THIS WEEK: Western Michigan at Valpo (Friday, 4:30 p.m.) & Buffalo at Valpo (Sunday, 1:00 p.m.)
ON THE AIR: Again in 2006, The Source 95, 95.1 FM, is broadcasting all Crusader soccer from Eastgate Field live over the airwaves and online at www.valpo.edu/athletics. Mike Haase and Source 95 Sports Director Matt Engelbrecht will call Friday's match, with Ron Castor joining Engelbrecht on Sunday afternoon.
SCOUTING WESTERN MICHIGAN: The Broncos struggled to an 0-3 start this season, but come into Friday's match having won the last time out, a 1-0 decision at Cleveland State last Sunday. Western Michigan has scored exactly one goal in each of their four matches and has played a one-goal match every time out. Junior Tom Oatley leads the Broncos with two goals and two assists this year, and Casey Aubil has played every match between the pipes with a 1.49 goals against average. These teams will meet for the 15th time, with the Broncos holding a 10-3-1 series edge, including a 1-0 win last year in Kalamazoo.
SCOUTING BUFFALO: A former Mid-Con rival from the 1994 and 1995 seasons, Buffalo and Valpo renewed acquaintances last season at the Bulls Classic, where the Brown and Gold opened the 2005 season with a 3-2 loss. The Bulls hold a 4-1 all-time edge in the series, but Valpo came away with a victory in the lone previous match played at Eastgate Field. This year's Buffalo team is 1-1-1 with their lone victory coming in the season opener against Pittsburgh. The Bulls dropped their last match 1-0 to Detroit.
LAST WEEK: Senior forward D.J. Catrow watched Paul Leitelt steal the headlines the opening week of the season with four goals and two assists in two matches, including the first Crusader hat trick in 11 seasons. So Catrow went out and matched the sophomore last week at the Copa de Causeway Tournament. The senior striker scored twice in the first 17 minutes at UC-Davis on Saturday in a match the Crusaders held on to win 3-2 despite a furious Aggie attack in the second half. Then on Monday, Catrow celebrated the Labor Day holiday with two more goals as Valpo lost for the first time all season, 3-2 at Sacramento State. While the three-match winning streak to start the season matched a school record, the Crusaders (at 3-1) can get off the best five-match start in program history with a two-win weekend. The 1987 Valpo squad started 4-1-1 for Danny Jeftich, the best ever opening to a Crusader season.
WHERE DID THIS COME FROM?: Valpo won six matches and advanced to the Mid-Con Tournament in 2005 on the strength of a strong defense and a score-when-they-had-to offense. Now, that is a long gone memory as the Crusaders have blown open the offense and roared out to 12 goals in the first four matches of the season. By comparison, the 2005 Crusaders didn't score their 12th goal until October (the ninth match of the year) and finished the season with 27 markers. Of course, all the wide open offense has also freed up opposing attackers, who have scored nine times on Valpo, and that includes a season-opening shutout of DePaul. Crusader keeper Ryan Schwarz has been solid (a .719 save pct.) but Valpo has been out-shot this season a whopping 85-57 including surrendering 33 shots to UC-Davis in a win.
SHOW SOME RESPECT: Thanks to their hot start and attention-grabbing individual performances in the first two weeks of the year, the Crusaders are currently ranked sixth in the NSCAA Midwest Region poll. This is the first time a Valpo team has ever drawn a regional ranking, and it makes the Crusaders currently the top ranked team in the Mid-Con (Western Illinois is 9th in the region).
GO D.J.: One of the most prolific scorers in school history, D.J. Catrow burned up the nets last week with four goals on five shots. His work in California earned him his first Mid-Con Offensive Player of the Week award and also put the senior on the Soccer Times National Weekly Honor Roll. Catrow, who transferred to Valpo after one season at Ohio State, is also on the verge of cracking both the career goals and points top 10 lists, and already ranks seventh all time in career assists. His 12 career goals and 11 career assists also make him one of only five Crusaders all-time with 10+ goals and assists.
LEIT IT UP: Catrow, however, has not been the only Valpo player making headlines this season. Sophomore Paul Leitlet was the Mid-Con's Offensive Player of the Week after week one, and also picked up the NSCAA and Soccer Times' National Player of the Week awards. Leitelt recorded the first Valpo hat trick since Bryan McCulloch in 1995 on August 27, driving the Crusaders to a 5-4 win over Evansville.