Valparaiso remained unbeaten at Brown Field this year and improved to 1-0-1 in Horizon League play in dramatic fashion Friday night, as freshman Gerardo Avelar (San Salvador, El Salvador/Colegio San Francisco) converted a strike from 35 yards out in the 98th minute to give the Crusaders a 3-2 (ot) victory over Detroit.
Avelar closed a night that saw the Crusaders score their greatest number of goals since the season opener with a sensational goal. Late in the first overtime session, the freshman gained possession just to the right of midfield and carried in until unleashing a long strike in the air from distance. The shot curled out of the reach of Detroit goalkeeper Anthony Shepherd and inside the upper-left 90 of the frame to give Valpo the three points on the evening.
“That was just a fantastic wonder strike from Gerardo in overtime,” said Crusader head coach Mike Avery. “We’re really proud of how he played tonight.”
Valpo earned the victory on Friday despite twice seeing Detroit (4-6-0, 0-2-0 Horizon) battle back from one-goal deficits. The Crusaders got on the board first in the 41st minute, as after a shot from senior Chadd Sult (South Bend, Ind./John Adams) was stopped by Shepherd, the rebound found its way to sophomore Charles Barden (Cedar Rapids, Iowa/Linn-Mar), who slotted it home for his second goal of the year. The Titans knotted the match at one in the 59th minute on an Adam Bedell goal from the right side of the box.
A combination play in the 70th minute off a restart put the Crusaders ahead yet again. Barden sent the ball ahead to junior Sam Haines (McKinney, Texas/McKinney Boyd), who flicked it in the air towards the goal, where Sult got his head on it for the go-ahead goal, his second of the season. But Detroit tied the match late in the second half, as an 86th minute goal from Pat Lepera sent the game into overtime and set up Avelar’s heroics.
Valpo dominated the shot tally on Friday night, posting 23 shot attempts, 11 of which were on goal, to just 12 for Detroit. Shepherd made eight saves in net for the Titans, while redshirt junior Kyle Zobeck (Coralville, Iowa/Iowa City West) made five saves. The Crusader back line also cleared away a shot on the goal line from the Titans in the 58th minute. The physical battle saw 38 total fouls called, 26 of which were whistled on Detroit.
“There's a lot of mixed emotion about the game tonight,” said Avery. “Whenever you lead twice and let a team come back and tie, you're not overjoyed with that kind of performance. But you also have to give Detroit credit; they kept coming back, and then we have to be proud of our guys for being resilient and finding a way to win. It wasn't a pretty game tonight, especially with the weather conditions, making it tough for our team to get our usual rhythm going, But in the end, we were able to keep fighting and came away with a key three points.”
Valparaiso (4-3-2, 1-0-1 Horizon) steps out of Horizon League play on Sunday to take on a former league rival, traveling to Western Illinois for a 1 p.m. kickoff. Live stats for the game will be available at www.valpoathletics.com.