Valparaiso (0-0-0, 0-0-0 MVC)
Crusaders hit road to begin season against Big Ten foes
Friday, Aug. 25 - 7 p.m. CT – Evanston, Ill. - at Northwestern (0-0-0, 0-0-0 Big Ten)
Monday, Aug. 28 – 6 p.m. CT – Ann Arbor, Mich. – at Michigan (0-0-0, 0-0-0 Big Ten)
This Week in Crusader Soccer: The Valparaiso University men's soccer team lifts the lid on the 2017 season on Friday night as the Crusaders head to Evanston for a showdown with Northwestern. The matchup with the Wildcats marks the first in a string of six straight road matches to start the season, including back-to-back visits to Big Ten competition in a four-day, season-opening stretch.
Previously: Over the past week, the Crusaders competed in three exhibition matches, taking on Bowling Green, Fort Wayne and Notre Dame. Now, the outcomes start counting as the Crusaders hit the pitch for the regular season opener.
Following the Crusaders: Links to live stats of both matches will be available on ValpoAthletics.com. Friday’s fixture will have live video, subscription only, via BTN Plus on BTN2GO.
Head Coach Mike Avery: In his 11th season at the helm of the Crusader men’s soccer program, Mike Avery owns 74 career victories. Under Avery's guidance, the Crusaders have been a stellar defensive side, as eight of the top nine defensive seasons in program history have come during his tenure. Avery has led the Crusaders to a new standard in his time as head coach, as a program that had enjoyed just one winning season in the 24 years prior to his arrival has finished above the .500 mark in six of the last eight years. He has also seen numerous players go on to play professional soccer, including active pros Zev Taublieb, Kyle Zobeck, Stefan Antonijevic, Jordan Aidoud and Nico Campbell. Avery enters the season just two wins away from matching the program’s career victories record of 76 set by Mis’ Mrak (1991-2006).
For Starters: The Crusaders enter Friday’s match hoping to kick off the season on a winning note. Since 2008, Mike Avery’s second season, the Crusaders have won or tied seven of their nine season lid-lifters, with the only losses coming by one goal to No. 14 Kentucky in 2015 and in overtime to Loyola in 2016. A win on Friday would mark Valpo’s first in a season opener since 2011.
Valpo Against the Big Ten: The Crusaders have found success against Big Ten competition in years past, most recently in 2014, when Valpo pulled off a 1-0 upset at No. 7 Michigan State. They had also beaten a nationally-ranked Spartans side 2-1 in East Lansing the year prior. Valpo has faced at least one Big Ten foe in every season since Avery took over the program in 2007. During that time, Valpo has played 15 matches against Big Ten opposition, with the opposing team nationally-ranked in eight of those games. The Crusaders have picked up three wins and three draws and six of the nine losses have come by just one goal despite the vast majority of those matches taking place on the road.
Fresh Faces: This weekend marks the debut of a new-look Valpo roster, as the Crusaders have experienced extreme turnover after carrying a senior-laden team in 2016. Only 10 players return who saw game action a year ago, and four of those appeared in eight games or fewer. The Crusaders had 13 letter winners depart, 12 of whom played in 15 matches or more. Crusader fans will have to keep their roster handy as they watch a team that features 17 newcomers this year, 10 transfers and seven freshmen. Just five of Valpo’s 31 goals in 2016 were scored by players who are back in 2017.
Crusaders Picked Sixth in Preseason Poll: Valpo was picked to finish sixth of seven in a preseason poll of the conference’s head coaches. The Crusaders garnered 15 points in the poll, edging out Bradley (14) for sixth and narrowly behind fifth-place Drake (18). Defending regular season champion Loyola collected five of the seven first-place votes.
Howell Honored: Senior midfielder Ramone Howell represented Valpo on the 2017 Missouri Valley Conference Preseason All-Conference Team. Howell scored three goals and dished out two assists in 14 matches for the Crusaders a year ago. He totaled 33 shots, 14 of which were placed on goal. He is Valpo’s only returning player who scored more than one goal last season.
Looking Back at 2016: Last season, the Crusaders racked up 10 victories, matching the program record for wins in a single year. Following the campaign, they said goodbye to a deep and talented graduating class. Goalkeeper Nico Campbell finished with 22 career shutouts, one shy of a program record. Isaiah Madrid finished the season with 10 goals and 25 points, becoming just the sixth Valpo player to score double-figure goals in a single season and the first to reach 25 points in the last 25 years. Kendan Anderson turned the fastest hat trick in NCAA history on Oct. 31 against IUPUI, scoring three times in 1:21. The season ended as Milwaukee advanced on PKs following a first-round draw with Valpo in the Horizon League Tournament. Valpo was on the road 12 times, tying with two other Division I teams for the most road games, going 6-4-2 away from Brown Field. The team scored 31 goals, allowed 18 and notched seven shutouts.
Seasoned Staff: The Valparaiso men’s soccer coaching staff has the unique distinction of having four coaches (three assistants) with collegiate head coaching experience. Chris Pfau is in his first season as Valpo’s top assistant after spending the last six seasons as the head women’s coach at the University of Houston. Pfau has also guided women’s teams at Akron (2008-12) and Evansville (2005-06). Fourth-year assistant David Stroud was the head coach at St. Joseph’s College from 2011-13, while Brendan Roth spent the 2016 season in charge of Calumet College’s program. Valpo is the only team in The Valley with four individuals with head coaching experience on its staff.
Flying Many Flags: Head coach Mike Avery and his coaching staff have continued to pull from all over the world for players to comprise the Crusader men’s soccer squad. This year’s roster features players from 10 countries and 14 total players born outside the United States. In addition, the following states are represented – Kansas, Ohio, Indiana, Texas, Missouri, Maryland, California, Illinois.
Series Notes – Northwestern: The Crusaders own a 5-11 all-time record against the Wildcats in a series that goes back to 1985. Valpo is 3-3 against Northwestern since the turn of the century. The Crusaders dropped the most recent matchup 1-0 on Sept. 14, 2014 after winning the previous showdown 1-0 on Sept. 11, 2011. Chad Sult scored with 17 seconds remaining in regulation to provide Valpo with a thrilling victory in the 2011 game, which was held as part of the NIU Adidas Invitational.
Series Notes – Michigan: The Crusaders enter Monday’s match attempting to secure their first victory against the Wolverines, who have captured the first six head-to-head meetings. The two programs first squared off in 1989 and did so most recently in 2015. Since 2012, all three games between the two teams have been decided by just one goal. The Crusaders have held their own against a quality Michigan side, which was ranked 20th nationally at the time of the 2013 meeting.
Scouting the Opposition – Northwestern: The Wildcats are coming off a 6-11-1 season that saw them finish 3-4-1 in the Big Ten. Their year came to an end with a 1-0 overtime loss to Indiana in the Big Ten Championships in Bloomington. Three of the four Wildcats who scored multiple goals last season graduated, but Elo Ozumba (three goals, one assist) is back. Goalkeeper Francisco Tomasino returns for his senior season after posting a 1.58 GAA in 15 starts last year. Ozumba, Tomasino and fifth-year senior midfielder Rouven Wahfeldt all earned Big Ten preseason honors. Northwestern is under the direction of Tim Lenahan, who has been in charge of the program since 2001.
Scouting the Opposition – Michigan: The Wolverines are coming off a season in which they went 4-11-4 and 1-6-1 in Big Ten play. They defeated Rutgers in the first round of the conference tournament before suffering a 3-2 overtime loss to top-seeded Maryland. Francis Atuahene is back for his junior season after leading the team in goals (8), assists (4) and points (20) a year ago. Last year’s starting goalkeeper, Evan Louro, departed the team and signed with the New York Red Bulls II of the United Soccer League following his junior campaign.
#oneVALPO: The Crusader men’s soccer program will continue to promote its #oneVALPO campaign, which celebrates 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: Valpo will once again raise funds for They Often Cry Outreach (TOCO) this year. Throughout the 2017 season, the Crusaders will be working to raise money and awareness for TOCO’s work through sports with at risk children in the Caribbean and United States. As part of this effort, men’s soccer will be working with Valpo 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. The men’s soccer team will hold a TOCO match on Saturday, Sept. 23 against Central Arkansas.
Connection Corner: Valpo’s Michael Marchionna and Northwestern’s Sean Lynch both hail from Naperville, Ill., though Lynch attended Waubonsie Valley High School while Marchionna graduated from Naperville Central… Northwestern’s Elo Ozumba and Valpo’s Dylan Waugaman both hail from Houston, Texas… Former Valpo assistant coach Jeff Oleck went on to serve in the same capacity at Northwestern following his stint with the Crusaders. He left Northwestern prior to the 2016 season to become the Director of Goalkeepers for the Colorado Storm.
Looking Ahead: After two nonconference games to kick off the campaign, the Crusaders will be a part of University history next week as they compete in Valpo’s first Missouri Valley Conference athletic event as a full-fledged member of the conference. The Crusaders will be thrown right into the fire, as they visit Valley men’s soccer powerhouse Loyola, which won the regular season title and received an at-large berth in the NCAA Tournament a year ago.