Valparaiso (1-6-5, 0-1-3 Horizon)
Crusaders host non-league game before hitting the road
Wednesday, Oct. 17 - 7:30 p.m. - Northern Illinois (3-7-2, 2-1-0 MAC)
Sunday, Oct. 21 - 2 p.m. CDT - at Detroit (6-6-0, 3-0-0 Horizon)
This Week in Crusader Soccer: The Valparaiso men’s soccer team hosts a non-league game Wednesday night under the lights at Brown Field as it welcomes Northern Illinois. The Crusaders then travel to play Sunday afternoon in league play against Detroit. Wednesday’s match will serve as the Crusaders’ benefit match for Fields of Dreams Uganda.
Previously: Valpo came out with a draw for the third consecutive outing, as the Crusaders picked up a point in Horizon League play with a scoreless tie against Cleveland State Saturday night at Brown Field. Kyle Zobeck made six saves to earn the shutout.
The Road Ahead: Valpo closes out the 2012 home slate next Wednesday, Oct. 24 against Wright State at Brown Field before hitting the road for its final three matches of the regular season, starting Saturday, Oct. 27 at Big Ten foe Michigan.
Following the Crusaders: Wednesday night’s match will have live audio available locally on WVUR (95.1 FM). A link for the live audio will also be available at www.valpoathletics.com, which will also have links for live stats for both of the week’s matches.
Head Coach Mike Avery: Mike Avery returns for his sixth season at the helm of the Crusader men’s soccer program after being named Horizon League Coach of the Year and guiding the team to the league regular season championship in 2011. Avery, who owns 39 victories as Crusader head coach, has led Valpo to three of the four winningest seasons in program history over the last three years. Under his watch, 21 players have earned All-League accolades, including three Goalkeeper of the Year honorees and one Defensive Player of the Year.
Series Notes: The Crusaders are looking for their first-ever result against Northern Illinois, going 0-9-0 in program history against the Huskies. Last season was the most recent meeting, with #20 NIU earning a 1-0 win in DeKalb. Valpo and Detroit have split 16 all-time meetings 8-8-0, but the Crusaders have come out ahead in all five meetings since joining the Horizon League, including a 3-2 win in extra time at Brown Field last year. The golden goal in that match came off the foot of Gerardo Avelar.
Scouting the Opposition: NIU enters Wednesday’s match at 3-7-2 overall and 2-1-0 in MAC play, but has played a tough schedule, as three of its last five matches have been against top-five foes nationally. The Huskies are led offensively by Gael Rivera (4g) and James Stevenson (3g, 2a), while Jordan Godsey has played every second in goal and owns a 1.25 GAA. Detroit is 6-6-0, but a perfect 3-0-0 in HL play, most recently defeating Wright State 2-0. Adam Bedell paces the Titans with eight goals and three assists, while Pat Lepera (4g, 1a) and Matt Harkema (3g, 1a) each have scored at least three times as well.
Crusaders Picked Third in Preseason Poll: Valparaiso picked up the most first-place votes of any Horizon League team en route to being chosen to finish in third place during the 2012 season, according to preseason polling of the league’s head coaches. The Crusaders earned three of the eight first-place votes. Only Wright State and Cleveland State were selected ahead of Valpo.
Looking Back at 2011: The Valparaiso men’s soccer team captured the university’s first Horizon League regular season championship in any sport, as well as the soccer program’s first conference title since 1998, by going 9-6-5 overall and 5-1-2 in Horizon League action. The Crusaders had seven players earn postseason accolades from the Horizon League and boasted the league’s Coach of the Year, Goalkeeper of the Year and Defensive Player of the Year.
Strong Defense: Under Avery’s direction, last year’s Crusader squad continued to be strong in the back, surrendering just 14 goals on the season to set a new program single-season record for fewest goals allowed. This year’s team has lived up to the task so far, giving up just 10 goals through the first 12 games. Valpo gave up more than one goal for the only time this year in a 2-1 loss at #9 UC Santa Barbara, something that has happened just eight times since the start of the 2010 campaign. In addition, since the beginning of that season, the Crusaders have surrendered more than two goals just once. As a team, Valpo ranks 24th nationally with a 0.76 GAA, while fifth-year senior goalkeeper Kyle Zobeck paces the Horizon League and sits 26th nationally with a 0.76 GAA of his own.
Fit to Be Tied: The Crusaders have come out with draws in four of their last five matches, including each of their last three fixtures. Valpo now has five draws on the season (3 0-0; 2 1-1), already matching last year’s team for the most ties in a single season in program history.
Fields of Dreams Uganda: Wednesday night marks Valpo’s first benefit match for Fields of Dreams Uganda, an organization which provides hope for the orphaned and vulnerable children of Uganda through the vehicles of soccer and education. The match will have no admission, with donations being accepted for the organization, while the charity will also be collecting soccer equipment (cleats, shinguards, soccer balls, equipment bags, etc.) and athletic apparel to utilize in Uganda.
Not For a Lack of Trying: It hasn’t been an absence of shot attempts that have kept the Crusaders from scoring more goals this season. Over its last ten games, when it has scored a total of three goals, Valpo has out-shot its opponents 148-91, including three times (WIU, WMU, Green Bay) registering at least 10 more shots than its opponent. In fact, over their last 25 matches dating back to last season, the Crusaders have been out-shot just once (UC Santa Barbara).
Off the Schneid: The Crusaders found the back of the net for the first time in six matches Oct. 6 against Green Bay, as Jaymie Bullard equalized in the 79th minute off a feed from Stipo Zeba. Prior to Bullard’s goal, his first of the season and fifth of his career, Valpo had gone over 610 minutes since its last goal. Junior Charles Barden then scored the first goal in Valpo’s draw with DePaul.
There’s Almost Always Drama: Close games are to be expected for the Crusaders as they enter the heart of Horizon League play. With the trio of draws in the last three games, 11 of 12 games this year have been ties or one-goal decisions, following a 2011 season in which 16 of 20 games were that tight. In fact, Valpo has now had 38 of 44 Horizon League contests end as one-goal decisions or draws since joining the HL prior to the 2007 campaign.