Valparaiso (7-7-1, 3-4 MVC)
Men’s Soccer Rounds Out Regular Season This Week
Monday, Oct. 30 – 5 p.m. CT – Valparaiso, Ind. – vs. Eastern Illinois (3-7-6, 1-2-1 Summit)
Saturday, Nov. 4 – 1 p.m. CT – Valparaiso, Ind. – vs. Bradley (9-7-1, 3-3-1 MVC)
This Week in Crusader Soccer: The Valparaiso University men’s soccer team will bookend the final week of the regular season with home fixtures at Brown Field. The Crusaders start the week with a Monday match against Eastern Illinois before welcoming Bradley in Missouri Valley Conference play for a Saturday matinee that concludes the regular season.
Previously: The Crusaders will look to bounce back from a 2-0 loss to first-place Missouri State that occurred last Tuesday at Brown Field. Valpo fell to Central Arkansas in a back-and-forth affair 3-2 on Saturday, Oct. 21 in Conway, Ark.
Following the Crusaders: Both games this week will air on The Valley on ESPN3, the first home men’s soccer games to air on ESPN3 this season after the recent completion of Valpo’s brand new control room. Payton Ball (play-by-play) and Jake Wulbert (color commentary) will describe the action on Monday, while Dave Huseman will handle play-by-play with Ball doing color for Saturday’s match. Links to live video and stats for both fixtures will be available on ValpoAthletics.com.
Playing for a Cause: The Crusaders will host a charity match on Monday as it’s the team’s St. Baldrick’s game. Donations will be collected to begin a campus-wide event in support of St. Baldrick’s Childhood Cancer Research Foundation.
Table Talk: Saturday is the final day of regular season competition in the Missouri Valley Conference – meaning all six teams in action will be playing for seeding in the upcoming MVC Tournament, which will take place from Nov. 7-12 in Peoria, Ill. Missouri State has clinched the No. 1 seed for the tournament, while Central Arkansas is locked into the No. 2 seed. The Crusaders could finish anywhere from third to seventh in the regular season standings going into Saturday. With a win, Valpo will finish either third or fourth, while a draw would put the Crusaders in fourth or fifth. A loss will have Valpo somewhere between fifth and seventh. All seven teams make the tournament. The Crusaders own any tiebreakers with Loyola, Evansville and Drake as Valpo’s only losses have come to the top two teams in the standings. Tiebreakers will only concern the Crusaders if they draw on Saturday, otherwise there are no scenarios where they finish with the same number of points as another team in the standings with a win or a loss. Both of Saturday’s other games will take place under the lights as Missouri State visits Drake and Loyola hosts Evansville.
Series Notes – Eastern Illinois: The Crusaders stand at 5-10-1 all-time against Eastern Illinois, a series that dates back to 1987. Last season, Valpo enjoyed a 3-0 victory over the Panthers, a match in which Chris Villalobos earned the first point and assist of his collegiate career. Eastern Illinois is visiting Valpo for the first time since Nov. 3, 2010, a 2-0 Valpo victory. The Crusaders have won four straight head-to-head meetings and haven’t faltered against the Panthers since 2007. The two teams were Mid-Continent Conference foes from 1988-93.
Scouting the Opposition – Eastern Illinois: The Panthers are coming off a 1-1 draw with IUPUI last Wednesday in which Cole Harkrader scored in the fifth minute for Eastern Illinois, but the Jaguars tied it with a second-half goal. Federico Verlicchi leads the Panthers with two goals and four points in 16 games. Goalkeeper Mike Novotny holds a 0.81 GAA and has made 78 saves in 15 outings. After playing at Valpo Monday, Eastern Illinois will round out its season on Saturday at Fort Wayne.
Series Notes – Bradley: Bradley and Valpo will get together for the first time since 2008. The Braves hold a 7-5 edge in a series that dates back to 1989. The Crusaders knocked off then No. 25 Bradley 1-0 in the most recent meeting, a 2008 neutral site match that took place in Evansville. The most recent meeting before that was at Bradley to open the 2001 season, when Valpo prevailed 4-3. This marks the first time the Crusaders have hosted the Braves since 2000, a 4-0 Valpo loss to a team ranked 23rd nationally.
Scouting the Opposition – Bradley: The Braves will visit Western Illinois on Tuesday before coming to Brown Field to close out the regular season on Saturday. Bradley is fresh off a convincing 3-0 win over Central Arkansas, the second-place team in the MVC. Bradley split with Central Arkansas and Loyola, tied the only meeting with Evansville, beat Drake and fell to Missouri State. Roman Schindler leads the team in goals (six) and points (16), while Younes Dayekh (five) and Gerit Wintermeyer (four) are also frequent goal-scorers. Goalkeeper Brandon Barnes owns a 0.91 GAA and 88 saves.
Winning Ways: The Crusaders enter the week with a chance to nail down a winning regular season record with either two victories or one win and one draw. They have finished above the .500 mark overall each of the last three seasons. Valpo can finish with a .500 conference record if it beats Bradley on Saturday. That would also mark the fourth straight season Valpo has finished .500 or better in league action.
Record Book Watch: Sophomore Adan Garcia needs three points to crack Valpo’s all-time single-season Top 10 for points. He currently has 17 points on the campaign. Garcia, who has seven goals, could enter the Top 10 for goals if he scores twice. Garcia and Jordan James share the team lead in assists with three apiece – they both need two more to finish in Valpo’s All-Time Top 10. Nacho Miras enters the week with a 1.56 goals against average. As it stands, he would rank ninth in program history for single-season GAA. Ryan Schwartz’s 2007 season currently sits in ninth at 1.57.
Senior Spotlight: The Crusaders will honor a trio of seniors on Saturday at Brown Field as they compete in the final home match of their collegiate careers. Ramone Howell has been a fixture over the last four seasons. He burst onto the scene by playing in 19 games and notching two goals and one assist in 2014. He enters this week with 64 career matches, seven career goals and seven career assists. Keck goes into the final regular season week of his collegiate career having played in 40 games over four seasons. He has two goals and two assists in his career and one of each have come this year. The third senior is Babatunji Osifeso, who joined the program last year after transferring from Campbell.
Hats Off to Adan: Sophomore Adan Garcia scored three goals in the 5-2 win over Western Illinois to achieve the ninth hat trick in program history. Garcia becomes the eighth player with a hat trick as Brian Thiel has two. The program had just two hat tricks in 26 years from 1990-2015, and has now had hat tricks in consecutive years as Kendan Anderson (Oct. 31 vs. IUPUI) had one a year ago. This was Valpo’s first hat trick in a true road match since 1985. The program’s last six hat tricks have all been scored by players in their first or second year at Valpo. Garcia doubled his season goal total to six to usurp Rafael Mentzingen for the team lead and regained the team lead with 15 points.
Freshman Feat: Jonas Engler scored his third goal of the season against Western Illinois, becoming the first Crusader with three goals as a freshman since 2014, when Stian Sandbekkhaug and Jordan James scored three times apiece. Engler also has two assists to put his season point total at eight, the most by a Valpo freshman since Jordan Aidoud had 11 in 2012.
Road Warriors: Valpo owns six road wins this season, the second consecutive year and the third time in program history the Crusaders have racked up six true road victories. This season is tied with 2016 and 1997 for the most true road wins in a single season in program history.
Regional Recognition: The Crusaders are ranked eighth in the latest NSCAA West Regional rankings, which were released on Oct. 24. The Crusaders join three of their Missouri Valley peers in the Top 10 – Missouri State (No. 3), Bradley (No. 7) and Loyola (No. 9).
Head Coach Mike Avery: In his 11th season at the helm of the Crusader men’s soccer program, Mike Avery owns a program-record 81 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.
Looking Ahead: Saturday’s match will conclude the regular season for the Crusaders. The Missouri Valley Conference Tournament will be held in Peoria, Ill. beginning on Tuesday, Nov. 7.
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
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.