Senior Steve Shively (Indianapolis, Ind./North Central) put Valparaiso in front with a goal midway through the first half, a lead the Crusaders would hold for nearly 45 minutes, but two Butler goals in a span of less than three minutes gave the Bulldogs the final edge, 2-1, Sunday at Brown Field in Horizon League action.
"I thought we played very well today, particularly in the first half, and in some ways I thought the result could have easily gone the other way,” said Crusader head coach Mike Avery. “Butler is a very good team, though, and they are in the midst of a great season, so you have to credit them for coming back and winning the game.”
Both teams came out with an offensive flurry, as Butler netminder Fabian Knopfler had to make four saves in the match’s first 14 minutes, while Ryan Schwarz (Rockford, Ill./Boylan Catholic) stopped a pair of shots in the first 17 minutes. It was Valpo which would break onto the scoreboard first, as Shively came up with a takeaway in the offensive end and laced a shot from the right side, 15 yards out, that found its way inside the far post to give the Crusaders a 1-0 lead in the 22nd minute. For Shively, it was his 16th career goal, tying him with three others in eighth place on Valpo’s all-time list.
Valpo maintained the advantage well into the second half, as Schwarz came up with a total of six first-half saves to keep the Bulldogs off the board. But Butler’s first shot on net in the second half, which came in the 66th minute, would prove to be the equalizer. The Bulldogs maintained possession in their offensive half following a corner kick, and Julian Cardona fed Boris Gatzky on the left flank, 20 yards out. Gatzky let go a shot that Schwarz got a hand on, but was unable to keep out of the upper-right corner of the net.
Less than three minutes later, in the 69th minute of action, the Bulldogs took the lead for good. This time, a corner kick was directly responsible for the tally, as Gatzky put a corner to the short side of the goal, where Matt Hedges was able to get a foot on it and score his third goal of the season, converting from six yards out.
Butler (8-1-1, 3-0-1 Horizon) ended the match with a 17-13 advantage in the shots category and put eight shots on frame to Valpo’s six. Schwarz closed the 90 minutes with six saves, while Knopfler ended up with five stops. Both sides had multiple opportunities for set pieces from the corner, as the Bulldogs took five corner kicks and the Crusaders four.
“For us as a team, we have to mature a little bit more so we can ride through the late moments of a match we are leading and learn how to close out games,” said Avery. “As I told the guys afterwards, it's not in our feet because we are talented enough, and it is not in our hearts because we play as hard or harder than any team I have been around - it is in our heads. Our collective experience will improve, and sometimes tough results are part of the process.”
Valparaiso (5-6-1, 1-2-1 Horizon) returns to the pitch for another big Horizon League matchup on Saturday afternoon at Brown Field, as league leader Green Bay comes to town. Kickoff is slated for 1 p.m., and all the action 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.