Valparaiso closed out a four-match road trip Friday afternoon in Macomb, Ill. with a come-from-behind 2-1 win at Western Illinois, thanks to Steve Shively’s (Indianapolis, Ind./North Central) fifth career match-winning goal.
“It was a great performance by our team,” said Crusader head coach Mike Avery. “Anytime you can go on the road and get a win over a team like Western Illinois is a good day. The ability to go on the road and win games like this is what separates good teams from average teams.”
The day started out on a strange note, as the game was delayed over an hour due to a lack of officials at the facility. Once the game finally got under way, the Leathernecks got on the board first, as Martin Browne took advantage of a free kick in the 13th minute to put Western Illinois up 1-0. The goal is just the second the Crusaders have given up in the opening 45 minutes this year.
But, just as they did after giving up a first-half goal to N.C. State, Valpo responded. Deep in the Leathernecks’ end late in the first half, Andrew Stewart (Buffalo Grove, Ill./Stevenson) headed a ball across the box that Eniola Solomon (Gary, Ind./Hillcrest [South Suburban]) corralled and pushed across the goal line to knot the match at one.
Shively took over from there, finally finding the back of the net on his third shot of the day in the 58th minute, taking a pass from Zack Stivers (Brownsburg, Ind./Brownsburg) for the eventual match-winner. Ryan Schwarz (Rockford, Ill./Boylan Catholic) made two saves in the final 10 minutes to secure the victory for Valpo.
“I thought we did a much better job today handling the end game,” said Avery. “It shows that we learned something from our last match (a 1-1 tie against Loyola) about how to defend late in the game when up a goal. We got strong performances from all 20 field players we brought on the trip, and now we move on to prepare for Butler.”
Western Illinois (3-4-1) held a 13-10 advantage in shots taken over Valpo, but the Crusaders put seven of their shots on goal, versus five on frame for the Leathernecks. Schwarz ended the match with four saves, while WIU’s Charlie Sales made five stops in the losing effort.
Valparaiso (2-4-1) kicks off a brief two-game homestand on Sunday, as the Crusaders host Horizon League rival Butler. The game is the first of four League contests in a 10-day span for Valpo. Kickoff is slated for 2 p.m. at Eastgate Field.