On a windy Sunday afternoon in Kalamazoo, Mich., the Valparaiso men’s soccer team fell behind in the first half and was unable to find the equalizer going against the wind in the second half, eventually falling 2-0 to Western Michigan in the Crusaders’ last game before the start of Horizon League play.
“Today was a tough day for us,” said Crusader head coach Mike Avery. “We were facing a very good Western Michigan team that played in the MAC championship last year, and had mostly everybody back on a talented team. We knew it would be a tough game, yet we came out a bit flat today. That’s on the coaches; myself and my staff have to figure out how to better prepare the guys so we don’t have mental letdowns. It was certainly a game that I feel we had the ability to control a little bit better than we did.”
The Broncos got on the board Sunday in the 31st minute. Western Michigan took advantage of an opportunity on the counter, as Jason Grant and Luis Lemus combined to bring the ball down the right-hand side. They eventually got it to Shane Lyon in the middle of the field, whose strike found the back of the net to give WMU a 1-0 lead.
“We started off pretty well in terms of possession,” said Avery. “We had the ball in Western Michigan’s half, but then a lack of concentration gave away a counter and then we ended up chasing the game.”
Redshirt junior goalkeeper Kyle Zobeck (Coralville, Iowa/Iowa City West) made four saves within the first 26 minutes of the second half to help keep the Crusaders within one goal, but Western Michigan eventually found an insurance tally in the 75th minute. Kai Mendes held the ball on the endline and found Grant in the middle, who hit a shot to the upper-right corner for the goal.
“Their second goal was pretty much a direct result of pushing a lot of numbers forward trying to get back into the game,” said Avery. “Give full credit to Western Michigan, they did what they had to do to get a good result at home. I think we’re going to be fine, it was just a tough day for us and hopefully we got it out of our system as we get ready for league play now.”
Valpo’s lone shot on goal was taken by fifth-year senior Brendan Roth (Elkhart, Ind./Memorial) in the 85th minute, an attempt saved by Matt Murrell to earn the shutout. Zobeck ended the afternoon with four saves. Western Michigan (3-4-0) attempted 12 total shots versus eight for the Crusaders.
Valparaiso (3-3-1) opens Horizon League play this Saturday, as the Crusaders travel east to take on Cleveland State. Kickoff is slated for 6 p.m. CDT, and all the action can be seen live on the Horizon League Network. A link for live stats will also be available at www.valpoathletics.com as well.