Valparaiso converted on a penalty kick early in the second half to tie its Horizon League opener with Milwaukee, but the Panthers tallied the golden goal in the 97th minute to earn the 2-1 victory at Brown Field Friday evening. The defeat was the Crusaders’ first of the season, seven games into the campaign.
“Tonight was an exciting game, and congratulations to Milwaukee for finding a way at the end to steal a goal against the run of play,” said Crusader head coach Mike Avery. “They played well and tough and hung in there, while we weren’t able to finish off the chances we had, especially the ball off the post in overtime. Their guy made a great individual run at the end and scored a nice goal.”
Friday’s game marked the second straight year that the Crusaders have held a benefit game to raise money and collect athletic equipment for They Often Cry Outreach (TOCO), a not-for-profit organization dedicated to improving the lives of underprivileged, at-risk and orphaned children in the Caribbean. 548 fans took in Friday’s fixture, donating money and equipment to TOCO, whose founder, St. Lucian reggae artist Taj Weekes, was in attendance at Brown Field.
“The great news from tonight is that we were able to raise a lot of money for Taj and TOCO,” said Avery. “It drew a great crowd out to the field and really made it a great environment. I really appreciate all the fans’ support that helped make it a great night of college soccer.”
The Panthers struck first on Friday evening, notching the game’s opening score in only the 6th minute of play. Ross Van Osdol sent a free kick into the six-yard box, where Greg Rosenthal placed a header inside the near post to put Milwaukee on top. While the Crusaders controlled the run of play for the majority of the opening 45 minutes, Milwaukee went into halftime ahead 1-0.
Valpo would even the match up in the 59th minute thanks to a nice individual effort by Stefan Antonijevic (Buffalo Grove, Ill./Stevenson [College of Lake County/Marquette]). Antonijevic remained in an onside position until just after an over-the-top through ball was played and ran onto it behind the back line, leaving himself one-on-one with Panther goalkeeper Bryce Boyd. Antonijevic moved past Boyd, but was taken out of the netminder, earning the keeper a yellow card and the Crusaders a penalty kick opportunity. Zack Stivers (Brownsburg, Ind./Brownsburg) stepped up for Valpo and knocked it home to knot the match at 1-1.
The Crusaders came right out with a quality scoring chance in the opening minute of overtime, as Brendan Roth (Elkhart, Ind./Memorial) sent a shot in from the left flank towards the right post that got past Boyd. But the ball caromed off the woodwork and play continued on. Milwaukee’s Robbie Boyd would end the game with just under three minutes remaining in the first overtime period, taking possession in the corner, escaping a pair of Valpo defenders, dribbling into the six and beating Crusader goalkeeper Ryan Schwarz (Rockford, Ill./Boylan Catholic) towards the far post for the golden goal.
Schwarz allowed his first two goals of the season Friday, snapping a personal shutout streak of 336:19 dating back to last season, while the Crusaders had their team shutout string of 406:05 snapped as well. The fifth-year senior made two stops in net, while Bryce Boyd made two saves as well for Milwaukee (2-3-2, 1-0-0 Horizon).
“I am proud of our guys tonight,” said Avery. “We didn’t have a good start to the game and Milwaukee did, earning the early goal. But from that point, pretty much right up through the final goal, we took over the game and got the better of chances, but just weren’t able to finish. The good news is we don’t have long to worry about this result because we get to turn right around and prepare to play Wright State on Sunday.”
Valparaiso (5-1-1, 0-1-0 Horizon) will look to rebound on Sunday evening, as the Crusaders host Wright State in a quick turnaround to another Horizon League game. Kickoff is slated for 6 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.