Despite playing a goal down for the majority of the game Sunday, the Valparaiso men’s soccer team got the equalizer off the foot of sophomore Todd Vervynckt (Plymouth, Ind./Plymouth) in the 73rd minute and went on to earn a 1-1 double-overtime draw with Big East foe Pittsburgh Sunday to conclude play at the Duquesne Invitational in Pittsburgh, Pa.
“This was a really good result for us today,” said Crusader head coach Mike Avery. “Obviously we wish we had won, and probably played well enough to have won, but to come back from down a goal on the road against a very tough, physical Pitt team who are well organized is a real challenge. Our guys stood up to that challenge and I was proud of the way we handled that part of the day. We played well today: we kept the ball nicely, had a lot of good possession and created a lot of good chances.”
Pitt opened the scoring on Sunday in the 21st minute of play, as a foul by the Crusaders in the area gave the Panthers an opportunity at a penalty kick. Pitt’s Nico Wrobel stepped up and knocked home the spot kick to give his side a 1-0 lead. Redshirt junior Kyle Zobeck (Coralville, Iowa/Iowa City West) made a pair of first-half saves to hold the Panthers to just one goal, while despite six corner kicks, Valpo tallied just three total shots, none of which were on frame, in the opening 45 minutes.
Valpo started to pile the pressure on in the second half, firing nine shots in an attempt to tie the game. An effort on frame from junior Jaymie Bullard (Naperville, Ill./Neuqua Valley) in the 62nd minute was turned away from Pitt goalkeeper Lee Johnston. But 11 minutes later, the Crusaders put together a combination to find the back of the net. Junior Stipo Zeba (Brookfield, Ill./Morton West) had possession in the attacking half and laid the ball off to junior Kevin Miller (Jefferson City, Mo./Helias). Miller played in Vervynckt behind Pitt’s backs, and the sophomore’s strike found its way inside the right post from 15 yards out for the equalizer, tying the game at one apiece.
The Crusaders fired off five more shots in the remainder of the second half and the two 10-minute overtime sessions, while Pitt registered four shots of its own, but neither team could tally again as the contest ended in a draw.
Valpo owned a 16-11 advantage in the shots category over Pitt (1-2-1), but the Panthers put four shots on frame to the Crusaders’ two. Zobeck made three saves, while Johnston made one stop. The Crusaders also enjoyed a 10-1 edge in corner kicks.
“Over the course of the entire weekend, I feel we really grew up as a team,” said Avery. “We played two physical teams, which will help us down the road as we prepare for some tough games in league play.”
Valparaiso (1-1-1) travels to its second tournament in as many weekends starting next Friday, Sept. 9, as the Crusaders take on host Northern Illinois at the NIU adidas Invitational. The match is slated for a 5 p.m. start, with live stats available through www.valpoathletics.com.