A second-half onslaught by the Valparaiso men’s soccer team paid off in the 88th minute, as Paul Leitelt (Munster, Ind./Munster) found the back of the net to pull the Crusaders even at 1-1 and eventually earn the tie Friday night at Missouri State, which entered the match coming off a tie with #2 Akron last weekend.
“I am very proud of the boys tonight because they dug out a good road result against a hard working and organized Missouri State team,” said Crusader head coach Mike Avery. “Coach Leamy and his staff are doing a great job with a young group, and we figured this match would be a stiff challenge - and it was.”
Missouri State got on the board early in the first half, as Ryan Hennessey took a feed from Kyle Windmueller and put a shot past Crusader netminder Kyle Zobeck (Coralville, Iowa/Iowa City West) to give the Bears the 1-0 advantage. MSU put four more shots on goal in the opening stanza, but Zobeck turned them all away, while his counterpart, Alex Riggs, stopped three Valpo first-half attempts.
The momentum swung Valpo’s way in the second half, as the Crusaders dominated the run of play in the final 45 minutes of regulation. Valpo allowed Missouri State just one shot in the second half, an attempt stopped by Zobeck in the 54th minute, while the Crusaders attempted six shots, four of which were on frame. It appeared the Bears might hold on for the victory, as Riggs saved Valpo’s first three shots on goal of the second half, but Leitelt put a ball inside the left post with just 2:11 remaining in regulation to knot up the match. Neither team could find the back of the net in either overtime session as the Crusaders finished with their first tie of the year.
“The two teams tonight were evenly matched, and the game reflected that parity,” said Avery. “Missouri State had the run of play in the first half, and we turned around and took the game to them in the second half. The second half was as good as we have played all year, and we probably should have had a few more goals to show for it, but at the end of the day this is a result we can build on.”
For Leitelt, it was his second goal of the season and the 11th marker of his career, the highest for any current Crusader. Oscar Lomeli (Jalisco, Mexico/ [Bethel (Ind.)]) led the Valpo offensive attack with three shots, two of which were on goal, as Valpo totaled ten shots for the match, as did Missouri State (1-3-3). Zobeck made seven saves, while Riggs ended the match with six stops.
“Tonight took a lot of energy to chase the game, so we'll have to dig deep on Sunday,” said Avery. “Our match Sunday is a bit of a worry because we'll spend ten hours tomorrow on the bus traveling home, but our depth has carried us all year. That depth is critical against Western Michigan.”
The Crusaders will host the Broncos at Eastgate Field on Sunday, slated for a 4 p.m. start. All the action can be heard live on WVUR, 95.1 FM, Valparaiso. Live statistics and audio will be available at www.valpoathletics.com.