A goal by Isaac Kannah in the 85th minute proved to be the difference on Friday evening, as Valparaiso fell to #20 Northern Illinois, 1-0, in its first match at the NIU adidas Invitational in DeKalb, Ill.
Valpo played right with the nation’s 20th-ranked side on its home pitch, actually out-shooting the host Huskies by an 8-6 margin. The Crusaders also took four corner kicks against two for Northern Illinois.
"I was really disappointed for our guys tonight," said Crusader head coach Mike Avery. "They played great against a Northern Illinois team which had a lot going for it, coming in ranked 20th, their home opener and first game of the tournament. A lot of things combined to build the game up and made it a great environment. Our guys really came to play, and it was a great battle. A lot of things in how the game went fell our way, yet at the end of the day we have to score goals to win."
The Northern Illinois goal came late in the second stanza, with just under six minutes remaining in the game. The Huskies’ Jayson LeSeth took a corner kick, which resulted in a scramble inside the area. Kannah came up with the ball and took an initial strike which was blocked by a Crusader defender. But the ball rebounded right back to Kannah, who made his second attempt count for the game’s lone tally.
Both squads took three shots on frame, with junior Jonathon Smith (McKinney, Texas/McKinney) taking two of them for the Crusaders and senior Guy Shabtay (Ramat-Gan, Israel/Blich [Prairie State C.C.]) adding the other attempt on goal. Redshirt junior Kyle Zobeck (Coralville, Iowa/Iowa City West) made two saves in goal for Valpo, while his counterpart, Jordan Godsey, made three stops for Northern Illinois (4-0-0).
"All we can do now is keep fighting and pushing," said Avery. "But I'm convinced after talking to our guys following the game we're going to do just that. We'll be ready to go on Sunday against a good Northwestern team. We've been playing very well so far this year, and it would be nice to see some of the results fall our way. But we're sure that if we keep working, the results will eventually fall our way."
Valparaiso (1-2-1) concludes play at the NIU adidas Invitational on Sunday afternoon at 1:30 p.m., taking on Northwestern. Live stats for Sunday’s contest are available through www.valpoathletics.com.