Valparaiso (5-5-1, 2-2 MVC)
Crusaders Return Home, Host Evansville Saturday
Saturday, Oct. 7 – 7 p.m. CT – Valparaiso, Ind. – vs. Evansville (5-4-1, 0-1-1 MVC)
This Week in Crusader Soccer: The Valparaiso University men’s soccer team will start a home-heavy stretch on Saturday night as four of the final six matches of the regular season will take place at Brown Field. Road warriors for most of the year, the Crusaders hope to carry their away success over to their home field beginning this week.
Previously: The Crusaders are coming off a 3-2 road win over Northern Illinois on Tuesday night. Jonas Engler, Adan Garcia and Rafael Mentzingen all scored goals, while Jake Pesek contributed two assists. The three-goal output matched Valpo’s season high. The win allowed Valpo to rebound from a 1-0 loss at Missouri State on Saturday, Sept. 30.
Following the Crusaders: Saturday’s match will air on WVUR, 95.1 FM with Liam Bodlak calling play-by-play and Kevin Huang adding color commentary. Links to live audio and stats will be available on ValpoAthletics.com.
Series Notes – Evansville: The move to the Missouri Valley Conference has caused a trend of Valpo facing opponents it hasn’t seen much of in recent years throughout the 2017 season. Next up is Evansville, which hasn’t played Valpo since 2008. The Crusaders own a 1-3-1 mark all-time against the Purple Aces. Evansville won the most recent meeting 3-1, while Valpo’s most recent win in the head-to-head series was a 5-4 overtime thriller on Aug. 27, 2006. The 2006 meeting was the last time Valpo hosted Evansville.
Scouting the Opposition – Evansville: The Purple Aces and Crusaders have just two mutual opponents against whom both teams have already played this season. Both sides fell 1-0 at Missouri State and picked up victories over Northern Illinois. Ian McGrath leads the Purple Aces with seven goals and 17 points, while Adam Snow has also contributed four goals. Frederik Reimer took over as the starting goalkeeper on Sept. 12 against Butler and has started the last five matches. Matthew Keller started the first five matches of the season, but hasn’t made an appearance since Sept. 7 against Grand Canyon. After starting 4-0, the Purple Aces are 1-4-1 over their last six. Evansville, picked to finish second in the Missouri Valley Conference preseason poll, is under the direction of head coach Marshall Ray, who is in his third year at the helm. Evansville has scored a league-high 21 goals this season and allowed 12, the third fewest in the league.
Two-Assist Showing: Jake Pesek earned two assists on Tuesday at Northern Illinois, the first two assists of his Valpo career. He became the 30th player in program history with a multiple-assist game and the first since Zev Taublieb on Oct. 7, 2014 at IUPUI.
Earning the W: Goalkeeper Alex Richt made his second start and picked up the first victory of his Crusader career on Tuesday at Northern Illinois. He joined a select group of Valpo goalkeepers, becoming just the fifth goalkeeper to pick up a win over the last seven seasons, a testament to the stability of the position at Valpo over the years.
Spreading It Out: This match features a total of 20 different players who have scored goals this season. A league-high 11 Purple Aces own goals, while nine Crusaders have scored this season. Jonas Engler became the fourth different Crusader who has scored multiple goals this season with his tally on Tuesday at NIU. He’s joined by Adan Garcia, Rafael Mentzingen and Jordan James.
Keeping It Close: Fans who enjoy close matches have been in luck when watching Crusader men’s soccer this season, as none of the team’s 11 games have been decided by more than one goal. Laughers have been non-existent for the Crusaders, as Valpo is the only team in the MVC that hasn’t played in a game decided by two goals or more this year. This marks the first time in program history Valpo has started the season with 11 straight matches decided by one goal or tied.
Leading the Way: In his first season in a Valpo kit, Rafael Mentzingen leads the Crusaders with four goals. He’s one of eight players in The Valley with four goals or more this season. Mentzingen ranks second in the league in shots with 33, behind only Evansville’s Ian McGrath at 37. His goal on Tuesday against Northern Illinois was the first match-winner of his career.
Garcia’s Rise: Sophomore Adan Garcia is the only player on the team with multiple goals and multiple assists. He has already surpassed his season totals from a year ago, when he had no goals and two assists. He owns three goals and three assists this year, and he leads the team and is tied for fifth in the conference with nine points.
Road Warriors: A win would put the Crusaders above the .500 mark for the first time since Sept. 18. Valpo has played nine of its first 11 on the road and come out with a .500 record. The Crusaders already have five road wins, but enter Saturday’s seeking their first home victory of the season.
Head Coach Mike Avery: In his 11th season at the helm of the Crusader men’s soccer program, Mike Avery owns a program-record 79 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 shattered the program record with his 77th career victory on Sept. 16 at Drake. Avery reached 77 victories in his 195th career match, while previous record holder Mis’ Mrak needed 288 matches to accumulate 76 wins
Comeback Crusaders: The Crusaders put together a noteworthy comeback on Sept. 16 at Drake, erasing a 2-0 hole to beat the Bulldogs 3-2. That was only the second time during Mike Avery’s 11 years in charge of the program that Valpo has come from two goals down to win a match. The first was Oct. 10, 2014, when Valpo trailed Wright State 2-0, then rallied for five unanswered goals in the second half to win 5-2. Prior to 2014, Valpo hadn’t won after trailing by two goals since Sept. 27, 2006, a 5-4 win over Evansville.
Welcome to The Valley: The Valpo men’s soccer team has already turned heads in its first season in the Missouri Valley Conference. The Crusaders garnered immediate respect by winning their first-ever MVC match 2-1 at No. 18 Loyola, the league’s defending regular season champion. Valpo’s win snapped Loyola’s 28-match home unbeaten streak which went back three seasons. Valpo followed with the aforementioned 3-2 overtime victory at Drake.
Topping Ranked Foes: Valpo's win over No. 18 Loyola continued the program's recent history of success against nationally-ranked opponents. The Crusaders have five wins and one draw against nationally-ranked sides since the start of the 2013 season.
Other Ranked Successes
Oct. 14, 2015 at No. 23 New Mexico: T 1-1 (2OT)
Sept. 28, 2015 vs. No. 23 Omaha: W 1-0 (OT)
Sept, 23, 2015 at No. 18 Western Michigan: W 2-0
Sept. 11, 2014 at No. 7 Michigan State: W 1-0
Sept. 8, 2013 at No. 24 Michigan State: W 2-1
Looking Ahead: Following this match, the Crusaders will play just once over the next 13 days, a road tilt at Western Illinois on Thursday, Oct. 12.
Fresh Faces: This season 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 the season opener at Northwestern, only one started the 2016 season finale (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 are 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.