THIS WEEK: Valpo at Northwestern (Wednesday, 4:00 p.m.) & Valpo at IPFW (Sunday, 12:00 p.m.)
THIS WEEK'S MATCHES: After playing five of their last six at home, the Crusaders, ranked ninth in the Midwest Region, are on the road this week against Northwestern and IPFW. The Brown and Gold are 1-2 on the road this season, but 6-4 overall, matching last season's win total, three shy of a program record.
SCOUTING NORTHWESTERN: The Wildcats spent much of the early season ranked in the top 25 nationally after getting off to a blistering 7-1-0 start. But the last three matches have seen Northwestern struggle to only one win, dropping back-to-back Big 10 matches. In Evanston, the Wildcats are 3-1, losing 2-1 to Penn State in their last home match one week after opening the conference season with a win over Ohio State. David Roth is Northwestern's leading scorer, entering Wednesday's action with five goals and three assists on the season, the only Wildcat with more than 10 points this year. All-time, the Crusaders and Wildcats have matched up 13 times dating back to 1985, with Northwestern holding a 9-4 advantage. The two last faced each other in 2002 when Valpo pulled the upset in Evanston, winning 2-0.
SCOUTING IPFW: It hasn't been a pleasant 2006 for Head Coach Terry Stefankiewicz and the Mastodons. IPFW lost 10 straight matches to start the year before winning Sunday at home against Saint Joseph's. The Mastodons did not get on the board until the fifth match of the year, losing four straight to open the season by a combined score of 20-0. IPFW has lost matches this year by ugly scores of 6-0, 7-0, 9-2 and 5-0, but have played a very tough schedule that includes three Mid-American Conference matches, and only three contests at home. Sunday against Saint Joe's, Justin Sommer tallied the match-winner in the 70th minute, and he is tied for the team lead with three points this year. Valpo and IPFW have met 11 times, with the Crusaders taking eight of those matchups, including a 4-0 win at Eastgate Field last year.
LAST WEEK: The Crusaders rebounded nicely from a loss at Centenary, knocking off Mid-Con preseason favorite Oakland 1-0 at Eastgate Field. The win pushed Valpo into a first place tie in the conference with six points (2-1-0) and marked the second straight regular season matchup between the two Valpo won by a 1-0 score. The win also served as a bit of revenge for Valpo, who was knocked out of the 2005 Mid-Continent Conference Tournament in the semifinals by the regular season champion Grizzlies.
SHUTOUT SCHWARZ RETURNS: For the second time in three career Mid-Con starts freshman keeper Ryan Schwarz earned a shutout, stopping three shots in Saturday's 1-0 win over Oakland and for his effort, Schwarz was named the Mid-Continent Conference's Defensive Player of the Week. Overall this season Schwarz has four shutouts, matching Jeff Oleck's rookie record set in 2002. The freshman is also only one shy of Oleck's one-year-old Division I single-season shutout record and two away from the program shutout mark of six set by Kevin Hughes in 1987. Schwarz doesn't just get shutouts either, as the Rockford native ranks 16th in the country in saves/match (5.20) and has played every second of his rookie year between the posts for the Crusaders.
ALL HE DOES: Is score match winners, apparently. Freshman forward Steve Shively has shown an affinity for the big goal early in his Crusader career, making each of his three goals this season a match winner. Shively's third came in Valpo's last match, Saturday against Oakland when the rookie pounded home a rebound to break a scoreless tie in the second half. Shively also scored winners in the first two matches of the season, tallying the first Crusader goal of the year against DePaul in an eventual 2-0 win and ending Valpo's second match with a double-overtime rebound marker against Evansville. And the freshman is just picking up where he left off as a high schooler when he won the Indiana State Title match in for Indianapolis' North Central when he broke a tie with a goal in the final minute.
FEAST OR FAMINE: While the Brown and Gold do have four shutouts this season, they've still also allowed 20 goals in the remaining six matches. In Valpo's four losses, they've allowed 14 goals and the Crusaders gave up four goals in a 5-4 (2ot) win August 27 against Evansville. In fact, no Valpo opponent has scored exactly one goal in any match, with only two teams, UC-Davis and Cleveland State, who got on the scoreboard scoring just twice.
KEEP SCORING: The Crusaders have yet to be shutout this season and rank 24th nationally with a 2.1 goals/match average. Valpo's 21 goals this year are only six fewer than the team scored all of last season, a total that ranked ninth for a single-season in school history.