The Valparaiso men’s soccer team opened the season with a result on the road against a Big Ten opponent, traveling to East Lansing, Mich. and battling to a 0-0 (2ot) draw with Michigan State Friday afternoon.
"I was very pleased with our performance today, and we got a great result against a good Michigan State team," said Crusader head coach Mike Avery. "I thought our team played very tough and that we were very organized. We've grown a lot over the last couple of weeks and have added a lot of new pieces to our puzzle. Today, I felt we really started to see things come together."
Chances were few and far between in the opening 45 minutes, with a total of just two shot attempts and one corner kick. The second half saw Valpo out-shoot the Spartans, 4-2, with freshman Jordan Aidoud (L’Isled’Beau, France/CEFAM) and junior Jesse Ortiz (Aurora, Ill./West Aurora [Benedictine]) putting shots on frame that MSU goalkeeper Bryce Dobbins had to stop. Meanwhile, Crusader goalkeeper Kyle Zobeck (Coralville, Iowa/Iowa City West) saved one shot in the first half and then made a stop in the 89th minute to send the match into extra time scoreless.
The Crusaders had an opportunity off a corner kick in the 100th minute as the first overtime session neared time, but the effort from junior Todd Vervynckt (Plymouth, Ind./Plymouth) was saved by Dobbins. Valpo also had an effort on net by senior Kevin Miller (Jefferson City, Mo./Helias) in the 103rd minute, but that was also stopped. Michigan State had one shot in each overtime period, but neither of them was on frame.
Zobeck made three stops in net to preserve the clean sheet in the opener, while Dobbins made four saves in the opposite goal for his own shutout. Both sides attempted six shots, while Valpo held a slim 3-2 advantage in corner kicks. The physical battle saw 45 total fouls called.
"I have to give a lot of credit for this result to Jeff (Oleck) and the rest of my staff," said Avery. "I haven't been involved with training the last couple days as Kasongo [Mike and Carin Avery's newly-adopted son] has arrived in the States. Jeff's really carried a lot of work over this week and our staff really did a great job of preparing our guys for the game today."
Valparaiso (0-0-1) opens the home slate on Monday evening at Brown Field as the Crusaders host St. Joseph’s (Ind.) at 7:30 p.m. Live stats for the match will be available through www.valpoathletics.com.
Noteworthy: Zobeck’s shutout extended his Valpo career record to 19 clean sheets ... the Crusaders have now registered shutouts in seven of their last nine contests dating back to last season ... five players debuted in a Valpo kit Friday afternoon, including spots in the starting XI for Ortiz and Mitch Albrecht ... the Crusaders are unbeaten in their last five season openers (4-0-1) ... Valpo is now unbeaten in its last three games against Big Ten teams (1-0-2).