Valparaiso (2-1-2, 1-0-1 Horizon)
Crusaders continue four-match road trip
Wednesday, Sept. 21 - 6 p.m. CT - Columbus, Ohio - at Ohio State (2-5-0, 2-1-0 Big Ten)
Saturday, Sept. 24 – 6 p.m. CT – Cleveland, Ohio - at Cleveland State (4-3-0, 2-0-0 Horizon)
This Week in Crusader Soccer: The Valparaiso University men's soccer team continues a stretch of four consecutive road matches with two fixtures away from home this week. The Crusaders will briefly step out of league play to take on Big Ten foe Ohio State Wednesday evening before traveling to northeast Ohio to face Cleveland State in a key Horizon League contest.
Previously: Valpo claimed all three points on the road last Saturday night at Belmont, downing the Bruins 2-1 in Nashville. The two sides scored just seconds apart in the 59th minute before Ramone Howell found the back of the net in the 66th minute for the eventual match-winner.
Looking Ahead: Valpo concludes this stretch of road contests with a non-league matchup next Tuesday, Sept. 27, at Eastern Illinois before returning home to Brown Field on Saturday evening, Oct. 1, to host Oakland in Horizon League play. The game against the Golden Grizzlies will be the program's TOCO Night, and the Seniors in the Spotlight will be Kevin Fallet and Matthew Gweh.
Following the Crusaders: The Ohio State match will be broadcast live on BTN Plus and BTN2GO (paid subscription required), while the Cleveland State match will be broadcast live on ESPN3, WatchESPN and the ESPN app. Links for the live video for both matches, as well as live stats, will be available via ValpoAthletics.com.
Head Coach Mike Avery: In his 10th season at the helm of the Crusader men’s soccer program, Mike Avery owns 66 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 nine 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: Ohio State - The Crusaders are 0-4-2 all-time versus the Buckeyes, but have taken OSU to extra time in both matchups with Avery as head coach. 2010 saw Valpo fall 1-0 at #16 Ohio State, while in the last meeting in 2011, the Crusaders battled the Buckeyes to a scoreless draw.
Cleveland State - The Vikings hold an 11-6-3 advantage over the Crusaders in the all-time series, but since joining the Horizon League, it's Valpo with the 5-3-3 edge - including victories in each of the last three regular season meetings. Last season, the Crusaders prevailed 1-0 at Brown Field on Sept. 26, thanks to a 72nd-minute strike from Stian Sandbekkhaug. Nico Campbell made a pair of saves to earn the clean sheet.
Scouting the Opposition: Ohio State - The Buckeyes enter Wednesday night's match at 2-5-0 overall on the year, but are 2-1-0 so far in Big Ten play and are coming off a 3-1 home win on Sunday over Rutgers. Parker Siegfried has played every minute in goal for OSU and owns a 1.50 GAA, while four different Buckeyes have combined for the team's seven goals this season.
Cleveland State - The Vikings are 4-3-0 so far this season, with a mid-week match against Duquesne on the docket before meeting the Crusaders. CSU has earned victories in both of its Horizon League matches, winning at Belmont (2-1) and at Detroit (3-1). Five different Viking players have scored multiple goals this year, led by three goals from Hesham Hammouda, while in goal, Sebastian Kalk and Aleksandar Drobac have split time and combined to post a 1.11 GAA.
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.
Earning Points Early On: With Saturday's win at Belmont, the Crusaders own four points through two Horizon League matches, having earned results in each of their first two fixtures. The four points through two matches ties the most Valpo has earned in its first two league contests since joining the Horizon League, as the program also opened with four points through two games in 2009, 2011 and 2015.
Pair of Second Goals: Each of the Crusaders' goal-scorers at Belmont found the back of the net for the second time this season. Senior Nelson Landaverde struck first in the 59th minute, and junior Ramone Howell followed in the 66th minute with the match-winner. For Howell, it was the second match-winning goal of his career - both of which have come within Horizon League play.
Albuquerque Boys Doing Work: Both of the Crusaders' Albuquerque natives were instrumental in the goals against the Bruins. Deven Mason assisted on Landaverde's opening tally, picking up the first point of his Crusader career. Then, it was Isaiah Madrid picking up the assist on Howell's match-winner, his second assist of the season and fourth of his Valpo career. Madrid, who has also scored four goals this year to be involved in six of the Crusaders' eight goals, now owns 22 points in just 23 games in a Valpo uniform.
Weekly Honors: Just two weeks into the season, the Crusaders 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 Sept. 6 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.
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.