It was another in a string of hot, humid nights on Brown Field for the Valparaiso University men’s soccer team’s home opener Monday evening, as the Crusaders hosted Loyola and the two sides battled to a 0-0, double-overtime draw.
“It’s always a very tough game with Loyola,” said Crusader head coach Mike Avery. “They’re a good team, their coaching staff is doing a great job, and so we knew coming in that we would have our work cut out for us.”
On an evening where shots in general were lacking for both squads, as each side only registered six total shot attempts, genuine scoring chances were few and far between. The Crusaders had a couple opportunities for breakaways in the first half. Sophomore Stian Sandbekkhaug (Ottawa, Ont./Frisco Liberty) was played in down the middle, but was then met by the Loyola goalkeeper at the top of the box in the 18th minute and could do nothing but put an effort straight into the goalie. Then, in the 27th minute, junior Isaiah Madrid (Albuquerque, N.M./Eldorado [Florida Gulf Coast]) had a shot on the break that he sent wide left.
Early on in the second half came perhaps the Crusaders’ best chance over the final 65 minutes, but junior Matthew Gweh (Apple Valley, Minn./Eastview [High Point]) had his shot stopped by Tim Dobrowolski in the 50th minute. Meanwhile, for the Ramblers, their best crack at a goal came in the 60th minute, as Fabian Lifka sent a header in the air in the box, and with it coming down near the goal line at a high-arcing, sharp angle, Crusader goalkeeper Nico Campbell (Kingston, Jamaica/St. George's College) was forced to punch it over the crossbar. Neither side could record a shot on goal in extra time as the game ended scoreless.
“I thought we were very good in the first half and created two of the best goal-scoring chances of the game,” said Avery. “In the second half, I felt we were a little bit ragged, and a lot of that probably had to do with the hot game we played at Western Illinois a couple days ago. I think by the end of the night, you saw both teams just staring at each other a little bit – this heat we've had, and which everybody's had to deal with, has taken its toll on the players a bit.”
Campbell made three saves to earn the clean sheet for the Crusaders. For Loyola (1-2-1), Andrew Chekadanov started in goal and played into the 27th minute, making one save, before being forced off due to injury. The backup Dobrowolski entered at that point and played the remaining 83 minutes, stopping three shots. Both sides tallied just two corner kicks apiece on Monday, and the battle saw each team called for 21 fouls.
"For us this early in the season, there was a lot that we took out as positives from tonight’s game,” said Avery. “We made it a point coming into the game that we wanted a shutout, and we got that. We had to shuffle some players around in the back due to injury and were able to get through that pretty well also.”
Valparaiso (1-2-1) enters its final tuneup before the start of Horizon League play Friday evening, as the Crusaders travel to IUPUI for a 6 p.m. CT kickoff.
“We're excited because we feel this team is closing in on turning a corner,” said Avery. “We have a lot of new players we’re trying to play, and it takes some time for that to gel. I think we're getting there, and definitely took some steps in that direction today.”