Wednesday, November 05, 2008Tournament Time:
Valparaiso begins Horizon League Championship play Thursday evening in Chicago, Ill. as the Crusaders take on the Ramblers of Loyola at Loyola Soccer Park for the second time this season. The Crusaders are 0-1 in Horizon League Championship action after falling last year in the first round at Wright State, 2-1.
The Matchup: Loyola holds an 11-2-2 advantage in the all-time series against the Crusaders, including a 2-0 victory earlier this season in Chicago on Oct. 5. The two squads played a scoreless first 45 minutes, but the Ramblers got on the board with a goal by Alex Jones in the 57th minute and tacked on an insurance tally in the 73rd minute to close out the scoring. Kyle Zobeck made four saves in net for the Crusaders, while Brian Byrne stopped two shots to earn the shutout for Loyola, the first time Valpo had been shut out in the 2008 season.
Recapping Last Week: The Crusaders split a pair of Horizon League contests last week to close out the regular season slate, falling to #13/13 UIC, 2-1 before winning on Senior Day against Detroit, 3-0. Paul Leitelt gave Valpo an early 1-0 lead versus the nationally-ranked Flames in the 14th minute, but UIC tallied the equalizer less than six minutes laster and scored the match-winner midway through the second half. Against the Titans, it was again Leitelt with the opening goal, this time in the 55th minute, and an own goal followed by Israel Bisoni’s first Division I marker closed out the scoring. Kyle Zobeck stopped eight shots for his fifth shutout of the year against Detroit, tied for second-most in a single campaign in program history.
Following the Crusaders: WVUR (95.1 FM, Valparaiso) will not be broadcasting Thursday night’s match. Valpo’s campus radio station aired nine Crusader men’s soccer matches during the regular season, while live stats for all Valpo home matches and select road matches were available through the official Valparaiso athletics website.
Getting Results Out of League: With Valpo’s tie against Michigan State last Sunday, the Crusaders closed out their non-league regular season slate at 5-3-2. This year is the first time since Valpo joined the AMCU in 1988 that it has finished with a non-conference record better than .500.
Protecting the Home Pitch: With their win on Senior Day against Detroit at Brown Field, the Crusaders finished their 2008 home slate at 4-3-1 between Brown and Eastgate Fields. This year marks the third straight season that Valpo has closed out the year at or above .500 on its home pitch, while the last two seasons have also drawn the two biggest average home attendances in men’s soccer history.
Close Games: Through 18 matches in 2008 to date, Valpo has seen the final margin be two goals or fewer on 16 occasions, with the only outliers being 3-0 victories over Western Michigan and Detroit. In league play, the games got even tighter for the Crusaders, as just one of their six league losses came by more than one goal.
Senior Steps Up: Senior Paul Leitelt made the most of his final weekend of home play in the Crusader uniform. Leitelt notched the match-opening goal against nationally-ranked UIC on Friday before scoring the eventual game-winner versus Detroit on Sunday. His two goals on the weekend increased his season total to four and give him 13 career tallies, tied for the most of any active player. The match-winner against the Titans was the fourth-such goal of his career.
Zobeck In Net: Freshman goalkeeper Kyle Zobeck has kept the Crusaders in many of their games during the 2008 season and is putting together one of the best statistical seasons in school history. The freshman has had to play every minute in net for Valpo and holds a 1.33 goals against average, good for fifth among league netminders and on pace to set Valpo’s single-season record. Zobeck also ranks fifth in the league with a .788 save percentage and has earned five shutouts, tied for second-most in a single year in Crusader men’s soccer history.
Picked Sixth: Valpo was picked to finish sixth in the Horizon League this year by the league’s head coaches. UIC was a unanimous choice to win the league title, followed by Green Bay, Loyola, Butler and Milwaukee. The Crusaders were trailed by Wright State, Detroit and Cleveland State in the polling.
Tournament Teams Highlight Schedule: Four of Valpo’s 18 opponents on the 2008 slate reached the NCAA Tournament last season. The Crusaders downed the first two such opponents they have faced, defeating DePaul (1-0) on Aug. 31 and #25/RV Bradley (1-0), which advanced to the 2007 Elite Eight, on Sept. 12. Valpo then earned a hard-fought 0-0 (2ot) tie on the road at #24/RV Michigan State on Oct. 26. #13/13 UIC, the final such opponent of the regular season, defeated the Crusaders 2-1 on Oct. 31.