90 minutes of soccer wasn’t enough to determine a winner Saturday, but extra time would go against the Crusaders, as Valparaiso fell in the regular season finale at Green Bay, 1-0, on an own goal in the 94th minute. The loss was Valpo’s only defeat in Horizon League play this year.
“Unfortunately, I was worried this might happen today,” said Crusader head coach Mike Avery. “We had such an emotional week with the overtime win over UIC and the tie at home to clinch the regular season title. We came into today with a real chance to be flat, and while I don't think we were completely flat, I don't feel we were as sharp as we normally are. It wasn’t an effort letdown, but more of mental mistakes that we typically don't make. As a result, we committed too many fouls and gave Green Bay too many free kick opportunities to serve balls into our box, which eventually resulted in the game’s only goal.”
The Crusaders owned the advantage in the shots category in the first half, 6-3, but efforts on frame by Todd Vervynckt (Plymouth, Ind./Plymouth) and Jonathon Smith (McKinney, Texas/McKinney) were both saved by Green Bay netminder Ryan Wehking. Meanwhile, Kyle Zobeck (Coralville, Iowa/Iowa City West) made one first-half save on a 17th minute attempt as the game went into halftime scoreless.
Both teams would attempt six second-half shots, with Zobeck stopping a pair midway through the stanza. Freshman Eric Nieto (Louisville, Ky./Louisville Collegiate) tallied a shot on goal in the 68th minute, but Wehking made the save as the two sides played through 90 minutes without cracking the scoreboard.
Jaymie Bullard (Naperville, Ill./Neuqua Valley) placed a pair of shots on frame in the opening minutes of the overtime session, but both were saved as the scoreless match continued. Finally, it would be Green Bay with the golden goal in the 94th minute. A free kick from Stuart Grable was flicked on by Andrew Stone, where it deflected off a Crusader defender and into the back of the net for an own goal.
“I do think we created enough chances today to possibly score a few goals of our own,” said Avery. “But I think the biggest thing is that we got out of the game with no injuries and no cards. Sometimes a loss like this serves as a great opportunity to refocus. We have a week now to train and really get sharp for our Friday game. We're excited to be hosting the tourney, and I think if this little stumble serves as a good reminder of what we do well and what we need to focus on, then it’s a really worthwhile day for us.”
Zobeck ended the night with three saves, surrendering just his fourth tally in eight Horizon League fixtures. Wehking made five stops in the winning effort for Green Bay (10-6-1, 5-3-0 Horizon).
Despite the loss, Valparaiso (9-6-4, 5-1-2 Horizon) enters the Horizon League Championship as the top overall seed and will host the semifinals and final at Brown Field next Friday and Sunday. Game times will be set in the near future, with the Crusaders’ semifinal opponent to be determined after Tuesday’s quarterfinal round.