Official Athletic Site of the Valparaiso University Crusaders
Valpo Set to Host UIC on Halloween
Zack Stivers currently leads the Crusaders with six goals. (Ray Acevedo)
Zack Stivers currently leads the Crusaders with six goals. (Ray Acevedo)

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Valparaiso (7-7-2, 1-5-0 Horizon)
Crusaders take on Flames in key Halloween showdown
Sunday, Oct. 31 - 6 p.m. - UIC (6-9-0, 2-4-0 Horizon)
 
This Week in Crusader Soccer: Valparaiso begins its year-ending three-match homestand on Halloween night at Brown Field, as the Crusaders host UIC at 6 p.m.  The Crusaders are trying to stay alive in the fight for a spot in the Horizon League Championship.

Wrapping Up Last Week:
Valpo posted its biggest offensive output of the season last Wednesday, defeating Western Michigan by a sound 4-0 margin.  The Crusaders then fell at Horizon League foe Green Bay on a foggy night, 1-0.

Following the Crusaders: WVUR, 95.1 FM will be broadcasting Sunday night’s match live over its airwaves, as well as online at www.valpoathletics.com, which will also have a link for live stats.  In addition, live video of the match through the Horizon League Network will be available on the official Crusader website.

Head Coach Mike Avery: Mike Avery is in his fourth season as the head coach of the Crusaders in 2010 after guiding the Crusaders to a school record 10 victories and a third-place Horizon League finish in 2009.  In his first three seasons, Avery has led Valpo to three of the best defensive seasons in school history, including allowing just 21 goals a year ago, second-fewest in program history.  Avery has already coached a pair of Goalkeeper of the Year selections and 10 All-League honorees in his three seasons.

Series Notes: UIC - Crusaders trail series 2-15-2 (0-2-1 under Avery); last meeting 0-0 (2ot) at UIC 10/31/09 (Schwarz 4 saves; Shively 5 shots [3 on goal]; Valpo clinched spot in HL Championship with draw)

Scouting the Opposition: UIC enters Sunday night’s contest at 6-9-0 overall on the season and 2-4-0 in Horizon League play.  The Flames do enter on a two-game winning streak, however, as they defeated Milwaukee last weekend 1-0 in double overtime and took down Eastern Illinois by an identical 1-0 score in midweek action.  Derek Huffman has scored eight of the Flames’ 16 goals this year and has added a pair of assists for 18 points, while Eric Frazier has chipped in four goals and four assists.  Steve Purdy has seen the majority of playing time in goal and owns a 1.19 GAA and a .781 save percentage.

Sunday’s Activities: Sunday’s match has been termed ‘Scare Off Breast Cancer’ night by the Crusader men’s soccer program as part of the department-wide breast cancer awareness efforts, with merchandise available and donations being accepted with all proceeds going to Susan G. Komen for the Cure.  Also, with it being Halloween night, there will be a special halftime costume contest.

A Spooky Coincidence: It seems more like Groundhog Day that Valpo and UIC are playing on Halloween night again.  This will mark the fourth straight season that the Crusaders and Flames have faced off on the pitch on October 31.  This year, as it was in 2007 and 2008, the game was scheduled for Halloween, while last year’s contest ended up being delayed a day until the 31st due to weather.

Offensive Explosion: With their 4-0 victory over Western Michigan last Wednesday, the Crusaders set season highs for both goals scored and margin of victory.  The last time Valpo tallied four goals and won a game by at least four goals came in Horizon League quarterfinal action last year at Brown Field, when the Crusaders downed Milwaukee by an identical 4-0 count.

Still a Chance at the Tournament: While it’s been a hard-luck league campaign for the Crusaders, with each of their five losses coming by one goal, Valpo still can hold out hope for a spot in the Horizon League Championship, which awards berths to the league’s top-six finishers.  The Crusaders would need to win their last two league matches (UIC, Detroit) and have UIC beat Loyola to force a three-way tie for sixth.  Valpo then would win a tiebreaker with UIC and Milwaukee if Detroit finishes above Cleveland State and Loyola in the final standings.

Unbeaten Streak Comes to An End: With its loss to Milwaukee Sept. 24, Valpo saw its six-match unbeaten streak to open the 2010 season snapped.  The six-match streak without a loss matched the previous longest stretch in program history, set by last year’s side from Oct. 17 through Nov. 10.

Best Start in Program History: By virtue of the Crusaders’ scoreless draw with Florida Gulf Coast on Sept. 12, the 2010 squad had posted the best start to a season in program history.  This year’s side matched the 1987 and 2006 teams with three straight wins to start the season and became the first Valpo squad to earn a result in each of the first four matches of the year.

The Home Stretch: Valpo closes the 2010 regular season campaign with three straight home fixtures, a welcome site for a side which has played 11 of 16 matches so far away from Brown Field.  Valpo owns a 3-1-1 home record to date this season and is looking for its fifth straight season with a positive home record.

No Margin for Error: 12 of Valpo’s 16 games to date this season have been one-goal games or draws, continuing a trend of “close” games throughout Avery’s tenure:
2007 - 13 of 18 matches, Valpo went 3-7-3
2008 - 12 of 19 matches, Valpo went 3-6-3
2009 - 13 of 19 matches, Valpo went 6-5-2
2010 - 12 of 16 matches, Valpo 4-6-2
Seven of those games have gone overtime, while two others were decided in the final five minutes of regulation.  In Horizon League play, the two-goal win over Wright State Sept. 26 marked just the fourth time in 30 games since joining the league that Valpo has played a game not decided by one goal or less.

Defense Still Strong: Valpo’s defensive numbers remain among the best in the nation.  The Crusaders, who have allowed more than one goal in a match just twice this year, have a team GAA of 0.83, good for 40th nationally, while their team save percentage of .827 is tied for 28th in the nation.

Schwarz a Mainstay in Goal: Fifth-year senior goalkeeper Ryan Schwarz continues to rank among the league’s top goalkeepers.  Schwarz, who has given up more than one goal just twice this season, currently holds a 0.94 GAA, fourth in the league, and boasts a .807 save percentage, good for third among league netminders.  Schwarz stopped five shots Saturday night in the tough-luck loss at Green Bay, giving him 287 career saves, tied with Dan Naden for third-most in Crusader men’s soccer history in the category.

Zobeck Solid in Net Too:
Redshirt sophomore goalkeeper Kyle Zobeck earned another start in goal in non-league action Oct. 17 at #16/17 Ohio State and acquitted himself well, making eight saves before surrendering an overtime tally.  Zobeck has now faced four nationally-ranked teams during his time at Valpo and has given up just three goals in those four contests.  This season, the sophomore leads the Horizon League with an .857 save percentage and is second in the league with a 0.57 GAA.

Stivers Leads the Way: Senior forward Zack Stivers has been the Crusaders’ top offensive threat the last two seasons, but broke new ground last Wednesday with his first career multi-goal game.  Stivers scored the eventual match-winner in the 27th minute against WMU and then added an insurance goal in the 73rd minute.  Stivers now has a team-best six goals on the season, matching his output from a year ago and good for fifth in the league.

Ortiz With the Finish:
Senior midfielder Adrian Ortiz has three assists on the season, giving him a career total of 12, tied for fifth-most all-time at Valpo.  The senior is just one shy of a tie for third and two shy of a tie for second.  But Ortiz was on the finishing end of Valpo’s second goal against WMU last Wednesday, finding the back of the net for the first time in 2010 and just the third time in his career.

The Israeli Connection:
Junior forward Guy Shabtay made each of his first two goals count as match-winners, but while his third goal of the year last Wednesday wasn’t the deciding tally, it was special in another way.  Shabtay took a pass from fellow Israeli and Prairie State C.C. transfer Lior Avisror to cap the scoring against the Broncos in the 74th minute.  Shabtay is now tied for second on the team with three goals this season, while Avisror’s assist was his first career point as a Crusader.

Antonijevic Finds the Goal: Redshirt junior midfielder Stefan Antonijevic, who earned MVP honors at the Marquette Invitational earlier this season, now has three goals on the season after finding the back of the net in the second half at Michigan.  Antonijevic, who owns five career goals, is tied for second on the team in goals and ranks among the league leaders with 32 shot attempts.
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