Valparaiso (6-2-2, 2-0-1 Horizon)
Crusaders look to extend winning streak Saturday night
Saturday, Oct. 10 – 6:00 p.m. CT – Dayton, Ohio. – at Wright State (6-3-1, 1-2-1 Horizon)
This Week in Crusader Soccer: Coming off of yet another shutout victory, the Valparaiso University men’s soccer team puts its program-record unbeaten streak on the line as it travels to Wright State for a Horizon League matchup Saturday night. With a win, the Crusaders – who moved up to sixth this week in the NSCAA Great Lakes Region poll – would also set a new program record with five consecutive victories.
Previously: Valpo picked up a big league win last Saturday night on the road, winning at Milwaukee by a 1-0 final. With the win, the Crusaders prolonged their program-record unbeaten streak to eight straight matches and matched a team best with five consecutive clean sheets. Isaiah Madrid scored the eventual match-winner in the 82nd minute.
Following the Crusaders: This weekend’s match at Wright State will be broadcasted online via ESPN3.com, and live stats will be available through ValpoAthletics.com. Over the course of the 2015 season, five home matches, as well as at least five road matches, will be broadcast live on ESPN3.com, while WVUR, Valpo’s student radio station, will also be broadcasting select matches.
Head Coach Mike Avery: In his ninth season at the helm of the Valpo men’s soccer program, Mike Avery owns 63 career wins. The 2011 Horizon Coach of the Year led the Crusaders to their first-ever conference title in the same season and has posted eight of the top-10 defensive seasons in program history over his first eight seasons. The third coach in Valpo’s history, he owns the best winning percentage and second-most wins in program history. He has coached four Goalkeeper of the Year honorees during that stretch, and has seen a number of players go on to play professional soccer – most recently, Zev Taublieb from last year’s squad, who currently plays for Wilmington Hammerheads of the United Soccer League.
Series Notes: Saturday’s matchup with the Raiders is the 14th in the all-time series between the two sides, as Wright State leads 9-4-0. In their meeting last season at Brown Field, Valpo won in comeback fashion, scoring a season-high five goals in the second half after being down 2-0. Jordan Aidoud scored the first two goals for the Crusaders, while Zev Taublieb scored the match-winner and Stian Sandbekkhaug added the final two goals.
Scouting the Opposition: Wright State enters Saturday night with a 6-3-1 overall record on the season, but sits behind the Crusaders in Horizon League play so far with a 1-2-1 mark, winning at Cleveland State and drawing with Green Bay. Peguy Ngatcha leads the Raiders on the year with twelve points (5g, 2a). As a team, WSU has scored fifteen goals on the season while giving up just seven in the first ten games.
Crusaders Picked Second in Preseason Poll: Valpo has been picked to finish in second place in the Horizon League in 2015, according to preseason polling of the league’s head coaches. The Crusaders totaled 64 points in the polling and received two first-place votes to earn the second spot in the preseason rankings, trailing only Oakland, which picked up five first-place nods and 75 points. Valpo edged out Wright State (63 points, two first-place votes) for the second spot, while Milwaukee was picked fourth and received the remaining vote for the top spot.
Looking Back at 2014: Last season saw the Crusaders enjoy a number of program firsts. For the first time, Valpo was ranked in national top-25 polls (Top Drawer Soccer, #25; Soccer America, #22) and received votes in the NSCAA top-25 poll for the first time as well. The Crusaders also earned their highest ranking within the NSCAA Great Lakes Region poll (fourth) and reached as high as #9 in the NCAA’s RPI ratings, a program high. Early in the season, Valpo went into East Lansing, Mich. and downed Michigan State for a second straight season – the win over the #7 Spartans marked the highest-ranked opponent the Crusaders have ever defeated. At season’s end, Omar Lawrence was named an NSCAA All-Great Lakes Region honoree, while during the year, Jordan Aidoud, Zev Taublieb and Lawrence all earned spots on various national Teams of the Week.
Madrid When it Matters: Junior Isaiah Madrid continues to rise to the occasion when the Crusaders need a goal. The transfer from Florida Gulf Coast leads the team in shots on goal and goals, scoring his fifth goal of the season on Saturday in Milwaukee. Madrid has knocked in four game-winning goals this season among his five goals, just one behind the nation’s leader in the category.
Gaining Results Every Time Out: The Crusaders completed a perfect month of September, and have extended that into the month of October. Valpo is currently riding a program-record eight-game unbeaten streak, with the Crusaders’ last loss coming way back on Aug. 31. In addition, this year’s side has matched the program record for most consecutive victories with four straight wins, previously accomplished in 1997 and 2011, and would set a new record with a win on Saturday.
Moving Up in the Rankings: Valpo moved up two spots in the NSCAA Great Lakes Region rankings earlier this week. The Crusaders broke into last week’s poll at #8 in the regional rankings, which were voted on prior to the team’s win over Omaha. This week’s most recent rankings have the Crusaders up to #6. The program reached new heights in the regional poll last season, when it peaked at #4.
Zeros For the Opposition: The easiest way to earn results every time out, as the Crusaders have recently? Keep the opponents off the scoreboard. That’s exactly what goalkeeper Nico Campbell and the Valpo defense have done the last five times they’ve taken the field, posting clean sheets in each of the Crusaders’ last five games – including two against nationally-ranked sides and three against league foes. During this stretch, Valpo has allowed just 16 shots on goal, all of which Campbell has saved. The five consecutive shutouts ties a program record, set in October of 2011, while the defense’s scoreless streak now stands at 552 minutes, six minutes shy of the record.
Defensive Honors: The home win over ranked Omaha and road win in league play over Milwaukee last week earned Crusader defender Omar Lawrence league honors. The center back won his second career Horizon League Defensive Player of the Week award after helping the Crusaders pick up two shutout victories. It was the second straight week a Valpo player took home the league’s weekly defensive award, as Nico Campbell picked it up the previous week.
Taking Down the Top 25: Maybe it was a sign of things to come in the preseason when Valpo knocked off then-#14 Indiana. Competing with the nation’s best teams has been a regular occurrence for the Crusaders under Mike Avery, but Valpo has never taken it to the level it did last week. The Crusaders went on the road to #18 Western Michigan on Sept. 23 and won 2-1, dealing the Broncos their first loss of the season. Then, last week, Valpo hosted #23 Omaha and won 1-0 on the Avram golden goal. Not only was it two wins in the same week over top-25 foes, it was the first time in Crusader program history they’ve defeated multiple nationally-ranked teams in the same season. Valpo now owns four wins over nationally-ranked sides in the last three years, and under Avery, the Crusaders have surrendered just 26 goals in 21 games versus top-25 teams – including five clean sheets.
Academic Awards Abound: The Valparaiso University men’s soccer program has been a true epitome of the athletic department’s mission statement, “Champions in Competition, Classroom and Community” over the years, and the academic portion continued this week. The Crusaders, for the 13th consecutive year, were awarded the NSCAA Team Academic Award for maintaining a team GPA above 3.00 last season. The stretch of 13 straight years earning the award from the NSCAA is the third-longest in the nation, as only Carleton College and Penn have earned the honor more years in a row.
Valuable Experience: Junior goalkeeper Nico Campbell and sophomore midfielder Ramone Howell both were part of Jamaica’s u23 setup this summer, trying to help the side qualify for the 2016 Olympic Games. Both Campbell and Howell went to the u23 National Team camp in March and helped Jamaica advance from the June stage of Caribbean Zone qualifying, with Campbell starting every game in goal. The Reggae Boyz u23 side ended up falling just one game short of qualifying in August for the final stage of CONCACAF Olympic Qualifying.
Flying Many Flags: As has become customary, head coach Mike Avery and his coaching staff have pulled from all over the world for players to comprise the Crusader men’s soccer squad. Beyond the borders of the United States, this year’s Valpo side boasts players hailing from a total of 13 different birth countries. Leading the way is the contingent from Jamaica, as Valpo counts six Jamaicans on its roster for the 2015 campaign.
#oneVALPO: The Crusader men’s soccer program will continue to promote its #oneVALPO campaign, a campaign started last year to celebrate diversity, via social and digital media and at its games. For more information, go to the #oneValpo Facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/oneVALPO.