THIS WEEK: Valpo at Centenary (Saturday, 3:00 p.m.)
SCOUTING CENTENARY: It's been a rough third season for Gents Head Coach Eric Mayo, who has watched his Centenary squad get off to a rocky 1-7-0 start. The Gents won their second match of the year, 2-0 over Belhaven College, but have dropped six matches in a row since that point and have been out-scored by a 19-1 margin over their last four defeats. Oakland, the defending Mid-Con champs, downed Centenary at home 4-1 last weekend in the Gents' only match of the conference season thus far. The Crusaders own the season series advantage all-time, 2-1-1 over Centenary, and are unbeaten in the last three meetings. Last season, Valpo earned a 1-0 home win over the Gents on a Clifton Brown goal in the second half. The two teams finished tied in their only previous meeting in Shreveport, a 2-2 draw October 2, 2004.
VALPO IN THE MID-CON: The Crusaders are trying to make back-to-back appearances in the Mid-Con Tournament this season for the first time since 1996-98, and three points against the Gents would go a long way towards making that a reality. Valpo's 10 points last season earned the squad the fourth seed in the league tournament, and only once since 1996 has a Crusader team that won at least two conference matches not qualified for the league tournament. The Brown and Gold have road matches against UMKC and Western Illinois and home contests again Oakland and IUPUI remaining on their Mid-Con schedule.
LAST WEEK: Valpo picked up a huge win last Friday afternoon at Eastgate Field knocking off Oral Roberts 2-0, defeating the Golden Eagles for the first time since 1998 and starting the conference season with a win. Long a Valpo nemesis, Oral Roberts was picked third in the Mid-Con Preseason Poll after making a semifinal appearance at the conference tournament last season. The Crusader win came courtesy of their third shutout of the season and a pair of goals in the final eight minutes of the match. Valpo's 5-2 start was also the best in school history. Sunday, the Crusaders dominated against Cleveland State, out-shooting the Vikings 18-3 in the second half, but could not score a late equalizing goal, losing 2-1.
?SHUTOUT' SCHWARZ: In his 16 years as the Crusader Head Coach, Mis' Mrak has coached two phenomenal goalies, each of whom have posted some unbelievable numbers. Aaron Rhame, who was inducted into the Valpo Athletics Hall of Fame last year, still ranks in the NCAA's top five with 577 career saves in addition to graduating as the Crusaders' career and single-season record holder in saves and goals against average. Rhame finally saw some of his all-time records fall last year to Jeff Oleck who concluded his stellar career with a Division I school record five-shutout 2005 season. Now, in freshman keeper Ryan Schwarz, Mrak may have found the next big thing between the pipes. Schwarz already has three shutouts this season (one shy of Oleck's rookie record) and leads the Mid-Continent Conference with 48 saves and a 6.00 saves/game average. That average also ranks the freshman fifth among all Division I keepers.
WHAT DAY IS IT?: Because for some reason, the day of the week has been a telling factor in whether or not the Crusaders will win. Valpo is 4-0 on Fridays and Saturdays, but only 1-3 on Sunday or Monday. In the season's first four weekends, the Brown and Gold have won the first match every time, but gone on to lose the weekend's second match three of four times, including last week.
A LONG TIME COMING: Senior Jeremy Stacy, who has played in 48 straight matches since stepping foot on the Valpo campus four years ago, was named the Mid-Continent Conference's Offensive Player of the Week for his one-goal, one-assist effort last weekend. Stacy scored Valpo's insurance goal Friday against Oral Roberts and added his team-leading fourth assist of the season in Sunday's loss.
RACE TO ASSIST: From the way it looks, Brian Thiel's 14-year-old career assist record is in serious trouble. The question is, which Crusader will break it first? Both Stacy and D.J. Catrow have 13 assists, three shy of Thiel's mark, tied for the third on the all-time list. Thiel is currently Valpo's leader in career goals, points and assists.
QUICKLY: Stacy's Mid-Con Player of the Week Award made him the third Crusader to win the award this year in only four weeks of play.