The debut of Valparaiso University athletics in the Missouri Valley Conference couldn’t have been scripted much better than the way it unfolded for the men’s soccer team on Friday night in Chicago. Playing in the first MVC event in any sport since the University became a full-fledged member, the Crusaders announced their arrival in The Valley by dethroning defending regular season champion Loyola 2-1 on Friday night. The victory came in dramatic fashion, with the game-winning goal occurring in the 88th minute.
Jordan James (Hellshire, Jamaica / Wolmer’s Boys School) delivered a low cross to Jake Pesek (St. Louis, Mo. / Chaminade), who directed it in from the edge of the six. The goal by the redshirt sophomore was the game-winner in the 88th minute of a dramatic match between a pair of renewed conference foes.
How It Happened
- The first goal of the match came in the 47th minute when Rafael Mentzingen (Rio de Janeiro, Brazil / Bryan) ripped off a screamer from 30 yards, beating the keeper near post.
- The Ramblers responded with a Ryan Walker goal in the 68th minute. Tyler Biggs assisted on a cross, deflected by the keeper with Walker finishing into an open net.
- The Crusaders (1-1-1) may have felt a hint of déjà vu, as they surrendered 1-0 second-half leads in each of the first two matches of the season. However, this time Valpo found a way to bounce back and come home with their first victory of the season.
- Nacho Miras (Ubeda, Spain / Nuestra Semora del Pilar) notched a great save in the 76th minute on a shot by Aidan Megally. He also recorded a highlight-reel save in the first half to keep the match scoreless.
- Neither team scored in the first half, but the Crusaders put the pressure on early, necessitating a pair of saves by Aidan Aylward in the first 10 minutes.
Inside the Match
- Mentzinger’s goal was the first of his Crusader career. Pesek’s goal was his first of the season, while James secured his third point and first assist of the campaign.
- Pesek’s go-ahead goal was the second of his Valpo career, with the first coming on Sept. 24 of last season against Cleveland.
- Miras captured his first collegiate win, notching four saves to better his record to 1-1-1.
- James’ assist was the first of his collegiate career.
- The Crusaders defeated a Loyola team that finished last season 14-4-1 and received an at-large bid in the NCAA Tournament. The Ramblers had not lost at home since 2013, going 20-0-4 at home in the 2014, 2015 and 2016 seasons combined. Valpo snapped Loyola's Division I best 28-match unbeaten streak. The Ramblers went a perfect 9-0-0 in Valley play a year ago.
Thoughts from Head Coach Mike Avery
“There’s a lot for us to be proud of tonight because we pulled off a pretty big accomplishment against a very good Loyola team, and I’m happy for the boys because they worked very hard. The most important thing for our season is that we keep growing as a group, growing together and growing up and maturing. To have a positive result as validation is a huge boost. We still have plenty to work on, and Loyola exposed us in ways that will be great teachable moments, but we are getting there. Step by step, and maybe not as fast as I’d like, but we are getting there.”
The Crusaders will continue the Chicagoland Classic on Sunday as they visit DePaul at 1 p.m. CT. Valpo has an opportunity to capture a tournament championship with a victory over the Blue Demons. A live video stream of the game will be available courtesy of DePaul athletics. Links to live video and stats will be available on ValpoAthletics.com.