In a game played Wednesday night in driving rain at points, the Valparaiso men's soccer team made a pair of goals in the first 13 minutes stand up for a 2-1 victory in non-league play over Northern Illinois. The Crusaders extended their unbeaten streak to four games with the win.
The Crusaders put the pressure on right from the outset Wednesday evening, earning a trio of corner kicks within the first two minutes and forcing NIU goalkeeper Jordan Godsey to make two early saves. The push forward early paid off just nine minutes into the contest as Valpo cracked the scoreboard. Junior Jordan Aidoud (L'Isled'Abeau, France/CEFAM) controlled the ball just over the midfield line and played a ball along the ground that junior Charles Barden (Cedar Rapids, Iowa/Linn-Mar) ran onto. With a defender on him, Barden moved in to the top-left corner of the box and then took an off-balance shot with his left foot that found the back of the net, just inside the right post.
Valpo added another goal to its side of the ledger less than four minutes later. Still controlling the majority of the game, sophomore Nick Suker (Downers Grove, Ill./South) lined up a shot from distance that ricocheted off an NIU defender. The rebound bounced directly to sophomore Eric Nieto (Fort Lauderdale, Fla./Louisville Collegiate [Ky.] H.S.), who struck a hard shot of his own from 30 yards that eluded Godsey to put the Crusaders ahead 2-0.
The Crusaders would carry the 2-0 lead into halftime, a break which became extended as a heavy downpour near the end of the period turned into lightning and thunder. The sides would eventually come back out for the second half just shy of an hour after the end of the first period.
Northern Illinois (3-8-2) came out a strong competitor for Valpo in the second half, tallying nine shot attempts, including six on goal. The Huskies pulled a goal back in the 62nd minute, as Parker Thornton played in Matt Pritchard past the last defender and Pritchard finished from 15 yards out. Crusader goalkeeper Kyle Zobeck (Coralville, Iowa/Iowa City West) made five saves in the final 45 minutes to secure the win, including a extended effort in the air to deny Sean Totsch on a shot from distance in the 69th minute and a diving save in the 89th minute.
The Crusaders ended the night being out-shot for just the second time this year, as NIU finished with a 14-12 edge in the category. The Huskies placed eight shots on goal to Valpo's seven, while Zobeck ended the night with seven saves and Godsey five stops.
Valparaiso (2-6-5) returns to Horizon League play on Sunday afternoon at Detroit, as the Crusaders and Titans kick off at 2 p.m. CDT. Live stats for the fixture will be available at www.valpoathletics.com.