VALPO THIS WEEK: Wednesday at Michigan State, 2 p.m.; Saturday at UMKC, 1 p.m.
ON THE AIR: Wednesday's match at Michigan State will be carried live on WVUR, 95.1 FM and online at www.valpo.edu/athletics. Saturday's match will not be broadcast.
THIS WEEK'S MATCHUPS: The Crusaders will look to improve their all-time series records against two teams who have historically bested Valpo on a regular basis. Wednesday's match against the Spartans marks the 10th consecutive season that Valpo has played Michigan State, with the Crusaders owning just one victory in the previous nine matchups (at Michigan State, 2000). Valpo has not fared much better against conference foe UMKC, owning just two victories in 12 lifetime matches, and have lost the last three games against the Kangaroos, including a 1-0 decision last year.
SCOUTING MICHIGAN STATE: The Spartans enter Wednesday's game with just one win in their last six matches, a 2-1 victory last time out over Horizon League member Loyola (Chicago). Despite the recent struggles, Michigan State is over .500 on the season, with a 7-5-2 record, but are just 1-2-1 on their home field. The defense has led the way for the Spartans, who have allowed just 14 goals this year. Jason Tillman has seen virtually all the time in net for MSU, posting six shutouts and a goals against average of 0.72. Kenzo Webster leads the Michigan State offensive attack, registering six of the team's 14 goals.
SCOUTING UMKC: The Kangaroos own just two victories on the year, but both wins have come in conference play, putting UMKC right in the middle of the chase for berths in the Mid-Con Championship. The Kangaroos are coming off of a big 2-1 win Saturday at Oakland, breaking a 3-match losing streak. UMKC has struggled on both sides of the ball this year, scoring just 12 goals through 14 games while giving up 30. Ryan Kaufman and Kyle Perkins share the team lead with three markers apiece, while Brandon Amaya has earned both victories in net to go along with a 1.71 goals against average.
LAST WEEK: Valpo dropped a physical battle with IUPUI last Saturday, 1-0, in a key conference matchup. The Crusaders, who were looking to tie the school record for wins in a season (8, 1997), got seven saves from Ryan Schwarz. D.J. Catrow led the Valpo offense with six shots, three of which were on frame. It was the first time in 13 matches in 2006 that the Crusaders have been shut out.
THE MID-CON RACE: Last weekend was a chance for many conference teams, including Valpo, to take charge of their chances for a berth in the Mid-Con Championship. After the dust settled, however, the postseason picture has become even fuzzier than before. Western Illinois remains the only squad to have clinched a spot in the Championship field, as the Leathernecks sit at a perfect 4-0 in league play. Behind them occurs the logjam, however. Five of the Mid-Con's seven teams currently hold two wins over league rivals, including the Crusaders. Valpo, IUPUI, and UMKC all are in a tie for second place with a 2-2 record, while Oakland and Centenary sit 1/2 game back of those three teams at 2-3. Oral Roberts has not been eliminated from consideration either, as the Golden Eagles can still earn a spot in the Championship with victories in their final two league matches of the season.
OUTSIDE LOOKING IN: For the first time in seven weeks, Valpo has dropped out of the NSCAA Midwest Regional Poll, but are still receiving votes after its loss to IUPUI. The Crusaders had been ranked since September 5, reaching as high as the number six spot. This is the first season a Valpo men's soccer team has ever been ranked by the NSCAA.
ALL HE DOES: Is score match winners. Steve Shively certainly has a knack for the timely goal, and he continued his unprecedented run in the Crusaders' win over IPFW, putting Valpo in front for good with his fourth goal of the year in the 12th minute. Of Shively's four goals, all four have been match-winners, tied for the league lead. The Indianapolis native had the match-winner goal in the first two matches of the year, and has now scored the match-winner in the last two Crusader wins. Shively's last goal as a prep was a match-winner when he gave North Central the Indiana State Championship with a goal in the final 30 seconds of the title match.
SHUTOUT SCHWARZ: Another of Valpo's freshmen, goalkeeper Ryan Schwarz, has proven himself to be a force in his first year. Schwarz has already set the Valpo freshman record for shutouts in a season (four) and is just two shy of matching the overall record.