In a physical contest that featured 39 fouls and ten cards issued, Valparaiso jumped out to an early 2-0 lead, but Milwaukee scored with under a minute to play to force a 2-2 (2ot) draw in the Horizon League opener for both teams Friday at Eastgate Field.
“Obviously, it’s a bit frustrating of a result when you give up the tying goal with that little time left,” said Crusader head coach Mike Avery. “But you have to give Milwaukee credit, as they kept their composure and stayed focused after being down two goals. There is definitely a different intensity to league play, and you saw that today in a hard-fought battle between two evenly-matched teams.”
The game started out as a battle in the midfield, as just one shot was attempted in the first ten minutes of play. Milwaukee got two early shots on net, both of which were turned away by Kyle Zobeck (Coralville, Iowa/Iowa City West), and when the Crusaders finally put a shot on goal in the 19th minute, they made sure it counted.
Junior midfielder Rodolfo Lucas (Mogi Mirim, Brazil/ [Coffeyville C.C.]) took a well-struck corner to the far side of the box, where senior defender Andrew Stewart (Buffalo Grove, Ill./Stevenson) was waiting to volley it into the back of the net from eight yards out. The goal marked the second career tally by Stewart, while Lucas picked up his first career point in his first season donning the Crusader kit.
Just under five minutes later, Valpo was able to push its edge out to two goals. A long pass into Milwaukee territory was taken by the Panthers, but their clearing attempt was intercepted by senior forward Oscar Lomeli (Jalisco, Mexico/ [Bethel (Ind.)]), who stepped in and blasted a shot into the upper right corner of the net from 15 yards out for his third goal of the 2008 campaign.
Milwaukee would cut the deficit in half before the break, however. The Panthers took a corner in the 37th minute and, with the ball in the box, Valpo was called for a foul, giving Milwaukee a penalty kick. The Panthers’ Adam Skalecki stepped up and put the ball into the lower left as Zobeck sprawled in the other direction. The game would enter halftime with the Crusaders up 2-1.
The second half was played at an up-and-down pace, with both teams having multiple good scoring opportunities. Valpo’s best chance at an insurance tally came in the 73rd minute, when freshman midfielder Vasilios Kyriakopoulos (Darien, Ill./Shattuck-St. Mary’s [Minn.]), seeing his first action of the year, fed a beautiful cross from the right flank into the box for Kelvin Zelee (South Bend, Ind./John Adams [Indiana]). But Zelee’s header sailed just over the crossbar, and Valpo maintained just the one-goal advantage.
Milwaukee set up what looked like would be its last offensive chance of the match with just over a minute left, taking a quick corner kick on the left side. The ball found its way into the box, where a Crusader gained possession, but the Panthers’ Josh Barnes came away with the ball and fed Ross Van Osdol at the top of the box, who put the ball into the upper left from 20 yards out with just 54 seconds to play to send the match into extra time.
Both teams had great scoring chances in the 20 minutes of overtime. Halfway through the first extra session, Steve Shively (Indianapolis, Ind./North Central) found himself one-on-one with Panther netminder Grant Fernstrum after a long pass in a play reminiscent of his second marker from Sunday. But this time, Shively’s attempt to chip it up and over Fernstrum was denied and the teams played on.
Early on in the second extra period, Milwaukee’s Eric Frazier gained possession about 30 yards from the net in the middle and wound his way through multiple Crusader defenders. Frazier got to within 15 yards and let loose a shot that seemed destined for the upper right corner of the net, but Zobeck was positioned perfectly to make the stop and keep the game tied up at two. Valpo would get one more shot on goal on a long free kick, but neither team would find the back of the net as the Horizon League opener ended in a draw.
“Zobeck came up huge for us in overtime,” said Avery. “He has made some big saves for us this year, but none so far bigger than that one, because that kept us in a tie and helped get us a big point to start off league play.”
Zobeck ended the match with eight saves, while his counterpart Fernstrum stopped five shots. Milwaukee (3-2-3, 0-0-1 Horizon) held a 21-15 advantage in the shots category, and placed ten shots on frame to Valpo’s seven.
“I was happy to see Vasilios play as well as he did today,” said Avery. “He gave us a big lift in his first action of the season, and I hope it’s just a glimpse of the future he has here. It was also good to see Brett Bermes (Portage, Ind./Portage) back after injury; he and Clifton Brown (Chillicothe, Ohio/Unioto) both played solid matches for us. And if there’s a better defender in the league than Stewart, I haven’t seen him yet. He has just been outstanding in the back for us all year.”
Valparaiso (4-3-2, 0-0-1 Horizon) opens up league play with a draw for the second consecutive year, and will look to get in the win column on Sunday, as the Crusaders close out a three-match homestand at Eastgate Field against Wright State at 1 p.m. The match can be heard live on WVUR, 95.1 FM, Valparaiso and online at www.valpoathletics.com, which will also have a link for live stats.