC at one before the Kangaroos took the lead for good.
THE MID-CON RACE: For Valpo this weekend, the scenarios are simple. Win, and the Crusaders are in the Mid-Con Tournament. Lose, and they're out. Tie, and they would need the Oakland-Oral Roberts match to end in a tie to make the four-team field. But even with just three regular season matches remaining, no one team is locked into a seed in the Mid-Con Tournament. Western Illinois has clinched at least a share of the regular season title, and can lock up the outright title and the #1 seed with a win or tie against Valpo. UMKC has also clinched a berth into the tourney field, and still has a shot at a share of the conference title, but the Kangaroos can not earn the #1 seed. IUPUI, on the other hand, could receive the #1 seed with a win over UMKC and a Western Illinois loss to Valpo. The only team eliminated from the tournament field is Centenary, which ended league play 2-4-0.
ALL HE DOES: Is score match winners. Steve Shively certainly has a knack for the timely goal, and he continued his unprecedented run in the Crusaders' win over IPFW, putting Valpo in front for good with his fourth goal of the year in the 12th minute. Of Shively's four goals, all four have been match-winners, tied for the league lead. The Indianapolis native had the match-winner goal in the first two matches of the year, and has now scored the match-winner in the last two Crusader wins. Shively's last goal as a prep was a match-winner when he gave North Central the Indiana State Championship with a goal in the final 30 seconds of the title match.
SHUTOUT SCHWARZ: Another of Valpo's freshmen, goalkeeper Ryan Schwarz, has proven himself to be a force in his first year. Schwarz has already set the Valpo freshman record for shutouts in a season (four) and is just two shy of matching the overall record. He also leads the Mid-Con with 5.36 saves/game.
PROGRAM REACHING NEW HEIGHTS: Valpo recorded a program-first earlier this season, as the Crusader men's soccer team broke into the Great Lakes Region top-10. The Crusaders spent six weeks in the rankings, from September 5 to October 10, and peaked at number six on the poll.