Valparaiso (6-5-1, 3-2 MVC)
Thursday, Oct. 12 – 3:30 p.m. CT – Macomb, Ill. – at Western Illinois (4-6, 2-0 Summit)
This Week in Crusader Soccer: The Valparaiso University men’s soccer team is enjoying its lightest stretch of the season – playing just one match in a 13-day span. That fixture will take place on Thursday at Western Illinois before the Crusaders have eight consecutive days off from match action.
Previously: The Crusaders are coming off a perfect week with back-to-back wins, 3-2 at Northern Illinois and 2-1 at home against Evansville. The victory over the Purple Aces lifted the Crusaders to nine points, tied for second in the MVC standings. Junior Akeem Bradford scored his first goal in a Valpo uniform in his third match of the season, while Rafael Mentzingen also scored in the win over Evansville.
Following the Crusaders: Thursday’s match will have subscription-only video available courtesy of Western Illinois Athletics. Links to live video and stats can be found on ValpoAthletics.com.
Series Notes – Western Illinois: The Crusaders stand at 10-18-2 all-time against the Leathernecks. Valpo has won four straight meetings, most recently dispatching Western Illinois 3-1 at Brown Field a year ago. This will mark the eighth consecutive year these two teams have met.
Scouting the Opposition – Western Illinois: The Leathernecks and Crusaders have three common opponents against whom both teams have already played. Both sides fell to Northwestern, while the two teams had opposite results against the other two common foes. Valpo defeated Drake but fell to Fort Wayne, while Western Illinois did the opposite. The Leathernecks stand unbeaten in league action with their wins over the Mastodons and Eastern Illinois. Drew Whalen and Fernando Pacheco lead Western Illinois with seven goals apiece. Those two account for 14 of the team’s 16 goals. Tim Trilk has made seven starts at goalkeeper and owns a 1.55 GAA with 32 saves.
League Honors: Junior Rafael Mentzingen was honored as the Missouri Valley Conference Player of the Week after turning in match-winners in both of Valpo’s fixtures last week. Mentzingen scored the third goal of Valpo’s 3-2 win over Northern Illinois and the second goal of a 2-1 victory over Evansville. He leads the team and ranks fifth in the conference with 10 points and owns five goals, which ranks first on the team and tied for fourth in The Valley.
Consecutive Match Winners: Mentzingen is the only Crusader with two game-winning goals this season. Finding the last Crusader to accomplish the impressive feat of scoring game-winners in back-to-back matches doesn’t require a deep dig into the program’s history. Kendan Anderson turned the trick a year ago, scoring the match-winner against both Eastern Illinois and Oakland in the same week.
Regional Recognition: After a 2-0 week, Valpo is back in the NSCAA West Regional rankings, which were released on Tuesday. The Crusaders are ranked eighth and are one of four Missouri Valley Conference schools to receive recognition. Valpo is joined by MVC peers Missouri State (No. 2), Bradley (No. 6) and Evansville (No. 7).
Earning the Ws: Goalkeepers Alex Richt and Nacho Miras both corralled victories last week, with Richt receiving the win against Northern Illinois and Miras doing the same against Evansville. The last time Valpo had two goalkeepers each win in the same calendar week was Sept. 8-13, 2013, when Nico Campbell earned a victory over Michigan State before Tom Serratore did the same against IUPUI.
Starting a Streak: Valpo has won back-to-back matches for the second time this season. The team has hopes of extending its winning streak to three on Thursday. Valpo last won three or more in a row from Sept. 24- Oct. 3 last season, a stretch of four consecutive triumphs.
Spreading It Out: The Crusaders have had 10 different players score goals this season, as junior Akeem Bradford became the latest to join that group on Saturday against Evansville. Playing in his third match in a Valpo uniform, Bradford scored in the 16th minute to put the Crusaders in front 1-0.
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 12 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 12 straight matches decided by one goal or tied.
James Joins Garcia: Jordan James joined Adan Garcia as the only Crusaders with both multiple goals and multiple assists this season after he notched an assist on Saturday. James now has two goals and two assists, which puts him third on the team with six points. Garcia is second on the team with nine points by virtue of his three goals and three assists.
Head Coach Mike Avery: In his 11th season at the helm of the Crusader men’s soccer program, Mike Avery owns a program-record 80 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 not return to action until Saturday, Oct. 21 at Central Arkansas at 7 p.m. CT. That will be the final road contest of the season before Valpo closes the regular season with three straight at home.
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.