Evansville scored in the 14th minute Sunday and never relinquished the lead, defeating Valparaiso 3-1 in the finale of the ProRehab Aces Soccer Classic in Evansville, Ind. The Crusaders finished the tournament in second place and were represented on the All-Tournament Team by Paul Leitelt (Munster, Ind./Munster), Tyler Sellers (Hutchinson, Kan./Buhler) and Andrew Stewart (Buffalo Grove, Ill./Stevenson).
“We weren't very sharp today, and some of that had to do with the crazy weather and the swirling wind, but most of that had to do with Evansville,” said Crusader head coach Mike Avery. “I give a lot of credit to UE for their performance today. Our team battled and I am proud of our effort. Evansville put us under a lot of pressure, winning a number of set pieces that we had to deal with, and we ultimately did not handle their long throw ins very well.”
The Purple Aces, which entered the weekend receiving votes in both the NSCAA and Soccer Times top-25 polls, barraged Valpo in the early going, earning three corner kicks and attempting four shots in the opening 14 minutes. Kyle Zobeck (Coralville, Iowa/Iowa City West) was able to stop Evansville’s first shot on goal, but UE’s Mike Luttrell was able to find the right side of the net from eight yards out in the 14th minute to give the Purple Aces the lead.
It would not take long for Evansville to extend its lead, as Robby Lynch got his head on a throw-in in the 21st minute and put it in the back of the net to make Evansville’s advantage 2-0. But Zobeck was able to keep the Purple Aces from scoring the rest of the half, giving the Crusaders an opportunity to cut in the lead prior to halftime.
Valpo did exactly that late in the first stanza, taking advantage of its first shot on goal of the contest to cut the lead in half. J.J. Del Castillo (Mexico City, Mexico/Seaholm [Gardner-Webb]) fed Sellers with a pass in the 40th minute, and the freshman turned and fired a shot from ten yards out to the far post past Evansville netminder Alec Dufty to make it a 2-1 game.
Coming out for the final 45 minutes, both teams got an early shot attempt off, but neither was on the mark. It was Evansville which got the first shot on goal of the second half, and Lynch converted on his second header of the game in the 54th minute to put the Purple Aces ahead 3-1. Valpo could not push any closer before game’s end, putting just one more shot on goal in the final 36 minutes.
Evansville (5-0-0) out-shot the Crusaders 24-7 on the day, forcing Zobeck to make seven saves in net, while his counterpart Dufty had to stop just one shot for the victory. The Purple Aces also attempted six corner kicks to Valpo’s two.
“In all, this was a good weekend for us,” said Avery. “Games like these two certainly help to prepare us as we ready ourselves for league play.”
Valparaiso (3-3-0) returns to the pitch on Friday, September 19 as the Crusaders head to Springfield, Mo. to take on Missouri State at 7 p.m. CDT.