Valparaiso matched its best start in program history with its third straight win to open the season, while fifth-year senior goalkeeper Ryan Schwarz (Rockford, Ill./Boylan Catholic) set a new team record with his 15th career shutout as the Crusaders defeated Santa Clara, 1-0, to open the Marquette Invitational in Milwaukee, Wis. on Friday afternoon.
The 1-0 victory, which came courtesy of a tally by Stefan Antonijevic (Buffalo Grove, Ill./Stevenson [College of Lake County/Marquette]) in the 18th minute, was Valpo's third one-goal victory in as many games this season. The victory moves the Crusaders to 3-0-0 for just the third time in program history, matching the 1987 and 2006 Valpo sides for the best start all-time.
“I'm excited about today's result, but I also know that there's a lot more in our team,” said Crusader head coach Mike Avery. “We have to continue to grow as a team, and hopefully we'll keep doing it through good results. The most important thing is that we're primed for Horizon League play, because all our goals revolve around how we compete within our league, whether its regular season, tournament or advancing to the NCAA Tournament.”
Schwarz, who matched current Crusader assistant Jeff Oleck's career shutout record in the season opener at UNLV, needed just one more match to set the record. The senior made three saves to earn the clean sheet, his sixth in his last seven starts dating back to last season. Schwarz also now owns four straight shutouts over non-Horizon League foes.
Unlike their first two matches of the year, the Crusaders didn't wait until the final minutes to jump onto the scoreboard Friday. Valpo was awarded a free kick just outside the 18-yard box and senior midfielder Adrian Ortiz (Berwyn, Ill./Morton West) sent it inside the six-yard box, where Antonijevic used his 6'6” frame to get up and head it in to give the Crusaders the 1-0 advantage.
“I thought that we were terrific in the first half,” said Avery. “We opened the game very, very well and put Santa Clara under a lot of pressure. Adrian played a great ball into the box that Stefan was there to finish for a well-earned goal. Going into the half with the 1-0 lead was justified, and I felt we maybe were a bit unlucky not to be up more.”
While that would be the game's only marker, both sides had opportunities, as Valpo tallied 12 shot attempts and Santa Clara (1-2-0) registered nine shots. Just three of Santa Clara's shots made it on frame, where Schwarz stopped all three attempts. Meanwhile, the Crusaders put five shots on goal, forcing Bronco netminder Kevin Klasila to make four saves.
“The game was really a tale of two halves, because Santa Clara showed why they're such a good team in the second half,” said Avery. “They put us under a tremendous amount of pressure, and I thought our backs and goalkeeper did a good job keeping them at bay to earn the win. While it's nice to have a good start, it's even more important to keep growing as a group. I am happy for the guys and hope we continue to play well as we take on a good side Sunday.”
Valparaiso (3-0-0) looks for the outright best start in team history on Sunday, when the Crusaders close play at Marquette against Florida Gulf Coast at 2:05 p.m. Live stats for the match against the Eagles will be available through www.valpoathletics.com.