Valparaiso (6-3-4, 2-1-2 Horizon)
Crusaders set to travel to Michigan for their last non-league matchup
Monday, Oct. 18 – 6:30 p.m. CT – Ann Arbor, Mich. – at Michigan (6-3-3, 2-1-2 Big Ten)
This Week in Crusader Soccer: The Valparaiso University men’s soccer team concludes its five-match road trip on Monday, as they head north to take on Big Ten foe Michigan. The match is the Crusaders’ last before four consecutive Horizon League fixtures to close the regular season.
Previously: The Crusaders earned two results this past week with both games ending in draws. Valpo tied 1-1 on the road against #23 New Mexico after \Matthew Gweh was able to force the game into extra time with a goal in the 86th minute. On Saturday, the Crusaders earned a point in the Horizon League standings as they drew 0-0 at Northern Kentucky.
Following the Crusaders: Monday’s matchup at Michigan will have a video broadcast online through subscription at BTN2Go.com. A link for the live stats will also 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: The Crusaders are looking for their first win in program history against the Wolverines (0-5-0) since the series started in 1989. The last meeting came on November 4th, 2013, when #20 Michigan won 1-0 in Ann Arbor on a penalty kick in the 27th minute.
Scouting the Opposition: Michigan heads into Monday’s matchup with a record of 6-3-3 and 2-1-2 inside the Big Ten. In their last outing, the Wolverines picked up a 3-0 home win over Duquesne, as Colin McAtee had a pair of goals. Francis Atuahene leads the team in goals, having scored nine entering Monday’s match. Evan Louro has started at goalkeeper for all of Michigan’s 12 games thus far and has a goals against average of 0.86 this season, helping him pick up four clean sheets.
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.
Earning Results: While Valpo suffered defeat out at Wright State to end its eight-match streak of earning a result, the Crusaders are back at it, starting a new streak after picking up two ties this past week. The Crusaders went without a loss through the month of September and beyond, setting a program record eight-match unbeaten streak in the process. The side also tied program bests for consecutive victories (four) and clean sheets (five). Valpo has earned a result in 10 of its last 11 matches.
Gweh Goes For Goal: On a homecoming night for a trio of Crusader starters, as well as assistant coach Kelly Altman, it was junior Matthew Gweh who came up big Wednesday night at #23 New Mexico. Nearly 1,000 miles from his hometown of Apple Valley, Minn., Gweh headed home a cross from hometown boy Isaiah Madrid in the 86th minute to level the match in an eventual 1-1 draw. Gweh now owns six career goals in 23 matches as a Crusader, including three this season.
Inside the Rankings: Valpo remained inside the NSCAA Great Lakes Region rankings last week, coming in at #8. The Crusaders broke into the poll at #8 in the regional rankings two weeks ago, and moved up in last week’s rankings to #6. The program reached new heights in the regional poll last season, when it peaked at #4. Monday’s opponent, Michigan, came in last week at #7 in the Midwest Region rankings.
Defense Wins: The easiest way to earn results every time out is to keep the opponents off the scoreboard. That’s exactly what goalkeeper Nico Campbell and the Valpo defense have done this season. The Crusaders matched a program record with a streak of five consecutive games without letting up a goal and set a record in extending their scoreless streak to 582 minutes before Wright State found the back of the net three matches ago. Valparaiso’s stingy defense and great play by Nico Campbell has led the Crusaders to seven clean sheets on the year, most recently a scoreless draw at Northern Kentucky last time out. Campbell’s seven shutouts are already tied for second-most by a goalkeeper in a single season in Valpo history.
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 earlier this season. The Crusaders went on the road to #18 Western Michigan on Sept. 23 and won 2-0, and then less than a week later, hosted #23 Omaha and won 1-0 on an Andrew 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. The Crusaders recently added a draw to the mix, after Gweh scored in the 86th minute to tie the game 1-1 and force extra time on the road against #23 New Mexico. Valpo, now owns four wins over nationally-ranked sides in the last three years, and under Avery, the Crusaders have surrendered just 27 goals in 22 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.