THIS WEEK: Oral Roberts at Valpo (Friday, 4:30 p.m.) & Cleveland State at Valpo (Sunday, 1:00 p.m.)
ON THE AIR: Again in 2006, The Source 95, 95.1 FM, is broadcasting all Crusader soccer from Eastgate Field live over the airwaves and online at www.valpo.edu/athletics. Adam Amin and Source 95 Sports Director Matt Engelbrecht will call Friday's match, with Ron Castor joining Nick Kovatch Sunday afternoon.
SCOUTING ORAL ROBERTS: A perennial contender for the Mid-Con title, the Golden Eagles were picked to finish third in the conference this season in preseason polls. Oral Roberts finished second in the league last season, but two-time Mid-Con Offensive Player of the Year Dave Lueng is out of eligibility, leaving ORU with a big hole to fill offensively. And early this season, the going's been tough offensively where the Golden Eagles have scored only seven times in six matches and been shutout four times. In the series, ORU holds a 6-2-3 advantage all-time including a 5-3 win in Tulsa last season. The Crusaders have not beaten the Golden Eagles since 1998, but earned a 0-0 draw the last time the two met at Eastgate in 2004.
SCOUTING CLEVELAND STATE: The Vikings are in the first year of a rebuilding project, with first year head coach Ali Kazemaini tasked to turn things around from an 0-17-1 season in 2005. Kazemaini was a standout player for Cleveland State during his playing days, and returns six starters and four of the top five scorers from last year's team. And in the first six matches of the year, Cleveland State has been better, winning twice and earning a draw, although they have lost three in a row. This is the ninth all-time meeting between the two teams, with Valpo winning for the first time last season, 5-2 in Cleveland.
LAST WEEK: The Crusaders had a history-making win Friday night at Eastgate, downing Western Michigan 2-0, marking the first time in the program's history a Valpo team started a year 4-1. J.J. Eschenburg tallied the match-winner in the 40th minute and Jon Brighton added an insurance goal in the second half. The whitewashing was also the second career shutout for freshman keeper Ryan Schwarz, who also held DePaul scoreless in the opening match of the season. Sunday, the Brown and Gold came back to earth a bit, falling 5-1 to Buffalo at a soggy Eastgate Field. The Bulls took a 4-0 lead into the 74th minute when Mark Wolka scored to get Valpo on the board with assists from Andrew Stewart and Clifton Brown.
ONE LAST RUN: Friday's match against Oral Roberts marks the beginning of Valpo's final season in the Mid-Continent Conference, and the final chance for the Crusaders to bring a conference title back to Valparaiso. The Brown and Gold put together a 3-2-1 season in 2005, their most conference wins since the 1998 team won the second of back-to-back regular season titles. Valpo's fourth-place finish last season was also their highest regular season finish since 2002, which was also the last time, before 2005, that the team went to the Mid-Con Tournament. In 2007, the Crusaders will move into the Horizon League to rejoin many familiar foes from the early years of the Mid-Con including Cleveland State, Valpo's opponent Sunday. The Vikings are the only Horizon League team on the Crusader schedule this season.
GOAL GLUTTONY: The 2006 Crusaders have lit up the scoreboard everywhere they've played this season, scoring 15 times in the season's first six matches. The team offensive surge has been accompanied by a couple of four-goal weekends from Paul Leitelt and D.J. Catrow. The two each won Mid-Con Offensive Player of the Week honors for their outbursts, and Leitelt was named the NSCAA and Soccer Times National Player of the Week for his opening weekend effort that included the first Valpo hat trick in 11 years.
SENIOR SURGE: Two senior forwards, J.J. Eschenburg and Mark Wolka are also taking advantage of Valpo's new-found offense and having career years. Eschenburg has two fewer points this year (7) than he did in his first three seasons and Wolka's two goals are the first two of his four-year career after only one assist in three seasons.
HANDY HELPER: Of course, with all the Crusader goals there have also been plenty of assists, and the man doing most of the passing is senior midfielder Jeremy Stacy. Tied with Eschenburg for the team lead in the category, Stacy now has 12 career assists, the third highest total in school history. Stacy is within four of all-time assist leader Brian Thiel, who also holds Valpo's career goals and points records.
QUICKLY: For the second straight week, the Crusaders are a ranked team, checking in as the #7 team in the NSCAA's Midwest Region rankings.