Goals in the first and 90th minute book-ended the match for Valparaiso, which got the eventual match-winner from Steve Shively (Indianapolis, Ind./North Central) less than two minutes into the second half as the Crusaders defeated IPFW, 3-1, Sunday afternoon at Eastgate Field.
“This was a good win for us,” said Crusader head coach Mike Avery. “This was certainly something we needed to get back on track and to get a result at home. It wasn’t the prettiest game, especially with the wind affecting play, and we might have been a bit rusty after not playing for over a week, but it was a good result and we will try to build on it.”
The clock had barely started when the Crusaders made their first dent of the day on the scoreboard. Zack Stivers (Brownsburg, Ind./Brownsburg) gained possession deep in the IPFW zone after a turnover by a Mastodon defender. Stivers dribbled in one-on-one with IPFW goalkeeper Michael Knitter and used a nifty move to get Knitter off-balance and face an empty net. The sophomore calmly drilled the ball into the middle of the net from ten yards out to put Valpo ahead 1-0 just 47 seconds into the match.
With the wind gusting up to 20 MPH out of the south during the match, IPFW was playing with the wind at its back in the first half and took advantage, taking 10 first-half shots to only four for Valpo. It looked like the Mastodons would knot up the match in the 41st minute when the Crusaders were whistled for a foul in the penalty area, but Kyle Zobeck (Coralville, Iowa/Iowa City West) stepped up big-time, sprawling to his right to knock away Liridon Qafleshi’s spot kick and recovering in time to corral the rebound attempt as well.
But Qafleshi would make the most of another chance just a couple minutes later. The Mastodon midfielder took possession about 35 yards out in the 44th minute after an IPFW shot got blocked by the Crusader defense, and let fly a hard line drive that ricocheted off the crossbar and straight down into the goal to knot the match up at one goal apiece heading into the half.
Valpo would not take long to regain the lead back, however. In the 47th minute, Vasilios Kyriakopoulos (Darien, Ill./Shattuck-St. Mary’s [Minn.]) took a corner kick from the left corner, aiming for the far post. Knitter got off his line a couple yards and attempted to punch the ball out of the area, but ended up hitting Shively, who was stationed near the far post, in the back. The ball ricocheted off Shively’s back into the goal for his seventh career match-winning tally.
IPFW would have its best chance at making it a 2-2 ballgame in the 55th minute. A foul by Valpo gave the Mastodons a free kick from 25 yards out on the right side, and the original kick was on the ground aiming at the far post. The ball was deflected however, and went straight to Casey Bowman, who quickly fired a shot toward the right-hand post. Zobeck quickly changed direction and sprawled out to make the stop on Bowman’s point-blank opportunity to preserve the one-goal lead.
Valpo got its final tally with just 12 seconds remaining in the match. Jake Freisinger (Saint John, Ind./Lake Central) took possession in the defensive end with Knitter pushed up to the midfield line. Freisinger eluded both Knitter and a Mastodon defender and dribbled in all the way to ten yards out on the right side, where he let his shot go on net. Another IPFW defender got back, but his desperate sliding attempt to keep the ball from the back of the net failed, as Freisinger scored his first goal in a Crusader kit.
IPFW (2-10-2) held a slight advantage in total shots attempted on the day, 16-14, and put eight on frame to Valpo’s seven. Zobeck made seven saves on the afternoon, while Knitter stopped four shots. The Mastodons also ended the game with a 7-4 advantage in corner kick opportunities.
“I thought our defensive shape was pretty good today,” said Avery. “Most of IPFW’s shots came from distance, which means our defense is doing its job. I also thought Zobeck did a stellar job in goal, stopping both the penalty kick and the point-blank chance early in the second half. Our problem all season hasn’t been scoring goals, it has been keeping our opponents from doing so, and we did a much better job of that today. I thought it helped that we scored early in both halves, as that forced IPFW to chase play for most of the game.”
Valparaiso (5-7-2) returns to Horizon League action on Thursday, as the Crusaders hit the road to take on Green Bay. Kickoff is slated for 7 p.m., and live statistics will be available at www.valpoathletics.com.