Valparaiso (6-4-5, 2-1-3 Horizon)
Crusaders gear up for home and away matches this week
Wednesday, Oct. 28 – 7:30 p.m. – Brown Field – UIC (7-4-3, 4-0-2 Horizon)
Saturday, Oct. 31– 6 p.m. CT – Rochester, Mich. – at Oakland (6-7-1, 3-3-1 Horizon)
This Week in Crusader Soccer: The Valparaiso University men’s soccer team faces a pair of key Horizon League matches this week, starting off on Wednesday at home against UIC. Then on Halloween, the Crusaders will travel to Rochester, Mich. to take on Oakland. On Wednesday, the Crusaders will honor their final Senior in the Spotlight this season, recognizing senior Jordan Aidoud, while the match against the Flames will also serve as the team’s breast cancer awareness match. The first 100 students through the gates at Brown Field Wednesday will also receive Valpo soccer scarves.
Previously: The Crusaders returned home last Saturday night, where they played a tough evenly-matched game throughout against Belmont, resulting in a 1-1 draw. Adrian Graham scored his first goal of the season for the Crusaders in the 13th minute, while Nico Campbell made a season-high eight saves in goal.
Following the Crusaders: Wednesday's match will be broadcasted online via ESPN3, while both matches will have live stats available through ValpoAthletics.com. Wednesday’s match can be heard on WVUR as well. 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: UIC comes to Valpo with a 19-3-2 advantage in the all-time series since 1984. However, since joining the Horizon League, each of the seven matchups between the Flames and the Crusaders has been a one-goal game or a draw.
The Crusaders trail the all-time series with Oakland, which started in 1998, by a 7-3-3 margin. Last season, the sides battled to a 2-2 draw to close out the regular season at Brown Field. Nick Suker and Matthew Gweh scored goals for Valpo to twice pull back from a one-goal deficit.
Scouting the Opposition: UIC heads into Wednesday unbeaten in league play (4-0-2), coming off a 1-0 overtime victory against Oakland on Saturday. The Flames use a balanced attack offensively, as 10 different players have at least one goal on the year. Andrew Putna has played all 14 games in goal, earning six clean sheets and currently owning a 0.87 GAA.
Oakland enters the week with a league record of 3-3-1, and will face Michigan State in non-league action on Wednesday before Saturday’s match. Austin Ricci has scored six goals to this day, while Eliott Tarney has four clean sheets in his nine starts in goal on the year.
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.
Aidoud in the Spotlight: Senior Jordan Aidoud will be recognized prior to Wednesday night’s contest against UIC. A four-year member of the Crusader program, Aidoud has appeared in 69 career matches for the Brown and Gold, starting 44 times while recording 11 goals and seven assists. Aidoud has started in 14 games this season for Valpo, scoring a pair of goals.
A Look at the Standings: While the Crusaders currently sit in fifth place in the Horizon League table with nine points, Valpo has only played six games to date – matching the fewest league matches so far by any league team. Of the four teams in front of the Crusaders, they have two games in hand on Northern Kentucky (15) and Wright State (13 points), as well as one game in hand on Oakland (10). The only team in front of Valpo with the same number of matches played within Horizon League play is UIC, who the Crusaders face this week.
Inside the Rankings: Valpo remains inside the NSCAA Great Lakes Region rankings this week, coming in at #10. The Crusaders jumped into the regional rankings a month ago and have been in the poll ever since, moving up as high as #6 this year. The program reached new heights in the regional poll last season, when it peaked at #4.
Graham Joins Goal Scorers: Adrian Graham scored his first goal of the 2015 season last Saturday night to open the scoring in the Crusaders’ draw with Belmont. Graham, who picked up his second career goal, struck early in the 13th minute off assists from Matthew Gweh – who tallied his team-best third assist of the year – and Jacob Gandarilla. Graham became Valpo’s seventh different goal scorer this season.
Stingy Crusader Defense: The easiest way to earn results every time out is to keep the opponents off the scoreboard, and that’s exactly what goalkeeper Nico Campbell and the Valpo defense have done quite often this season. The Crusaders set program records earlier this year with five consecutive shutouts and 582 consecutive scoreless minutes. Valparaiso’s stingy defense and great play by Nico Campbell have led the Crusaders to seven clean sheets on the year and a top-20 ranking in the nation in GAA (0.72). Campbell, who is coming off a Belmont game where he made a season-high eight saves, has been named Defensive Player of the Week by the Horizon League twice this year, bringing the team total to three weekly defensive awards from the league.
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 Matthew 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.