Valparaiso (3-2-2, 2-0-1 Horizon)
Crusaders conclude road trip, look to continue league success
Tuesday, Sept. 27 - 3 p.m. - Charleston, Ill. - at Eastern Illinois (2-5-1, 0-1-0 Summit)
Saturday, Oct. 1 – 7 p.m. – Brown Field - Oakland (4-4-0, 3-0-0 Horizon)
This Week in Crusader Soccer: The Valparaiso University men's soccer team closes out a four-match road trip with a non-league match Tuesday at Eastern Illinois before returning home to Brown Field Saturday night to host Oakland in Horizon League play. The match against the Golden Grizzlies will be the program's TOCO benefit match, with the program collecting donations at the gate and throughout the game and wearing special blue charity kits which will be auctioned off after the match.
Previously: Valpo split a pair of matches last week, falling at Ohio State mid-week, 4-1, before rebounding in Horizon League play to win at Cleveland State, 2-1. Matthew Gweh posted a goal and an assist in the win over the Vikings.
Looking Ahead: Valpo plays a pair of matches next week, stepping out of league play once again next Monday night at Omaha before returning to Brown Field on Saturday night, Oct. 8, to take on Milwaukee.
Following the Crusaders: Both matches this week will have live stats available via ValpoAthletics.com, while Saturday's match will also be broadcast on Valpo's student radio station, WVUR (95.1 FM, Valparaiso).
Head Coach Mike Avery: In his 10th season at the helm of the Crusader men’s soccer program, Mike Avery owns 67 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: Eastern Illinois - EIU holds a 10-4-1 advantage in the all-time series over Valpo, but the Crusaders have won the last three meetings. The last matchup came on Brown Field late in the 2010 season, a 2-0 Crusader victory.
Oakland - Valpo is just 3-8-3 all-time against the Golden Grizzlies. Since Oakland joined the Horizon League prior to the 2013 season, the two sides have played to two draws and two one-goal Oakland victories. Last season saw the Golden Grizzlies win 2-1 in extra time in Rochester, Mich.
Scouting the Opposition: Eastern Illinois - The Panthers enter Tuesday afternoon's match with a 2-5-1 record on the season, most recently falling at Oral Roberts, 3-2. Valpo will be EIU's fifth Horizon League opponent of the season, with the Panthers owning a 1-2-1 mark in their first four such matches. Nine different players have combined for the Panthers' 10 goals, while Mike Novotny has seen the majority of time in goal, posting a 1.28 GAA.
Oakland - The Golden Grizzlies enter Saturday night with a 4-4-0 record and are the only Horizon League squad ahead of the Crusaders in the league table, posting wins in each of their first three league contests. Chase Jabbori owns a team-high three goals on the season, while Zach Walker and Liam McQueenie have split time in goal, surrendering 11 goals in their first eight matches.
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.
Seniors in the Spotlight: This Saturday, the Crusaders will continue their Seniors in the Spotlight program, honoring Kevin Fallet and Matthew Gweh. Both Fallet and Gweh transferred in to the Valpo program from other D-I schools and have made an impact as Crusaders. Fallet has made 22 appearances in his two years at Valpo, making 16 starts on the back line for the Crusaders. Gweh has made 35 appearances and 27 starts, including starting each of Valpo's first seven matches this season, and owns seven goals and four assists in his time as a Crusader - including the match-winning goal and an assist last time out.
Picking Up Road Victories: The Crusaders made it six points from two Horizon League road matches Saturday evening with their win at Cleveland State. The back-to-back road wins were the program's first within league play since earning road wins at Wright State and at Loyola as part of the Crusaders' 2011 regular season championship. With six points from the last two matches, Valpo now owns seven points through three league matches, tying its highest output through three fixtures since joining the Horizon League (2011 & 2015).
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. This Saturday's match 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.