Despite a 16-5 advantage in shot attempts, the Valparaiso men's soccer team couldn't find a goal on Friday night at Brown Field, falling to Western Michigan, 1-0.
“You have to tip your hat to Western Michigan,” said Crusader head coach Mike Avery. “They are off to a great start this season and showed a tremendous resolve to withstand everything that got thrown at them tonight. That kind of effort will bode well for them as the season goes forward.”
On Veterans Honoring Veterans night at Brown Field, the Crusaders honored members of the military, as well as recognizing their group of ten seniors as part of traditional Senior Night ceremonies prior to the game. Nine of Valpo's ten seniors were on the pitch as part of the starting XI for the opening kickoff against the Broncos.
A pair of seniors teamed up for an early flurry that threatened to put the Crusaders on the board before the game was ten minutes old. Senior Stipo Zeba (Brookfield, Ill./Morton West) took an initial shot from the top of the 18 that was blocked by a WMU defender. Fellow senior Sam Haines (McKinney, Texas/McKinney Boyd), making his first appearance of the year, found the rebound, but his attempt was stopped by a sprawling effort from WMU goalkeeper Sean Lewis. With Lewis out of position, the ensuing rebound fell to Zeba, but his effort from 10 yards out was cleared off the back line by a Bronco defender.
Western Michigan scored the game's lone goal in the 31st minute. A throw-in from Yllson Asani went into the 18-yard box, where Erik Kelly played it to the far post. Kyle Farris was there to finish from 10 yards for the Broncos. The Crusaders pushed forward the rest of the game looking for the equalizer, out-shooting Western Michigan over the final 45 minutes, 9-2. But Valpo hit the post once on a scissors kick and all four shots on frame were stopped by Lewis as the Broncos came out with the win. Senior goalkeeper Kyle Zobeck (Coralville, Iowa/Iowa City West) made one save in goal for the Crusaders, while Lewis ended the night with five saves to earn the shutout.
“We're obviously in a tough stretch right now where we've been playing well, and in a lot of ways outplaying our opponents, but so far this season we've found ways to lose games instead of ways to win them,” said Avery. “Everyone in our locker room is frustrated right now - the guys on the field that haven't found a way to break through and the guys on the bench that are looking for their chance. But, at the end of the day, this is a great opportunity for us to really put to the test the principles we say we stand for as a team. I have no doubt that this group can turn things around, and if the players can stick together through a tough patch of a long season, the potential of this group is very, very high.”
Valparaiso (1-4-1) looks to end a four-match losing streak next Wednesday, September 19 as the Crusaders travel to IUPUI for a 6:30 p.m. CDT kickoff. Live stats will be available through www.valpoathletics.com.