Valparaiso (8-4-3, 3-2-2 Horizon)
Crusaders enter pivotal final stretch with three regular-season dates remaining
Saturday, Oct. 29 – 7 p.m. CT – Valparaiso, Ind. – vs. Northern Kentucky (1-11-4, 1-5-1 Horizon)
Monday, Oct. 31 - 3 p.m. CT – Valparaiso, Ind. – vs. IUPUI (1-13-1, 0-4 Summit)
This Week in Crusader Soccer: The Valparaiso University men's soccer team returns home for the first time in three weeks on Saturday to host league foe Northern Kentucky. Then, Valpo competes in the final nonleague fixture of the season on Monday afternoon, a match that will now begin at 3 p.m. at Brown Field.
Previously: The Crusaders last took the field on Saturday, Oct. 22 at UIC, losing a fast-paced showdown with the Flames 1-0. Valpo racked up 17 shots, its most in a league match since the Horizon League opener against Detroit on Sept. 10. Conversely, the Crusaders allowed 22 shots, the most by a Horizon League squad against Valpo this year.
Looking Ahead: After Monday’s matchup with IUPUI, the Crusaders have just one game remaining in the regular season. That match will take place on Friday, Nov. 4 at Brown Field as the Crusaders welcome in Wright State, which currently holds first place.
Following the Crusaders: Saturday’s match will be broadcast on ESPN3.com, WatchESPN and the ESPN app. The game can also be heard on WVUR (95.1 FM Valparaiso), Valpo’s student radio station. Jake Wulbert will provide play-by-play, with David Horak adding color commentary. Monday’s match will have audio only available via WVUR. Links to live video, audio and stats can be found on ValpoAthletics.com.
Head Coach Mike Avery: In his 10th season at the helm of the Crusader men’s soccer program, Mike Avery owns 72 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, most recently Jordan Aidoud in his native France.
Series Notes: Saturday’s match marks the second all-time meeting between Valpo and Northern Kentucky and the Norse’s first visit to Brown Field. The first showdown between the two squads occurred a year ago, when they played to a scoreless draw at NKU Soccer Stadium in Highland Heights. The Crusaders outshot the Norse 18-13 and held a 7-2 edge in shots on goal in that contest. While Valpo-Northern Kentucky is a relatively new matchup, the Crusaders and Jaguars will be hooking up for the 23rd time. Valpo holds a 14-7-1 all-time mark against IUPUI. The Crusaders have won three straight over the Jaguars, including a 2-1 overtime triumph last season behind a golden goal by Isaiah Madrid in the 107th minute. Matthew Gweh also scored in the match.
Scouting the Norse: Northern Kentucky’s team leader in goals is Campbell Morris, who has tallied three goals on the season. Kobie Qualah is the only other player with multiple goals, as he has scored twice. The squad leader in assists is Anders Mathiesen with two, while Morris leads the way in points with six. Freshman Owen Betz has taken over as the starting goalkeeper. Betz ranks second in the league in saves per game in Horizon League action at 5.25. Northern Kentucky will attempt to play the role of spoiler on Saturday night, as they have been mathematically eliminated from contention for a spot in the league tournament. Valpo’s two upcoming opponents faced off on Wednesday in Indianapolis as IUPUI hosted Northern Kentucky. The two teams played to a 1-1 draw. Northern Kentucky senior Alwin Komolong netted his first career goal to equalize in the 69th minute. Betz notched 10 saves, five of which came in overtime. The Norse racked up a season-high 23 shots in the draw. The Norse snapped a 17-match winless streak that dated back to last season with a 1-0 victory over Belmont on Oct. 15.
Scouting the Jaguars: IUPUI will clash with Fort Wayne on Friday night before trekking to Brown Field on Monday. The Jaguars snapped a spell of six straight defeats with the tie against Northern Kentucky. IUPUI enters Friday with a seven-match winless streak dating back to Sept. 28, a 2-0 triumph over Northern Illinois. The Jaguars have been outscored by their opponents 39-6 this season. They are led by Uriel Macias, who accounts for three of his team’s six goals. Goalkeeper Josh Gray leads the Summit League in saves with 64.
Tight Table: The Crusaders enter the final two conference matches of the year with 11 league points, tied with Cleveland State for fifth in the league. Valpo can take a major step toward locking up a Horizon League Tournament berth with a victory on Saturday. Depending on the results of Valpo’s final two matches and other Horizon League fixtures, the Crusaders could win the regular season title, miss the six-team tournament field or finish anywhere in between.
Campbell Continues Climb: Valpo senior goalkeeper Nico Campbell grabbed six saves in the 2-0 win over Fort Wayne last week, his highest total of the season. He now has 19 career shutouts, four shy of the program record. He ranks fourth in the Horizon League with 44 saves and second in goals against average at 1.06.
Academic Achievement: The Crusaders received good news this week as senior Suleiman Thomas was named to the CoSIDA Academic All-District V First Team. Thomas is now eligible for CoSIDA Academic All-American honors, which are scheduled to be announced on Friday, Nov. 18. Thomas, a business management major, owns a 3.90 grade point average. He becomes the third Valpo player to make the academic all-district team, joining Ryan Schwarz (2009-2010) and Todd Vervynckt (2012-2013).
Seniors in the Spotlight: The program will recognize five seniors prior to Saturday’s match against Northern Kentucky, rounding out the Seniors in the Spotlight series for this season. The senior members of the team’s Jamaica contingent will be recognized. Nico Campbell, Kendan Anderson, Adrian Graham, Okama Thompson and Omar Lawrence are all set to graduate after this season. Graham, Campbell and Lawrence all received playing time right away when they came to the Crusaders as freshmen and have remained stalwarts ever since. Thompson joined the fold before the 2015 season as a transfer from Cincinnati State, while Anderson has made an immediate impact with three game-winning goals in his first season as a Crusader after transferring from South Florida.
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.
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.