Eight Crusaders in all were honored on Monday afternoon as the Horizon League released its 2011 men’s soccer postseason award winners. Fifth-year senior Stefan Antonijevic (Buffalo Grove, Ill./Stevenson [College of Lake County/Marquette]) was named the league’s Defensive Player of the Year, while redshirt junior Kyle Zobeck (Coralville, Iowa/Iowa City West) was honored as Goalkeeper of the Year and joined Antonijevic as a First Team All-League selection. Meanwhile, Mike Avery received Coach of the Year accolades.
Three Crusaders were selected to the Second Team All-League, as fifth-year senior Wei Ming Wong (Hong Kong/Hong Kong International [SMU]), junior Jonathon Smith (McKinney, Texas/McKinney) and senior Guy Shabtay (Ramat-Gan, Israel/Blich [Prairie State C.C.]) represented Valpo on that squad. In addition, freshmen Eric Nieto (Louisville, Ky./Louisville Collegiate) and Zev Taublieb (Malibu, Calif./Agoura) earned spots on the All-Newcomer Team.
Zobeck earned Goalkeeper of the Year honors, Valpo’s third HL Goalkeeper of the Year honoree, after a tremendous record-setting campaign. The redshirt junior has already set a new Valpo single-season record with 10 shutouts, among the top-10 single-season efforts in Horizon League history, and is tied for the Crusaders’ career record with 17 clean sheets. In addition, he is poised to easily break Valpo’s single-season goals against average mark, carrying a 0.69 GAA into the Horizon League Championship. Zobeck led the league at the close of the regular season in both GAA and shutouts, doubling the second-best effort by a league keeper in the latter category.
Key to Valpo’s strong defensive play all season long was the work at center back by Antonijevic and Wong. Antonijevic, the first Crusader to receive Defensive Player of the Year postseason accolades from the Horizon League, moved into the back this year after spending his first two years at Valpo in the midfield and was a natural fit, playing all but 31 minutes this season. Meanwhile, Wong, who served as the Crusader captain this year, came off the pitch in just two of Valpo’s 17 games.
The duo helped limit Crusader opponents to just 14 goals on the year, including just four markers in Horizon League action. Offensively, Antonijevic picked up two goals and an assist in 2011, including a match-winner in the season opener, while Wong secured the game-winning goal earlier this year against IPFW and also added an assist.
Smith was a stellar presence in the midfield all season long for the Crusaders, playing every minute of the Horizon League slate and helping Valpo control the center of the pitch. The junior posted a pair of assists on the year, including a helper on the match-winner at Wright State, and then notched the game-winning tally in extra time against UIC on Oct. 29 to clinch at least a share of the league’s regular season crown for the Crusaders. Shabtay appeared in all but one game for Valpo, notching two goals and three assists from his striker position, including the Crusaders’ lone goal in the 1-1 draw with Butler.
The Crusaders’ pair of freshmen midfielders earned spots on the All-Newcomer Team for their work in the middle of the field. Nieto played in all 19 fixtures as a rookie, starting seven times and averaging over 65 minutes per game. The Louisville, Ky. native tallied the match-winning goal in a victory earlier this year against IUPUI. Meanwhile, Taublieb appeared in nine games, making five starts, all of which were Crusader shutouts during the stretch in which Valpo set a new program record with five straight clean sheets.
Avery receives Coach of the Year honors for the first time after taking a Valpo side that was chosen to finish fourth in the preseason poll and leading it to the school’s first Horizon League title in any sport. The Crusaders enter the Horizon League Championship with a 9-6-4 overall record and a 5-1-2 mark in league play under Avery’s guidance, already matching the second-winningest season in program history.