This Weekend’s Action: 2-0 for just the fourth time in program history, Valparaiso will look to extend its season-opening winning streak this weekend, as the Crusaders travel to IUPUI on Friday before returning to Eastgate Field to take on Western Illinois on Sunday.
The Matchups: Valpo owns a 8-5-1 edge in the all-time series against former Mid-Continent Conference foe IUPUI. The two teams last met on Oct. 14, 2006 at Eastgate Field, where the visiting Jaguars earned a 1-0 decision on an Eric Weigman goal in the 64th minute. The Crusader offense pounded nine shots on goal in the game, but IUPUI netminder Drew Deffner stopped six and his defense cleared three off the back line. Ryan Schwarz made seven saves for Valpo.
Another former Mid-Con opponent comes to town in the form of the Crusaders’ most-common nemisis all-time, Western Illinois. The Leathernecks lead the series 15-6-1, but Valpo earned a come-from-behind victory in Macomb, 2-1, on Sept. 21, 2007. After Martin Browne found the back of the net in the 13th minute, Eniola Solomon knotted up the match in the 44th. Steve Shively then tallied the fifth match-winner of his career off a Zack Stivers feed in the 58th minute. Schwarz stopped four shots in the win.
Recapping Last Week: For the second time in the last three years and just the fourth time in program history, the Crusader men’s scocer team started its season 2-0-0.
It was the senior captains who led the way in the opener at Eastgate Field against Eastern Illinois, as Oscar Lomeli and Paul Leitelt registered second-half tallies to bring the Crusaders a 2-1 victory. Leitelt’s marker, the match-winner, was the tenth of his career, coming off of a feed from Adrian Ortiz. Kyle Zobeck stopped five shots in his debut for the victory.
Two days later, the Crusaders went into DePaul and came out 1-0 victors. Zobeck made five saves to earn his first career shutout, while Jon Obial found the back of the net in the 53rd minute for his first career marker and the match’s only goal.
Following the Crusaders: WVUR (95.1 FM, Valparaiso) will kick off its 2008 mens soccer coverage by broadcasting Sunday’s match versus Western Illinois, and live stats will be available for both of this weekend’s contests at www.valpoathletics.com. 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.
Strong Start: The Crusaders are one of just two league teams (Butler) to start out the season with wins in their first two matches. This marks just the fourth time in program history that Valpo has begun the season 2-0, and all three prior occurences have led to some of the winningest seasons in school history. The 1987 squad won a program-record nine matches after winning its opening set, while the 1984 and 2006 sides each won seven matches, tied for third-most in a single season in program history.
Re-Claiming Eastgate: The Crusaders won their home opener this year over Eastern Illinois, the third consecutive year that Valpo has captured the first game of the year at Eastgate Field. With the win, Valpo moves to 8-6-1 on its home pitch since the start of the 2006 season. The Crusaders drew 349 fans for their home opener this year, continuing a trend that started last year when they averaged 359 spectators per home match, the highest average home attendance in program history.
Stepping Into the Net: Freshman goalkeeper Kyle Zobeck made his collegiate debut at soccer’s most pressure-packed position last weekend and sparkled for the Crusaders. Zobeck allowed just one goal on 11 shots on the weekend, good for a save percentage of .909, to help Valpo go 2-0-0. His shutout of DePaul on Sunday extended his current scoreless streak to 177:14.
Leading the Way: Senior midfielder Paul Leitelt registered his third career match-winning goal in Valpo’s win over Eastern Illinois on Friday. For Leitelt, it marked his tenth career marker, which leads all active Crusaders.
Setup Man: Sophomore midfielder Adrian Ortiz tied for the Horizon League lead as a freshman with seven assists, and picked right up where he left off at the start of this year. Ortiz fed Leitelt with a perfect 40-yard pass for the match-winner against the Panthers, leaving him just one assist shy of Valpo’s all-time top-ten.
Converting PKs: Oscar Lomeli’s conversion of a penalty kick against EIU extended an impressive Crusader streak. Valpo has not missed a spot kick during the run of play since 1998, a stretch of 15 consecutive successful PKs.
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 already downed one such opponent with their victory over DePaul last Sunday. In non-league action, the Crusaders will also play at Michigan State, while taking on Elite Eight participant Bradley in a neutral-site contest. The league schedule brings UIC, which also reached the Elite Eight last season, to Eastgate Field on October 31.