Valparaiso (0-1-1, 0-0-0 MVC)
Crusaders to Compete in School’s First MVC Event on Friday
Friday, Sept. 1 - 7 p.m. CT – Chicago, Ill. - at Loyola (1-0-0, 0-0-0 MVC)
Sunday, Sept. 3 – 1 p.m. CT – Chicago, Ill. – at DePaul (0-2-0, 0-0-0 Big East)
This Week in Crusader Soccer: The Valparaiso University men’s soccer team will compete in two games in the Windy City this weekend as part of the Chicago Classic, starting with a Friday evening affair that will go down in University history. The Crusaders visit Loyola to open Missouri Valley Conference play, Valpo’s first Valley event in any sport since becoming a full-fledged member. After facing the defending regular season champion Ramblers on Friday night, Valpo will step back outside conference action for Sunday’s matinee at DePaul.
Previously: The Crusaders took a pair of Big Ten teams to overtime in the first week of the season, earning a road 1-1 draw at Michigan on Monday night after falling 2-1 to Northwestern on Friday. Valpo now has three wins and four draws against Big Ten competition over the last decade. Adan Garcia notched the first goal of his collegiate career on Friday, while Jordan James delivered his fourth career goal and first since Sept. 19, 2014 on Monday.
Following the Crusaders: Links to live video and stats of both matches will be available on ValpoAthletics.com. The Friday fixture will air on The Valley on ESPN3, while Sunday’s video will be courtesy of DePaul Athletics.
Conference Climb: Friday’s game marks another milestone as Valparaiso University officially begins its first season of competition in the Missouri Valley Conference. The University is in elite company among schools who have made two conference climbs in the last decade. Valpo moved from the Mid-Continent Conference to the Horizon League in 2007 and from the Horizon League to The Valley this year. Coincidentally, the University’s first Horizon League event was also men’s soccer against Loyola, then a member of the Horizon League, on Sept. 16, 2007. The Crusaders, then in their first season under Mike Avery, played to a 1-1 draw with the Ramblers at Toyota Park in Bridgeview.
Crusaders in Conference Openers: Valpo has not lost a conference opener since Sept. 23, 2010 at Milwaukee. During their 10 seasons in the Horizon League, the Crusaders won or tied nine of their 10 league openers.
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 is just two wins away from matching the program’s career victories record of 76 set by Mis’ Mrak (1991-2006).
Series Notes – Loyola: Valpo’s move to The Valley allows the team to renew a conference showdown with Loyola as the Crusaders and Ramblers were Horizon League foes from 2007-2012. The two teams have continued to meet in nonleague action for the last four seasons, so this will mark the 11th straight year the two sides have squared off. Valpo is 4-14-7 all-time against the Ramblers, a series that began in 1983. However, in recent years, this matchup has been incredibly tight. Six straight head-to-head matchups have gone to overtime, with Valpo holding a 1-1-4 record during that span. The Ramblers won last year’s season opener 3-2 in overtime, while Valpo’s most recent win came 1-0 in overtime at Brown Field in 2014. Loyola is the only team that has been on Valpo’s schedule every year since Avery took over in 2007.
Series Notes – DePaul: Valpo will face off with DePaul for the first time since 2012, renewing a matchup that dates back to 1984. Valpo stands at 7-11-4 all-time against the Blue Demons. The two squads tied 1-1 on Oct. 9, 2012 at DePaul. Valpo won the meeting prior to that 1-0 on Aug. 31, 2008.
Scouting the Opposition – Loyola: After winning the school’s first MVC regular season title in any sport in 2016, the Ramblers were picked to finish first in this year’s preseason poll. They retain seven starters from a team that went 14-4-1 (6-1-1 MVC) and earned the program’s first NCAA Tournament win. Alec Lasinski is their top returning scorer after he racked up seven goals and four assists a year ago. Senior Elliot Collier (five goals, two assists) is also poised to be an impact player. Grant Stoneman anchors the defense after achieving NSCAA All-America honors a year ago. Loyola’s defense posted a 0.58 goals against average last year, leading The Valley and ranking in the Top 10 in all of Division I men’s soccer. Stoneman was recently named to the watch list for the MAC Hermann Trophy, awarded to the top player in NCAA Division I soccer each year. Neil Jones is in his fifth season as Loyola head coach after spending three seasons as the associate head coach at Northwestern.
Scouting the Opposition – DePaul: The Blue Demons are looking to compensate for the losses of Simon Megally and Erik Rodriguez, who scored seven goals apiece to lead the team in 2016 but have since departed. Philipp Konigstein and Stijn van der Slot are both back after scoring three goals apiece last season. Goalkeeper Quentin Low is back for his senior season after posting a 1.02 GAA with 68 saves in 19 games in 2017. Last year, the Blue Demons captured four wins in five matches late in the year to secure a berth in the Big East Tournament for the second straight season. They played Villanova to a scoreless tie in the first round, but – much like the Crusaders – saw their 2016 season come to an end on penalty kicks. DePaul finished last year at 9-7-3, its best record since 2008. Head coach Craig Blazer is back for his 17th season.
Glowing Debut: The Valparaiso University men's soccer team has had no shortage of successful goalkeepers over the last 15 years, but Nacho Miras accomplished a feat no Crusader had reached since Aug. 31, 2001 on Friday night. Miras posted seven saves in the season opener at Northwestern, the most by a Valpo keeper in his first career start since Marc Cilfone made 10 at Bradley in 2001. Six goalkeepers have started for the Crusaders since that time, including the top three in program history in career goals against average. Miras' performance in goal helped the Crusaders reach overtime against quality Big Ten foe Northwestern in a match eventually won 2-1 by the Wildcats. Miras followed his opening act with five saves on Monday at Michigan and enters this weekend as one of 20 goalkeepers in the nation with 12 saves or more.
Looking Ahead: After this weekend’s action, the Crusaders will not take the pitch again until a visit to SIU Edwardsville on Saturday, Sept. 9. The Crusaders will not open up at home until Monday, Sept. 18 after six straight road fixtures to begin the campaign.
Fresh Faces: Last weekend marked 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 14 players depart, 12 of whom appeared in 12 games or more. Crusader fans will have to keep their roster handy as they watch a team that features 19 newcomers this year. Just five of Valpo’s 31 goals in 2016 were scored by players who are back in 2017. Of the 11 players who started Friday's season opener at Northwestern, only one started the 2016 season finale (Friday's goal scorer Adan Garcia). Five of the 11 starters and six players in total made their Valpo debuts in the match.
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 season. 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 13 total players born outside the United States. In addition, the following states are represented – Kansas, Ohio, Indiana, Texas, Missouri, Maryland, California, Illinois.
#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 sport 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.