#6 Milwaukee at #3 Valparaiso - Tuesday, Nov. 10 - noon
Horizon League Championship quarterfinal
The Action: The Valparaiso men’s soccer team will host a postseason game for the first time since 1998 when the third-seeded Crusaders welcome sixth-seeded Milwaukee to Brown Field on Tuesday in Horizon League Championship quarterfinal action.
The Matchup: Valpo (9-6-2, 4-2-2) is 1-1-2 all-time against Milwaukee (3-12-2, 2-4-2) and is undefeated against the Panthers since joining the Horizon League. Most recently, the Crusaders defeated the Panthers 1-0 on Oct. 24 in Milwaukee, taking advantage of an own goal off a cross by Clayton Lyons in the 76th minute for the match-winner. Goalkeeper Ryan Schwarz made six saves in the game for the shutout.
Previously: Valpo clinched a home postseason contest with a big 2-1 victory over Cleveland State on Saturday afternoon at Brown Field. On the Crusaders’ Senior Day, it was junior Adrian Ortiz who stepped up with the first two goals of his collegiate career, bringing Valpo back from a one-goal second half deficit with the game-tying tally in the 66th minute and scoring the match-winner in the 71st minute. Four different Crusaders registered assists on the day, while Ryan Schwarz made three saves in goal to earn the victory.
Where Do They Go From Here?: If the Crusaders advance past the Panthers Tuesday, they would travel down to Indianapolis this weekend, where Butler will be hosting the semifinals and championship game of the HL Championship. Valpo, as the top remaining team out of the quarterfinals, would face second-seeded Green Bay in the first semifinal at 11 a.m. CST on Friday, with the championship game to be played at noon CST Sunday.
Crusaders in the HL Championship: Valpo is looking for its first win in Horizon League Championship action this season in its third year as a league member. The Crusaders fell in first-round matchups at Wright State in 2007 (2-1) and at Loyola in 2008 (4-1). In fact, only the 1996 Valpo side has ever won a postseason contest, as that squad defeated Howard (2-1) and Central Connecticut State (4-2) to capture the Mid-Continent Conference tournament title.
Following the Crusaders: The sports staff at Valparaiso’s campus radio station, WVUR 95.1 FM, will be carrying Tuesday’s game against Milwaukee live over its airwaves and online at www.valpoathletics.com. Live statistics for Tuesday’s matchup will also be available through the official Crusader website.
Turning a Program Around: This year’s Crusader squad has already put together maybe the finest overall season in program history. With Saturday’s win, Valpo matched the program record for wins in a single season with nine and also secured just the second season above .500 in its history, matching the 1987 team in both respects. This year’s team is right up there with the 1987 squad as well for the stingiest defense in school history, as the ‘87 team gave up 16 goals in 16 games while this year’s Crusaders have surrendered just 18 goals in 17 contests.
Unbeaten in Five: Valpo is 4-0-1 over its last five games, matching the longest unbeaten streak in program history. The Crusaders have not lost since Oct. 11, with their only draw during that time frame coming at UIC Oct. 31. The 1997 Valparaiso squad also enjoyed a five-game unbeaten streak.
Exceeding Expectations: The head coaches selected Valparaiso to finish sixth in the Horizon League this year in the annual preseason poll. The Crusaders finished the year three spots better than the prognosticators projected though, finishing third in the league.
No Margin for Error: All eight of Valparaiso’s Horizon League regular season games this year were either ties or one-goal games, continuing a trend the Crusaders have seen since joining the league prior to the 2007 campaign. Valpo has played 24 league matches over the past three years, 21 of which have ended as either ties or one-goal decisions. Overall this season, 13 of the Crusaders’ 17 contests have been either one-goal games or ties.
Depth on the Bench: One of the keys to the Crusaders’ success this year has been the program depth that Avery has been able to use on the pitch. 23 different players have seen time on the field for Valpo this season, 19 of whom have appeared in at least ten games. In addition, 21 of those players have started at least once this year.
Schwarz Stops the Shots: While redshirt junior goalkeeper Ryan Schwarz had his shutout streak snapped at 351:50 against Cleveland State, he still picked up the victory giving up just the lone goal, the 11th time this year he has given up one goal or less. Schwarz owns six shutouts on the year, matching Valpo’s single-season record, and has 12 career clean sheets, tied for second-most in Crusader history behind only current assistant coach Jeff Oleck’s 14 shutouts. On the year, Schwarz has posted a GAA of 1.02, on pace to easily break Valpo’s single-season mark, and has a career-best save percentage of .786.
Shively Moving Up the Charts: Senior forward Steve Shively has continued his march up Valpo’s all-time goals and points charts this year. Most recently, Shively found the back of the net twice against IPFW, giving him five goals on the season and 18 for his career, tied for sixth-most in Crusader history. The pair of markers also gave him 14 points on the season and 41 for his career, tied for eighth-most all-time at Valpo.
Ortiz Comes Up Big: Through his first two seasons, Adrian Ortiz served as a playmaker for the Crusaders, registering nine assists to move onto Valpo’s all-time top-ten in the category. This year, he has been asked to take on a different role, moving between the back and the midfield while not stepping off the pitch for a second this year as he has been key to the Crusaders’ defensive effort. But on Saturday, when Valpo needed plays made offensively, Ortiz stepped up with his first two career goals to help the Crusaders overcome a one-goal deficit and earn the victory.