The Valparaiso University men’s soccer team struck first Saturday night at Oakland in search of a key three points in the Horizon League standings, but it would be the Golden Grizzlies to eventually come out on top, 2-1, as they scored less than one minute into extra time.
“Credit to Oakland. It was a hard fought game between two good teams, and it's somewhat fitting that one of their seniors found the overtime winner on Senior Night. Of course we are disappointed, but that shouldn't prevent us from being able to congratulate Oakland and their seniors,” head coach Mike Avery said after the game.
The Crusaders jumped out early to a 1-0 lead after sophomore Jacob Keck (Topeka, Kan./Hayden Catholic) scored his first career goal in the 20th minute of the first half. Making just his second career start, Keck struck a shot just outside the 18-yard box to the upper left of the keeper to put Valpo ahead.
Oakland answered back just four minutes later to tie it at 1-1, when Matt Dudley was able to put a shot from 15 yards out past Crusader goalkeeper Nico Campbell (Kingston, Jamaica/St. George’s College). In the first minute of overtime, Gerald Bed scored his fifth goal of the season on a rebound off of a free kick for the Golden Grizzlies, landing them the victory.
“I am very proud of my guys for tonight's performance,” said Avery. “We came into the game severely depleted or limited from a rash of injuries to our normal starting group, and we had to patch together a makeshift back four. With every little change you impact something else, so the team took a while to find its collective shape and attacking rhythm. But, the guys grew into it and really performed well.”
“What's most frustrating is that you were very close to the perfect road performance,” said Avery. “We played them level, absorbed pockets of pressure, and then created a perfect chance to take the three points on a breakaway with just minutes remaining in regulation. We let that chance slip and then they took theirs in overtime. Nico Campbell made a tremendous save and we didn't cover the rebound. It's a hard lesson and one that we can't afford at this stage of the season.”
Oakland (7-8-1, 4-3-1 Horizon) owned a 15-8 edge in shot attempts on the night, but the Crusaders were nearly level on shots on goal, putting seven on frame to the Golden Grizzlies’ nine. Campbell tallied six saves for the Crusaders, while his counterpart on the opposite end line, Eliott Tarney, also stopped six shots.
“We showed great fight and we will carry that into Friday night's finale,” said Avery. “We should have some regulars back for that game and we are excited for another chance to play.”
Valparaiso (6-6-5, 2-3-3 Horizon) will conclude the 2015 regular season next Friday night at 7 p.m. when they take on Green Bay at Brown Field. The game can be seen live on ESPN3.com, with live stats also available via ValpoAthletics.com.