On a foggy night in Green Bay, Wis., Valparaiso had a great number of chances at goal, including eight corner kicks in the second half, but couldn’t push the ball across the goal line as Green Bay earned the 1-0 victory Saturday evening.
“I thought the guys battled well tonight,” said Crusader head coach Mike Avery. “It was a really hard night to play for both teams with as slick as the field was. It rained all day and then the fog came in and sat on top. It made for a very difficult night to have a pretty soccer game. It was more of a battle, and I thought our guys were up for it.”
Neither squad could push across a tally in the opening 45 minutes, with Green Bay holding a slight 6-4 advantage in shot attempts in the first half. Ryan Schwarz (Rockford, Ill./Boylan Catholic) made a pair of saves in the opening half to keep the Phoenix off the scoreboard, while Ryan Wehking stopped Valpo’s lone shot on goal in the first half as well.
It took until the 70th minute for a goal to be tallied, but it would be Green Bay’s All-American JC Banks who found the back of the net on one of his three shots on frame. Banks corralled the ball near the top-right corner of the 18 and sent a sliding shot through a pair of Crusader defenders and inside the far post to give the Phoenix a 1-0 advantage.
“Banks is an All-American for good reason, and I think you saw it on that shot,” said Avery. “Ultimately, it was their All-American having an All-American moment in a little individual moment of brilliance.”
Valpo still had a number of opportunities to pick up the equalizer, as four of its eight second-half corners came in the final 20 minutes. Perhaps the best chance came off back-to-back corners in the 84th minute, but junior Chadd Sult (South Bend, Ind./John Adams) saw his low shot through traffic smothered by Wehking. Senior Jake Freisinger (Saint John, Ind./Lake Central) had an effort go just left of the frame in the 85th minute, while senior Adrian Ortiz (Berwyn, Ill./Morton West) put a header on goal in the match’s waning seconds that was stopped by Wehking.
“We had a lot of chances that somehow didn't find the goal tonight,” said Avery. “That's really been the story of our league season for us. But we've said all along that you make your own luck and make your own breaks, and it just didn't go our way tonight.”
Wehking ended with four saves to earn the clean sheet, while Schwarz stopped five shots in the losing effort. The fifth-year senior now has 287 career stops in net, tying Dan Naden for third in Crusader men’s soccer history in the category. Green Bay (9-4-1, 4-2-0 Horizon) held an 18-11 edge in shot attempts, but the Crusaders had the 8-4 advantage on corners.
Valparaiso (7-7-2, 1-5-0 Horizon) closes out the regular season with a three-match homestand at Brown Field. The homestand begins Halloween night, Sunday, Oct. 31 against UIC at 6 p.m. All the action can be heard live on WVUR, 95.1 FM, Valparaiso and online at www.valpoathletics.com, which will also have a link for live stats. The match will also have video available through the Horizon League Network.