Valparaiso (6-4-2, 1-4-0 Horizon)
Crusaders take on the top of the Big Ten
Wednesday, Oct. 13 - 6 p.m. CT - at Michigan (7-2-3, 2-1-0 Big Ten)
Sunday, Oct. 17 - 1:30 p.m. CT - at Ohio State (6-3-2, 2-1-0 Big Ten)
This Week in Crusader Soccer: Valparaiso steps out of Horizon League play to take a pair of shots at teams atop the Big Ten standings. The Crusaders travel first to Ann Arbor on Wednesday to face Michigan before heading to Columbus on Sunday to take on Ohio State.
Wrapping Up Last Week: The Crusaders made a brief return home, earning a 1-1 draw with former Mid-Con rival Western Illinois in a mid-week contest. Valpo then returned to the road for a Horizon League match at Cleveland State, falling 1-0 on an 86th minute goal by the Vikings.
Following the Crusaders: WVUR (95.1 FM, Valparaiso) will be broadcasting the Crusaders’ Wednesday night match at Michigan, but will not be carrying Sunday’s contest at Ohio State. The audio broadcast can also be heard online at www.valpoathletics.com, which will also have links for live stats for both of this week’s matches. Live video for both matches will also be available for a fee through the respective host schools’ websites.
Head Coach Mike Avery: Mike Avery is in his fourth season as the head coach of the Crusaders in 2010 after guiding the Crusaders to a school record 10 victories and a third-place Horizon League finish in 2009. In his first three seasons, Avery has led Valpo to three of the best defensive seasons in school history, including allowing just 21 goals a year ago, second-fewest in program history. Avery has already coached a pair of Goalkeeper of the Year selections and 10 All-League honorees in his three seasons.
Series Notes: Michigan - Valpo trails 0-2-0 (0-1-0 under Avery); last meeting 2-1 #22/23 Michigan @ Valpo 9/6/09 [Stivers 40’; Roth assist; Schwarz 5 saves; Michigan goals 71’, 73’]
Ohio State - Valpo trails 0-3-1 (First meeting under Avery); last meeting 2-0 Ohio State @ Valpo 10/31/04 [Brighton 3 shots, all on goal; Oleck 3 saves; Ohio State goals 63’, 73’]
Scouting the Opposition: Michigan enters this week at 7-2-3 overall and 2-1-0 in Big Ten action after earning a 3-2 victory at Wisconsin on Sunday. The Wolverines, who were receiving votes in last week’s NSCAA national poll, are led offensively by Soony Saad, who has scored eight of the team’s 19 goals and added an assist. Justin Meram has contributed five goals and four assists as well. Chris Blais has seen the majority of time in net for Michigan, posting a 0.88 GAA and an .817 save percentage.
Ohio State is 6-3-2 overall and 2-1-0 in the Big Ten, with a Wednesday night meeting at fellow Horizon League side UIC on the docket before the matchup with the Crusaders. The Buckeyes, who were ranked #15 in last week’s NSCAA poll, are led offensively by Konrad Warzycha (4 goals) and Austin McAnena (3 goals, 1 assist). Matt Lampson has played every second in goal, posting five shutouts and a 0.79 GAA.
Unbeaten Streak Comes to An End: With its loss to Milwaukee Sept. 24, Valpo saw its six-match unbeaten streak to open the 2010 season snapped. The six-match streak without a loss matched the previous longest stretch in program history, set by last year’s side from Oct. 17 through Nov. 10.
Best Start in Program History: By virtue of the Crusaders’ scoreless draw with Florida Gulf Coast on Sept. 12, the 2010 squad had posted the best start to a season in program history. This year’s side matched the 1987 and 2006 teams with three straight wins to start the season and became the first Valpo squad to earn a result in each of the first four matches of the year.
Getting Back to Nonleague Action: Each of the next three matches for Valapraiso are outside of Horizon League play, perhaps a welcome site for the Crusader squad. Valpo is 5-0-2 this season in non-league action while owning just a 1-4-0 record to date in league play.
No Margin for Error: Ten of Valpo’s first 12 games this season have been one-goal games or draws, continuing a trend of “close” games throughout Avery’s tenure, a trend which has turned in Valpo’s favor recently:
2007 - 13 of 18 matches, Valpo went 3-7-3
2008 - 12 of 19 matches, Valpo went 3-6-3
2009 - 13 of 19 matches, Valpo went 6-5-2
2010 - 10 of 12 matches, Valpo 4-4-2
Six of those games have gone overtime, while two others were decided in the final five minutes of regulation. In Horizon League play, the two-goal win over Wright State Sept. 26 marked just the fourth time in 29 games since joining the league that Valpo has played a game not decided by one goal or less.
Tough Luck in League Play: Other than their 3-1 victory over Wright State earlier this year, the Crusaders have found themselves snakebitten in Horizon League action. All four of Valpo’s league losses have been by one goal, with two of those coming in extra time and the most recent on Saturday occuring in the 86th minute.
1-nil: With Saturday’s 1-0 loss at Cleveland State, this year’s Crusader squad has already played six 1-0 games this season, winning their first three before dropping the last three. They have already matched the most 1-0 games in a single season in program history, as the 2007 side played six 1-0 contests as well, going 2-4 in those games.
Facing Nationally Ranked Foes: At least one and perhaps both of the Crusader opponents this week will enter the fixtures nationally ranked as Avery continues to challenge his side with tough opposition. Valpo has faced nine ranked opponents already in Avery’s fourth season, and while the Crusaders are just 1-6-2 in those contests, they have been within one goal in four of the six losses.
Defense Still Strong: Despite surrendering at least one goal in each of its last six games, Valpo’s defensive numbers remain among the best in the nation. The Crusaders, who have allowed more than one goal in a match just once this year, have a team GAA of 0.62, among the top-20 nationally, and their team save percentage of .849 also ranks among the best in the nation.
Schwarz a Mainstay in Goal: Fifth-year senior goalkeeper Ryan Schwarz continues to rank among the league and nation’s top goalkeepers. Schwarz, who has given up more than one goal just once this season, currently holds a 0.68 GAA and leads the Horizon League with a .846 save percentage, both among the top-30 nationally. He also is moving up the Valpo career saves chart, needing just one more stop to move into fourth in program history.
Zobeck Solid in Net Too: Redshirt sophomore goalkeeper Kyle Zobeck earned another start in goal in non-league action Wednesday against Western Illinois, stopping a penalty kick en route to a 1-1 draw with the Leathernecks. Zobeck has now started four contests in goal this year and holds a 1-0-2 mark, giving up just two goals in his four games.
Stivers Continues to Convert PKs: Senior forward Zack Stivers found the back of the net on a penalty kick attempt against Western Illinois on Wednesday for his fourth goal of the season. The successful spot kick, his third PK marker of the year, gives the senior six career penalty kick goals on seven attempts. Stivers now has 13 career goals, just three shy of breaking into Valpo’s all-time top-10 in the category.
Game-Winners Galore: Junior forward Guy Shabtay has found the back of the net twice this season and has made both markers count. He scored on a free kick in the 20th minute against Wright State Sept. 26 for the eventual match-winner after previously netting a game-winning goal in Valpo’s season opener at UNLV. Shabtay is the first Crusader newcomer to score multiple match-winners in his first season wearing the Valpo kit since Steve Shively tallied four GWG as a freshman in 2006.
Ortiz On the Assist: It had been nearly two full calendar years since senior midfielder Adrian Ortiz tallied his last assist for the Crusaders, until the senior helped out on Antonijevic’s tally against the Broncos on Sept. 10. Ortiz then picked up another assist on a corner kick for the Crusaders’ first goal against BGSU Sept. 19, giving him 11 career assists, ninth-most in Valpo history.
Smith Hits the Scoresheet: Sophomore defender Jonathon Smith registered his first career point on Sept. 26 with a magnificent assist. Smith took a free kick at midfield in the 8th minute against Wright State and sent it 55 yards in the air into the 6-yard box, where it was headed home for the game’s opening tally. Smith earned the point in his 22nd career game and 10th career start.
Antonijevic Earns Honor in Return: Antonijevic earned MVP honors at the Marquette Invitational after scoring the Crusaders’ goal against Santa Clara and dominating the midfield in both matches. It was especially appropriate that it would be Antonijevic to take top honors, as the junior spent his freshman season playing for Marquette before transferring.
Del Giudice Doubles Up: Senior midfielder Roby Del Giudice doubled his career goal total after netting both Crusader tallies in the win over UC Riverside Sept. 6. The two-goal game is the only multi-goal game by a Valpo player this season after five such efforts a year ago.