The Valparaiso men's soccer team closed out the 2012 regular season on Saturday evening in Milwaukee, Wis., falling to Milwaukee by a 2-1 final. The Crusaders will open the Horizon League Championship as the fourth seed in a re-match with the Panthers at Brown Field on Tuesday.
“Congratulations to Milwaukee – they knew that they had to win to get in the tournament, and they played with the appropriate energy to do that,” said Crusader head coach Mike Avery. “They were certainly more aggressive than we were to start the game. We had a couple chances against the run of play, but the first half was really all them.”
The Panthers cracked the scoreboard first late in the first half, enabling them to take a 1-0 lead into the locker room. In the 38th minute, Laurie Bell took a free kick deep in Valpo territory from the right sideline and sent it into the middle of the box. Kyle Neumann got up and headed the ball inside the right-hand post to give Milwaukee the advantage.
Milwaukee struck again early in the second half to go ahead by two, as Bell headed in a goal from the top of the box following a service from Lucas Davey. Valpo, which owned a 12-4 shot advantage in the second half, had a number of chances, hitting a crossbar in the 64th minute and then pulling a goal back in the 74th minute on a penalty kick from Todd Vervynckt (Plymouth, Ind./Plymouth), as the junior placed the spot kick in the lower-right corner. The Crusaders had a pair of corner kicks and a trio of shots in the final six minutes looking for the equalizer, but couldn't find the back of the net.
“We started to get back into the game in the second half,” said Avery. “Milwaukee scored a nice goal to go up 2-0, but I'm proud of our guys and the way they responded. We didn't give up, and really played our best down 2-0. We were able to pull one back and had a lot of other good chances to tie the game. The good news is that we get another chance at Milwaukee pretty quickly, so we'll use this and prepare ourselves as well as we can for Tuesday.”
Valpo ended the night with a 16-9 advantage in shots on Milwaukee (8-7-2, 2-3-2 Horizon), and put six shots on goal to the Panthers' five. Kyle Zobeck (Coralville, Iowa/Iowa City West) stopped three shots for the Crusaders, while John Shakon made five saves in goal for Milwaukee.
Valparaiso (5-8-5, 2-2-3 Horizon) hosts the Panthers at Brown Field on Tuesday at a game time to be announced in a Horizon League Championship quarterfinal. The two sides previously met at Brown Field in the league tournament back in 2009 in a Crusader victory.