Valparaiso (5-7-5, 2-1-3 Horizon)
Saturday, November 3 - 7 p.m. - at Milwaukee (7-7-2, 1-3-2 Horizon)
This Week in Crusader Soccer: The Valparaiso men’s soccer team closes out the regular season on Saturday evening in a Horizon League matchup at Milwaukee. The Crusaders, who have already secured a spot in the league tournament, can clinch a top-four seed and a home game with a win or draw.
Previously: Valpo closed out October with wins in two of its final three games. The Crusaders ended the home slate with a 2-1 win in league play over Wright State before falling on an 89th minute goal at Michigan, 1-0. Last time out, a pair of goals by Jordan Aidoud helped lift Valpo to a 3-1 win over IPFW.
The Road Ahead: The 2012 Horizon League Championship begins on Tuesday, with the third and fourth seeds hosting the sixth and fifth seeds, respectively. Action then moves to the top overall seed’s campus for the semifinals (Friday) and championship (Sunday).
Following the Crusaders: Saturday night’s match will have live video available through the Horizon League Network. The link for the HLN video feed of the fixture against the Panthers, as well as live stats, will be available at www.valpoathletics.com.
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 43 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: Valpo is 3-2-2 all-time against Milwaukee, with six of those seven meetings coming since the Crusaders joined the Horizon League. Goals from Kevin Miller and Charles Barden lifted Valpo to a 2-0 win over the Panthers in their last meeting, at Brown Field on Oct. 22, 2011. Valpo is 1-0-1 against the Panthers in Milwaukee since joining the league, including most recently a 1-0 win in Milwaukee on Oct. 24, 2009.
Scouting the Opposition: Milwaukee owns a 7-7-2 record on the season, but is just 1-3-2 in Horizon League play and would need a win on Saturday to assure itself a berth in the league tournament. The Panthers have scored 21 goals on the year, led offensively by sophomore Laurie Bell (7g, 4a). In goal, John Shakon has seen the majority of the minutes and owns a 1.38 GAA.
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.
Senior CLASS Award: Goalkeeper Kyle Zobeck is one of 10 finalists nationwide for the Senior CLASS award, an annual award presented to a senior who has notable achievements in four areas of excellence – community, classroom, character and competition. Fans can vote for Zobeck through November 19 by visiting http://www.seniorclassaward.com/vote.
Academic Accolade: Junior Todd Vervynckt was named to the Capital One Academic All-District V team on Thursday, maknig him eligible for Academic All-American honors. Vervynckt owns a pair of goals, as well as two assists, on the season, while in the classroom, he carries a 3.97 cumulative GPA as a mechanical engineering major.
The League Race: The formula for the Crusaders is simple on Saturday. Win, and they would host a quarterfinal game on Tuesday as either the third or fourth seed (pending UIC’s Friday night result). Draw, and they would be the fourth seed and host. A loss, combined with a Wright State win, would knock Valpo down to the fifth seed and force it to go on the road for the first tournament game.
I Said Aidoud: Freshman Jordan Aidoud found the back of the net twice in the win over IPFW on Tuesday, the second multi-goal game of the season by the Crusaders. Aidoud now leads Valpo with four goals, the most by a Crusader freshman since current assistant coach Steve Shively scored four goals in 2006. Aidoud also owns three assists on the season, tied with fellow Frenchman Yannick Iwunze for team-high honors.
Wake Me Up When September Ends: Valpo was 1-0-1 in the month of August, but when the calendar flipped to September, the Crusaders were unable to win a match, going 0-6-1 during September. But since October 1, the results have fallen the Crusaders’ way, as Valpo matched its program record with a six-match unbeaten streak to start the month. While the streak was snapped with a late loss at Michigan, the Crusaders ended the month on a high note with a win at IPFW, ending October 4-1-3.
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 been nearly as proficient, giving up just 14 goals through the first 17 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 21st nationally with a 0.76 GAA, while fifth-year senior goalkeeper Kyle Zobeck paces the Horizon League and sits 19th nationally with a 0.76 GAA of his own.
There’s Almost Always Drama: Close games are to be expected for the Crusaders as they enter the heart of Horizon League play. Valpo’s 3-1 win at IPFW on Tuesday was just its third game decided by multiple goals this season, as now 14 of 17 games this year have been ties or one-goal decisions. In fact, Valpo has now had 39 of 46 Horizon League contests end as one-goal decisions or draws since joining the HL prior to the 2007 campaign.