Tyler Sellers (Hutchinson, Kan./Buhler) registered his first career goal in the 22nd minute Sunday afternoon at Eastgate Field, but Western Illinois tied up the match just 16 seconds before halftime and went on to earn a 2-1 win over Valparaiso.
“It was a frustrating result today for us,” said Crusader head coach Mike Avery. “We had a very good Western Illinois team on the ropes and let them off the hook in a five-minute stretch spanning the two halves. We need to learn to do a better job managing that time frame at the end of the first half and beginning of the second half, as that’s when a lot of key goals are scored.”
The Leathernecks had a couple of early chances turned away by Crusader netminder Kyle Zobeck (Coralville, Iowa/Iowa City West), and when Valpo got its first solid opportunity of the match in the 22nd minute, it converted to perfection. Jon Obial’s (Cincinnati, Ohio/Turpin) initial shot from the left flank was turned away by Western Illinois goalkeeper Stephen Paterson, but the clearing attempt went directly to Brett Bermes (Portage, Ind./Portage) on the right sideline. Bermes placed a nice ball to Sellers ten yards out on the right side of the box, and with Paterson still out of position, Sellers found the back of the net to give the Crusaders the one-goal edge. For Bermes, the assist marked his first career point.
“It was a well-taken goal,” said Avery. “Tyler will be a very, very good player for us up front, possibly even this year as a freshman, and it was good to see him finish a quality chance like that.”
The game looked like it would go into the half at one-nil, as Valpo held the advantage for most of the remainder of the half, picking up five shots to Western Illinois’ three over the final 25 minutes of the stanza. But the Leathernecks picked up the equalizer with just 16 seconds remaining in the first half, as Arthur Paszkowski put a ball into the eight-yard box that bounced around and onto the feet of Martin Browne, Jr., who knotted up the match heading into the break.
The contest was still 1-1 early in the second half when the Leathernecks tallied the eventual match-winner in the 50th minute. WIU got a two-on-two opportunity deep in Crusader territory, and Browne feathered a diagonal pass along the ground between defenders to Darryl Odom, who chipped the ball past Zobeck from about ten yards out to give the Leathernecks the advantage.
The Crusaders would not go down without a fight, getting a number of good scoring opportunities in the second 45 minutes. Valpo took six corners in the second half alone after earning just eight corners total in its first 450 minutes of play on the 2008 campaign, and Paterson was forced to make three key saves in the second stanza. The Crusaders had one last shot in the final minute on a free kick from 25 yards out, but the Valpo shot sailed high as Western Illinois held on for the win.
“We had the momentum for most of the match today, I feel, and created a lot of other good chances in addition to our goal,” said Avery. “We just came out on the wrong end of the decision because of a subpar five-minute timespan. You have to give Western Illinois a lot of credit, though, as they are a very good team and earned a tough road win today. We’ll use today as a learning experience in how to manage the game and re-focus on a very tough tournament next weekend down at Evansville.”
Valpo out-shot Western Illinois (4-0-0) for the match by a 15-10 margin, but the Leathernecks placed six shots on frame to the Crusaders’ five. Paterson and Zobeck each made four stops in goal. Valpo came out with the decided edge in corner kicks, attempting eight to Western Illinois’ two.
Valparaiso (2-2-0) returns to action Friday at the ProRehab Aces Soccer Classic in Evansville, Ind. Tournament play begins against current NSCAA #17 Bradley at 5 p.m. on Friday, and all 90 minutes can be heard live at www.valpoathletics.com.