Cleveland State at Valparaiso - Saturday, Nov. 7 - 1 p.m.
Coming Up for the Crusaders: Valparaiso closes out the 2009 regular season campaign on Saturday as the Crusaders host Cleveland State at Brown Field in a key battle for seeding going into the Horizon League Championship. It will be Senior Day at Brown Field, as Valpo will honor a group of four seniors making their final home regular season appearances.
The Matchup: Valpo (8-6-2, 3-2-2 HL) trails the all-time series with Cleveland State (7-6-4, 4-1-2 HL) 9-2-0, but has split two meetings since joining the Horizon League. Most recently, the Vikings came out on top in a 3-2 decision in Cleveland on Oct. 11, 2008. A Steve Shively marker late in the first half tied the game at one, but a CSU goal just 19 seconds later gave the Vikings the lead for good. Oscar Lomeli also added a tally for the Crusaders late in the game.
Previously: The Crusaders extended their unbeaten streak to four games, and for the third straight contest did not allow a goal, as Valpo fought preseason Horizon League favorite UIC to a 0-0 double overtime draw on Oct. 31. The game, which was delayed 24 hours by heavy storms moving through the Midwest, was a very even affair, with both teams getting just four shots on frame. Crusader netminder Ryan Schwarz and Flame goalkeeper Jovan Bubonja both stopped all four attempts to record shutouts for their respective sides. The tie gave the Crusaders a big point in the Horizon League standings, as they clinched a berth in the Horizon League Championship with their 11th point of the season.
Following the Crusaders: The sports staff at Valparaiso’s campus radio station, WVUR 95.1 FM, will be carrying Saturday’s game against Cleveland State live over its airwaves and online at www.valpoathletics.com. Live statistics for Saturday’s matchup will also be available through the official Crusader website.
Honoring the Seniors: Valpo will be recognizing a quartet of seniors making their final regular season appearance on the Brown Field pitch on Saturday. Forward Steve Shively has been with the program each of the last four years, while midfielder J.J. Del Castillo transferred in prior to the 2007 season. Midfielder Danny Jeftich and midfielder/defender Rodolfo Lucas both joined the Crusader program as juniors entering the 2008 campaign. The four players have helped guide the Valpo program through the transition to the Horizon League and have led the squad this year to its first season at or above .500 in 22 years.
The Big Tournament Unknown: For the first time this year, only the top six finishers in regular season action will advance to the Horizon League Championship. While the squads currently in the top-five spots in the league, including Valpo, are all locked into the top-five at seasons end, that is about the only known. The top overall seed (semifinal and final host), the top two seeds (byes into the semifinals) and the third and fourth seeds (quarterfinal hosts) are still all up for grabs. The Crusaders can still finish anywhere from a tie for second, where they would have to wait and see how the tiebreakers played out, down to a solo fifth-place finish.
Schwarz With the Shutouts: Redshirt junior goalkeeper Ryan Schwarz extended his shutout streak to over 299 minutes last Saturday with a double-overtime shutout of UIC. Schwarz has now registered three straight clean sheets and has not given up a goal since an 89th minute tally against Green Bay on Oct. 17. With the three straight shutouts, Schwarz now has six shutouts on the year, matching Valpo’s single-season record, and has 12 career clean sheets, tied for second-most in Crusader history behind only current assistant coach Jeff Oleck’s 14 shutouts. On the year, Schwarz has posted a GAA of 1.02, on pace to easily break Valpo’s single-season mark, and has a career-best save percentage of .788.
Shively Moving Up the Charts: Senior forward Steve Shively has continued his march up Valpo’s all-time goals and points charts this year. Most recently, Shively found the back of the net twice against IPFW, giving him five goals on the season and 18 for his career, tied for sixth-most in Crusader history. The pair of markers also gave him 14 points on the season and 41 for his career, tied for eighth-most all-time at Valpo.
Winning Ways: This year’s Crusader squad has already matched the program’s Division I record for victories in a season with eight (1997), and is just one win shy of tying the overall program record for wins in a season at nine (1987). With its tie last Saturday at UIC, Valpo also clinched a .500 or better season for the first time since 1987. This year’s team has especially excelled on the road, owning a 6-3-1 mark on the road this year, which sets a new program record for single-season road victories.
No Margin for Error: All seven of Valparaiso’s Horizon League games this year have either been ties or one-goal games, continuing a trend the Crusaders have seen since joining the league prior to the 2007 campaign. Valpo has played 23 league matches over the past two and a half years, 20 of which have ended as either ties or one-goal decisions. Overall this season, 12 of the Crusaders’ 16 contests have been either one-goal games or ties.