This Weekend’s Action: Coming off of a split last weekend at the ProRehab Aces Soccer Classic, Valparaiso closes out the pre-league slate, traveling to Missouri State Friday night before returning home to kick off a three-match homestand at Eastgate Field Sunday versus Western Michigan.
The Matchups: Missouri State has won all five previous meetings with Valparaiso, including a 5-1 victory over the Crusaders in their most recent matchup in Springfield, Mo. on Sept. 26, 2004. After an early goal by the Bears, Jon Brighton found the back of the net off a feed from D.J. Catrow in the 39th minute to knot up the score at one. But Missouri State scored once before the half and added three second-half markers for the final margin.
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, in Kalamazoo, Mich. on Nov. 9, 2007, to take an 11-4-1 edge in the all-time series. Clifton Brown scored the tying goal for the Crusaders in the 66th minute, but Western Michigan took the lead for good four minutes later. Ryan Schwarz made four saves in net for Valpo.
Recapping Last Week: Valparaiso split a pair of matches last weekend at the ProRehab Aces Soccer Classic to claim second place at the tournament.
The Crusaders captured their first victory over a top-25 foe in six seasons on Friday as they defeated Soccer Times #25 Bradley by a 1-0 score. Kyle Gentile, appearing for the first time in the 2008 season, notched the game’s only marker in the 76th minute off a feed from Oscar Lomeli. Kyle Zobeck made five saves in net to earn his second collegiate shutout.
Evansville got the better of the Crusaders on Sunday, however, scoring twice in the first 20 minutes and never trailing in a 3-1 victory. Tyler Sellers scored in the 40th minute to cut Valpo’s deficit in half off a pass by J.J. Del Castillo, but the Crusaders could not push across the tying goal.
Following the Crusaders: WVUR (95.1 FM, Valparaiso) will not carrying Friday’s match at Missouri State, but will be broadcasting Sunday’s return to Eastgate Field against Western Michigan. Live audio streaming of the match against the Broncos will be available at www.valpoathletics.com, as well as live statistics for both of the weekend’s tilts. WVUR is slated to broadcast nine Crusader men’s soccer matches this season, while live stats for all Valpo home matches and select road matches can be accessed through the official Valparaiso athletics website.
Three Named to All-Tournament Squad: Valparaiso was represented by three players on the ProRehab Aces Soccer Classic All-Tournament Team after finishing second at the Evansville tournament. Senior midfielder Paul Leitelt, freshman forward Tyler Sellers and senior defender Andrew Stewart were the three Crusaders who received accolades. Stewart played all 90 minutes on the back line in Valpo’s shutout of #25/RV Bradley, while Leitelt was on the pitch for 60 minutes in the win over the Braves. Sellers notched the Crusaders’ goal Sunday against the hosts, his second marker of the year.
Finding the Back of the Net: After suffering seven shutouts during the 2007 season, the Crusader offense is putting goals on the board consistently at the start of the 2008 campaign. Valpo has scored in each of its first six matches of the season and joins UIC as the only league schools not to have been shut out to date.
Setting Down Ranked Foes: Valparaiso’s win over #25/RV Bradley on Friday was the first time in six seasons that the Crusaders had defeated a top-25 opponent. Valpo downed then-#22 Wisconsin on Sept. 13, 2002 by a 2-1 count in Valparaiso. This season’s win over the Braves is the second straight positive result for Valpo against ranked teams, following a 1-1 tie with #19/17 Michigan State last year on Oct. 21.
Captain, My Captain: Senior forward and captain Oscar Lomeli has also reached his offensive numbers from his first season with the Crusaders. The Second Team All-League honoree last year has scored twice in Valpo’s first six games, and most recently assisted on the match-winner against Bradley, giving him five points on the season, sixth-best in the league.
Stopping Shots: Freshman goalkeeper Kyle Zobeck has been solid in net for the Crusaders in the early going. Zobeck has played all 540 minutes in goal to date and has already tallied two shutouts, including one of #25/RV Bradley. His average of five saves per match is good for 31st nationally.
Crusaders Recording Firsts: Sophomore midfielder Kyle Gentile, making his first appearance of the season on Friday, notched the match-winner against the Braves for his first career goal. On Sunday, junior midfielder J.J. Del Castillo tallied his first career assist after setting up Sellers.
Picked Sixth: Valpo has been projected to finish sixth in the Horizon League this year by the league’s head coaches. UIC was a unanimous choice to win the league title, followed by Green Bay, Loyola, Butler and Milwaukee. The Crusaders were trailed by Wright State, Detroit and Cleveland State in the polling.
Tournament Teams Highlight Schedule: Four of Valpo’s 18 opponents on the 2008 slate reached the NCAA Tournament last season. The Crusaders have already downed the first two such opponents they have faced, defeating DePaul (1-0) on Aug. 31 and #25/RV Bradley (1-0), which advanced to the 2007 Elite Eight, on Sept. 12. Later this year, Valpo will play at Michigan State before welcoming UIC, which also reached the Elite Eight last season, to Eastgate Field on October 31.