Valparaiso scored a goal in each half to end the 2012 regular season home slate on a high note, defeating Wright State Wednesday evening at Brown Field, 2-1, in Horizon League action. The win was the Crusaders' third consecutive win and sixth consecutive result, matching a program record for longest unbeaten streak.
“I am very proud of the guys tonight as they found a way to get the job done,” said Crusader head coach Mike Avery. “We had to manufacture the result to some degree, as we were missing a few of our regular first team players, but it gave us a chance to show off our depth and several players really took advantage of the opportunity. Jordan Lewis, Jordan Aidoud, Gerardo Avelar and Diego Calix are all examples of players who stepped up exactly when we needed them, and they were not alone. Wright State is always a tough opponent, and tonight was no different. The three points really help solidify our position in the league tournament, so this is a victory we feel very good about.”
The first half of the opening 45 minutes saw little pressure on either defense, as the game was being played mainly in the midfield. Then, in the 24th minute, the Crusaders capitalized on the first real chance of the game. Senior Kevin Miller (Jefferson City, Mo./Helias) sent a picture-perfect cross into the box from the left flank. Sophomore Nick Suker (Downers Grove, Ill./South) timed his run to the far post perfectly and met the ball, volleying it inside the right-hand post from close range for the game's first goal.
That would be the only shot on goal for either side in the first three quarters of an hour, as the teams combined for just seven shot attempts in the first half. The start of the second half was all Valpo, as the Crusaders earned four early corners and took the first six shots of the second period over a 25-minute stretch.
Finally, in the 71st minute, Valpo was able to put away an insurance goal thanks to a miscue by WSU goalkeeper Jacob Bye. Bye charged out of his box to clear a ball played in over the top, but his clearance only went a little over 20 yards and straight to the foot of freshman Jordan Aidoud (L'isled'Abeau, France/CEFAM). Aidoud took one touch and then took an uncontested strike from 35 yards which finished dead-center in the empty net for a 2-0 lead.
The insurance goal would prove key as the Raiders pushed forward with six shots and four corner kicks in the final 10 minutes. Fifth-year senior goalkeeper Kyle Zobeck (Coralville, Iowa/Iowa City West) came up huge, stopping a point-blank attempt from Justin Laird in the 82nd minute to keep it a two-goal game. Wright State found a consolation as the game neared time, as Albert Nilsson's corner bounced once in the box, eluding the Crusader defense, and Emeka Ononye put it away on the far side from five yards out. But coming with just 38 seconds left, it didn't provide the visitors enough time to put forward another attack, as Valpo came out with the three points on this night.
“The only disappointment is that we did not deliver the shutout to Kyle, because he had another amazing night,” said Avery. “There was a stretch in the final three minutes where Kyle put on an absolute goalkeeping clinic. At the end of the day, though, Kyle would be the first to say that the result for the team is more important than the shutout statistic.”
Valpo out-shot Wright State (3-11-1, 1-3-1 Horizon) on the night 13-9, while both sides put four shots on goal. Zobeck made three saves for the Crusaders, and Bye stopped two shots in goal for the Raiders. The physical contest saw 42 fouls called, 24 against the visitors.
Valparaiso (4-6-5, 2-1-3 Horizon) closes the regular season on the road for its last three matches, starting with a non-league contest at Michigan on Saturday afternoon at 1 p.m. CDT. Live stats for the match will be available at www.valpoathletics.com.
“We are excited to face another good opponent on Saturday when we travel to Michigan,” said Avery. “We have found a nice rhythm since the start of October, and this last game of the month will really put our form to the test.”