Valparaiso (1-1-1, 0-0-0 Horizon)
Crusaders open Horizon League play on Saturday
Saturday, Sept. 10 – 2 p.m. – Brown Field - Detroit (0-2-2, 0-0-0 Horizon)
This Week in Crusader Soccer: The Valparaiso University men’s soccer team will open Horizon League play Saturday afternoon, hosting Detroit at Brown Field. The Crusaders will continue their tradition of honoring Seniors in the Spotlight before each home match this season, with Suleiman Thomas set to be honored on Saturday.
Previously: Valpo opened the home slate on a victorious note last Sunday, downing former Mid-Con rival Western Illinois at Brown Field by a 3-1 final. Isaiah Madrid scored a pair of goals, including the match-winner, while Nelson Landaverde found the back of the net with an insurance goal as well as the Crusaders earned just their third multi-goal win over WIU in program history.\
Looking Ahead: After Saturday, the Crusaders will not return home to Brown Field until October 1, as their next four games are away from home. The stretch starts with a Horizon League contest next Saturday afternoon, the 17th, at Belmont.
Following the Crusaders: Saturday's game will be broadcast live online exclusively at ValpoAthletics.com, with live stats also available.
Head Coach Mike Avery: In his 10th season at the helm of the Crusader men’s soccer program, Mike Avery owns 65 career victories. Under Avery's guidance, the Crusaders have been a stellar defensive side, posting eight of the top-10 defensive seasons in program history over the first eight seasons and earning five league Goalkeeper of the Year accolades. Avery has led the Crusaders to a new standard in his time as head coach, as a program which had enjoyed just one winning season in the 24 years prior to his arrival has finished above the .500 mark five of the last seven years. He has also seen numerous players go on to play professional soccer, including most recently Jordan Aidoud in his native France.
Series Notes: Valpo holds a slight 10-9-1 advantage in the all-time series over Detroit, but since joining the Horizon League prior to the 2007 season, the Crusaders have dominated the series with a 7-1-1 record. Last season, the two sides also met in the league opener, dueling to a 0-0 draw at Detroit in mid-September.
Scouting the Opposition: Detroit enters Saturday's fixture with an 0-2-2 record this season and will be playing its fifth consecutive road game to open the 2016 campaign. The Titans posted a record of 7-5-8 last year, including a remarkable 3-1-5 mark in Horizon League play.
Crusaders Picked Fourth in Preseason Poll: Valpo has been picked to finish fourth in the Horizon League in 2016, according to preseason polling of the league’s head coaches. The Crusaders did pick up three first-place votes, matching the most of any team in the league. Valpo totaled 60 points in the polling, including its three first-place nods, to finish in fourth place, just three points behind UIC (one first-place vote). Oakland and Wright State each received three first-place votes and tied atop the preseason poll with 73 points.
Looking Back at 2015: Last season, the Crusaders posted a 7-6-5 record - one which included a 2-1-1 mark against sides ranked in the top-25 nationally, the first time in program history the team had defeated multiple top-25 programs in the same season. Nico Campbell was tabbed the league's Goalkeeper of the Year, while Omar Lawrence and Isaiah Madrid both earned NSCAA Third Team All-Region honors.
Senior in the Spotlight: As has become the program's tradition, the Crusaders will honor their senior class throughout the season, as each game will have one or multiple Senior(s) in the Spotlight. Saturday's honoree will be senior forward Suleiman Thomas. Thomas served primarily as a reserve forward his first three seasons, scoring the first two goals of his career last year as a junior in league play versus Wright State and Green Bay. An Academic All-League honoree, Thomas has been a member of the starting XI in each of the first three matches of his final season.
Crusaders Working With TOCO: Each home game, the Senior in the Spotlight shirts that are tossed out to fans will feature the logo of They Often Cry Outreach (TOCO). Throughout the 2016 season, the Crusaders will be working to raise money and awareness for TOCO’s work through sport with at risk children in the Caribbean and United States. As part of this effort, men’s soccer will be working with Valpo women’s volleyball to fund a future international service trip, bringing the student-athletes of these two teams to the Caribbean to get on the ground with TOCO and work directly with children the charity supports. October 1st will be the annual TOCO benefit game, and following the match, men’s soccer will be auctioning off special blue charity jerseys, blue representing the island of St Lucia – the home base of TOCO. All proceeds will go towards TOCO and the service trip.
Early Start to League Play: If it seems like Horizon League play is getting underway early on in the 2016 season, you're not mistaken. The Horizon League adjusted its men's soccer schedule this year to mirror the Big Ten men's soccer schedule, playing one league game per weekend over the final nine weekends of the regular season. The Sept. 10 league opener is the second-earliest in program history, with the only earlier opener coming back in 2013 - Oakland had joined the Horizon League heading into that year, but the Crusaders were already scheduled to take on the Grizzlies on Sept. 6 that season, so that fixture became the league matchup for the two squads.
Madrid Braces For Success: Senior Isaiah Madrid could top the NCAA scoring charts if he got to face Western Illinois every time out. Last season, he posted his first multi-goal game as a Crusader in the win at WIU. Then, on Sunday, he struck again with another brace against the Leathernecks, opening the scoring in the 10th minute before recording the eventual match-winner in the 58th minute of play. In 21 games in the Crusader uniform, Madrid now owns eight goals and 19 points.
A Couple of Firsts: Senior Nelson Landaverde recorded his first goal as a member of the Valpo program on Sunday, connecting on a free kick for an insurance tally in the 82nd minute in the win over the Leathernecks. Meanwhile, freshman Steffen Pulinx - playing in just his third career game - recorded the first assist of his Crusader career, as he picked up the helper on Madrid's match-winner.
Weekly Honors: Just two weeks into the season, the Crusaders have earned their first weekly award from the Horizon League office, as senior Nico Campbell was named the league's Defensive Player of the Week on Tuesday following his work over the previous two games. Campbell combined with his defense to shut out MVC preseason favorite SIUE despite being on the road and playing down a man for the final 50 minutes, and then surrendered just one goal in the win over Western Illinois. For Campbell, it was the fourth Horizon League weekly award of his career.
Road Warriors: This year’s Crusader side will have plenty of time for team bonding as they travel on the road early on in the season, as six of Valpo’s first eight contests are away from home. In all this year, Valpo will play 11 road matches versus just seven home matches, including two separate stints of four straight road games.
An Experienced Side: Nine of last season’s 11 starters return for the Crusaders in 2016, while in all 15 players are back from last year’s squad. Valpo surely ranks among the nation’s oldest teams, as the squad features a total of 13 seniors.
Flying Many Flags: Head coach Mike Avery and his coaching staff pull from all over the world for players to comprise the Crusader men’s soccer squad. The 2016 Valpo side features 19 international-born players from 12 different countries. Leading the way is the contingent from Jamaica, as Valpo counts seven Jamaicans on its roster for the 2016 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.