Valpo at North Carolina State - Friday, Aug. 31 - 1 p.m. CDT
Valpo at #4/3 Duke - Sunday, Sept. 2 - 6 p.m. CDT
The Matchups: Valparaiso kicks off the 2007 campaign this weekend at the Wolfpack Classic in North Carolina. The Crusaders will play at North Carolina State at 1 p.m. CDT on Friday, and follow with a game at Duke on Sunday at 6 p.m. CDT. The Blue Devils were ranked among the top five teams in the nation in preseason polls from the NSCAA and Soccer Times. Both games are part of the Wolfpack Classic, hosted by N.C. State.
This will be the first time in Crusader men’s soccer history that they have faced either Duke or N.C. State. In fact, Valpo has never met any current ACC squad on the pitch in the program’s 24-year history.
Last Season: Valparaiso is coming off of a 2006 season in which it posted the most wins by a Crusader squad in nearly a decade and earned accolades unparalleled in the program’s history. The Crusaders captured seven matches last year, the highest win total since the 1997 squad registered eight victories. They also had a player (junior Paul Leitelt) earn National Player of the Week honors from the Soccer Times and the NSCAA for his performance in the first week of the season, the first Crusader ever to earn national accolades. In addition, after a 3-1-0 start, Valpo earned its first-ever ranking in the NSCAA regional poll, as it was ranked sixth in the Midwest Poll dated Sept. 3.
On The Air: WVUR (95.1 FM, Valparaiso) will not be carrying this weekend’s matches from North Carolina. The station will kick off this season’s men’s soccer broadcasts on Sept. 7 when the Crusaders host IPFW. WVUR is planning on carrying seven men’s soccer games this year over the airwaves, as well as any matches as part of the Horizon League Championships. The games will also be carried online at www.valpo.edu/athletics.
New League...: Valparaiso moves to the Horizon League for the 2007 season after playing for 19 seasons in the Mid-Continent Conference. During their time in the Mid-Con, the Crusaders captured two regular season titles to go along with one tournament championship.
...New Faces: The new conference affiliation isn’t the only thing new for the Crusaders as they enter the 2007 campaign. Head coach Mike Avery and assistant coach Rick King are both in their first year with the program. In addition, 22 of the 32 players on the Valpo roster will be taking the pitch for the Crusaders for the first time this fall.
Challenging Schedule: The Crusaders have a testing slate in front of them during the 2007 campaign. With the step up in conference, the league schedule will be a biggest challenge, as Valpo will face two squads which advanced to the NCAA College Cup last season. In addition, the Brown and Gold take on Duke and Western Illinois in the non-conference slate, both of which also appeared in the College Cup last season. The Blue Devils advanced to the quarterfinal round of the tournament in 2006.
Leitelt Among Nation’s Best: Junior midfielder Paul Leitelt earned national recognition last year after one of the best weekends in Crusader history. Leitelt opened last season with a goal and an assist in a win over DePaul, and followed two days later with a hat-trick and an assist in a 5-4 victory against Evansville. For his efforts, Leitelt was named National Player of the Week by the Soccer Times and the NSCAA, and was placed on the College Soccer News National Team of the Week.
Making Them Count: Sophomore Steve Shively moves back to defense this year after playing up front as a freshman. Shively found the back of the net four times during his debut campaign and all four of them were vital, as they were all of the match-winning variety. The four match-winners ties Scott Daly’s 2001 campaign as the most match-winners by a Crusader player in the last decade.
Schwarz Stops Shots: Sophomore goalkeeper Ryan Schwarz made the most of his immediate playing time as a freshman. Schwarz set a freshman single-season record with four shutouts, the third-most in a single year in Crusader history. He recorded wins in each of his first three matches and ended the season with six victories. He especially dominated at Eastgate Field, going 5-3-0 with a 1.47 GAA and four shutouts in eight starts at the Crusaders’ home facility.
Two Fifth-Year Seniors: The Crusaders do not have a large contingent of seniors, with just two on their 32-man roster, but both seniors are in their fifth year of collegiate soccer. Sean McGinnis has filled the backup goalkeeper position well in his time at Valpo, with a 1.54 GAA, while Tyler Pagano has started 30 matches in the midfield in his two years with the Crusaders.