Valparaiso came back from a one-goal halftime deficit to knot up the match midway through the second half, but Western Michigan eventually came out on top, 2-1, Tuesday afternoon in Kalamazoo, Mich.
“I thought today, overall, we played pretty well,” said Crusader head coach Mike Avery. “There were stretches of soccer where we were playing as well as we’ve played all season. The difference today was Tom Oatley from Western Michigan. He’s just a terrific player and he beat us today, scoring one goal and causing a foul that led to their other goal.”
The two teams played scoreless soccer for the first portion of the first half before the Broncos opened the scoring in the 30th minute. Oatley took possession at midfield for Western Michigan and went on a run, passing a couple Crusader defenders before firing a shot from the left top of the 18-yard box that beat Ryan Schwarz (Rockford, Ill./Boylan Catholic) in the far-right corner. That was all the scoring for the first half, as the Broncos out-shot the Crusaders in the opening stanza by a 7-4 margin and put three shots on goal to Valpo’s one.
CliftonBrown (Chillicothe, Ohio/Unioto) put the Crusaders on the scoreboard in the 66th minute. After a sustained Valpo attack, Western Michigan got possession deep in its territory and looked for a clearance attempt. But Brown intercepted the clearance about 25 yards out, dribbled in a few yards and let loose a shot from just outside the box that ricocheted off the post and found the back of the net to knot the match at one. It was Brown’s first goal in the last two seasons and the fourth of his career.
The Broncos took the lead back for good in the 70th minute, however. Valpo was called for a foul just outside the 18-yard box, giving Western Michigan a free kick. Tyler Rosenhagen took the restart for WMU and bended the ball around the right-hand side of the Crusader wall and just inside the right post for the match-winning goal. The Crusaders had a couple late shots from distance despite playing down a man for the last 14 minutes, but could not tie the match.
“Schwarz was good as always in net today,” said Avery. “There wasn’t much he could have done to prevent either Western Michigan goal. Another guy who played brilliantly was Kevin Deitsch (Cincinnati, Ohio/St. Xavier). Kevin was originally going to redshirt, but he had been doing so well in training that we talked with him and mutually agreed to use him starting today. I commend him for giving away a year of eligibility for these last five games, but he wants to help the team and he did so today with some fantastic play on the back line.”
For the game, the Broncos attempted 12 shots, six on goal, to Valpo’s nine, four of which were on frame. Schwarz made four saves for the Crusaders, while Casey Aubil stopped three shots to earn the victory for Western Michigan (6-6-0). The Broncos also held a 4-2 edge in corner kicks and out-fouled the Crusaders 18-15.
“We’ve played a lot of games already this season, and this upcoming break will really help us get healthy again and rest some tired legs,” said Avery. “We’re going to take a long weekend and then come back on Monday and get back to work. Everything we’re playing for is still out in front of us. We have three conference games left where we can solidify our position in the league standings and earn a home playoff game.”
Valparaiso (3-8-2) has a 12-day hiatus before it returns to the pitch. The Crusaders will host Big Ten foe Michigan State at Eastgate Field on Sunday, October 21. Kickoff is slated for 1 p.m.