Valparaiso’s men’s soccer team went toe-to-toe with one of the nation’s best teams Sunday evening in Durham, N.C., playing scoreless soccer with #4/3 Duke into the second half. But the Blue Devils pushed a goal across in the 69th minute and eventually went on to down the Crusaders by a 2-0 decision.
“First of all, Duke is a terrific team,” said Crusader head coach Mike Avery. “I was very, very proud of our guys coming in here and playing as well as they did. My biggest concern was that we didn’t come in here and lay down for Duke, and we definitely did not do that. We came in and played competitively, and were in the game all the way until the end. Despite this weekend’s results, we really grew as a team on this trip.”
The first half was very evenly matched, as Duke fired eight shots to Valpo’s three. The Blue Devils’ Mike Grella put the first shot on goal of the game in the 11th minute, but Crusader goalkeeper Ryan Schwarz (Rockford, Ill./Boylan Catholic) turned it away. That would be the only shot on goal Duke would register in the first half. Valpo received shots on frame in the opening 45 minutes from Clifton Brown (Chillicothe, Ohio/Unioto) and Joel Wagner (Algonquin, Ill./Dundee Crown), but Duke goalie Justin Papadakis made saves on both to send the game scoreless into the half.
The start of the second half was more of the same, as Duke’s Pavelid Castaneda and Michael Videira and Valpo’s Steve Shively (Indianapolis, Ind./North Central) all put shots on goal within the first nine minutes, but all three shots were stopped by the respective keepers. Duke started to gain an edge in the attacking category, putting three shots on goal in a five-minute span, culminating in Mike Grella scoring the game’s first goal at 68:25.
Valpo attempted to respond quickly, as Paul Leitelt (Munster, Ind./Munster) fired a shot on goal within a minute of the Blue Devils’ goal, but Papadakis made the save to preserve the 1-0 lead. Duke continued to pepper the Crusaders’ defense in the closing stages of the second half, and Grella finally pushed across an insurance tally at the 84:01 mark. Valpo got two more shots in the final few minutes, but neither could find their way on frame.
Duke ended the game with a 28-8 advantage in the shots category, and put 11 on goal to Valpo’s four. The Blue Devils also held a 6-1 edge in corner kicks. Papadakis made four saves to earn the shutout for Duke (2-0-0), while Schwarz made nine stops in net to keep the Crusaders within striking distance.
“Ryan Schwarz was unbelievable in goal for us tonight,” said Avery. “A lot of the credit for us staying in the game as long as we did has to go to him, as he played at a very high level in net today.”
Valparaiso (0-2-0) kicks off its home slate at Eastgate Field on Friday, Sept. 7 as the Crusaders host IPFW in non-conference action. First kick is slated for 5 p.m.