Valparaiso (6-6-5, 2-3-3 Horizon)
Crusaders set to conclude 2015 regular season
Friday, Nov. 6th – 7 p.m. – Brown Field –Green Bay (5-9-3, 2-4-2 Horizon)
This Week in Crusader Soccer: The Valparaiso University men’s soccer team looks to qualify for the Horizon League Championship as it faces league foe Green Bay on Friday night at Brown Field. This game is the last regular season match of the 2015 season, and will be the final home match for Crusader seniors Jordan Aidoud, Jorge Bermudez and Jacob Gandarilla. Valpo soccer scarves will be handed out to the first 150 students at the game Friday as well.
Previously: The Crusaders played a pair of league matches this past week, the first coming at home last Wednesday, where Valpo fell 1-0 to UIC. On Saturday, the Crusaders traveled to Rochester, Mich. to take on Oakland, which ended in a 2-1 loss in the first overtime period.
Following the Crusaders: Friday’s match will be broadcasted online via ESPN3, with live stats and a radio broadcast also available through ValpoAthletics.com.
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: Green Bay travels to Valpo with a 13-2-2 advantage in the all-time series since 1986. The last five matchups between the two sides have all been decided by one goal or fewer, with the last four all going into extra time.
Scouting the Opposition: Green Bay heads into Saturday’s action with a record of 2-4-2 in Horizon League play, coming off a 1-0 overtime loss against Cleveland State on Saturday. Four players have 12 goals split amongst them, led by Audi Jepson and Cheenuj Shong, who each own four goals. Kyle Ihn has played every game in goal but one for the Phoenix, with a 1.07 GAA and five shutouts.
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.
Win To Get In: While the Crusaders currently sit in seventh place in the Horizon League table with nine points entering the final game of the regular season, they still hold a chance in making the league tournament. Valpo, which is currently two points behind both Detroit and Cleveland State in the standings, must win its game against Green Bay and get some help with either Detroit or Cleveland State’s result to earn a berth in the tournament. The Crusaders could finish as high as the fifth seed.
Keck Joins Goal Scorers: One week after Adrian Graham scored his first goal of the 2015 season, Jacob Keck joined in scoring his first career goal last Saturday at Oakland. The sophomore scored early in the 20th minute off a strike from just outside the 18-yard box past Oakland’s goalkeeper. Keck became Valpo’s eighth different goal scorer this season.
Campbell Among the Best: Junior goalkeeper Nico Campbell enters Friday night’s matchup with a GAA of 0.80 on the season, which would be the second-best single-season mark in program history, just edging out his own 2014 campaign and Kyle Zobeck’s 2012 season (0.81). His seven shutouts this year are tied for second-most in a single year in program history as well. Nearing the end of his third season, Campbell owns 14 career clean sheets – tied for third-most in Valpo history – and a 0.84 career GAA, tops all-time by a Crusader.
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.