Valparaiso (1-1, 0-0 MVC)
Saturday, Sept. 1 – vs. Northwestern (1-0-1) – 5 p.m. CT
Monday, Sept. 3 – at Wisconsin (1-1) – 2:30 p.m. CT
This Week in Crusader Soccer: A challenging Labor Day weekend awaits the Valparaiso University men’s soccer team as the Crusaders head to the University of Wisconsin Tournament to battle a pair of Big Ten opponents. Valpo will face off with Northwestern and defending Big Ten champion Wisconsin, while Fordham will also be a part of the tournament field and play the two Big Ten schools.
Previously: A golden goal by Michael Marchionna on an Akeem Bradford assist propelled Valpo to a dramatic 1-0 win in the season opener against IUPUI on Friday at Brown Field. The Crusaders split the opening weekend as they incurred their first setback of 2018 at Marquette on Sunday, falling 3-1 to their foes from the Big East. Junior Danny Moreno, a transfer from Grand Canyon, was the goal scorer for Valpo, picking up the first of his young Crusader career.
Following the Crusaders: The Monday match against host Wisconsin will have live video on BTN+ ($). Live stats will also be available. Links to the coverage can be found on ValpoAthletics.com.
Marchionna Making Moves: Michael Marchionna picked up a goal and an assist in the season's first week, already surpassing his point total from the first two years of his collegiate career. He notched one point over his first two seasons as a Crusader before totaling three in the first week of 2018. The highlight came on Friday night at Brown Field, when Marchionna scored the golden goal in the 104th minute of a 1-0 season-opening win over IUPUI. The redshirt junior was involved in both Valpo goals this week as he assisted on Danny Moreno's goal on Sunday at Marquette.
Opening in Style: A 1-0 overtime victory over IUPUI on Friday night allowed Valpo to start its season with a win for the first time since 2011. The Crusaders were also opening up at home for the first time since the 2011 campaign. Although they had gone winless in the last six season openers before Friday, the Crusaders had three draws - including one at Big Ten foe Michigan State - and two overtime defeats in addition to a one-goal loss at No. 14 Kentucky in 2015. Valpo has seen three straight season openers go to overtime and six of their last seven lid-lifters have required play beyond the regulation 90 minutes.
Shots Upon Shots: The Crusaders have outshot their opponents in both matches so far this year and created no shortage of opportunities on Friday against IUPUI. Valpo owned a distinct 29-2 advantage in shots against the Jaguars. That marked the most shots Valpo has created in a game since Oct. 14, 2015, when the Crusaders had 30 shots at New Mexico. Rafael Mentzingen accounted for 12 shots on his own on Friday, the most by a Valpo individual in over 15 years.
Keeping It Clean: Redshirt junior goalkeeper Nacho Miras picked up the second shutout of his career on Friday against IUPUI. The first also came against the Jaguars in a 1-0 win in Indianapolis on Sept. 26, 2017. Keeping the opponent off the scoreboard in the season opener is nothing new for the Crusaders, who had shutouts in six consecutive season openers from 2009-2014.
Regionally Ranked: The Crusaders are ranked 10th in the West Region in the first United Soccer Coaches regional poll of the season.
Big Ten Successes: The Crusaders have not shied away from playing a challenging nonconference slate in recent years, and they’ve had good success against quality teams from the Big Ten Conference. Since Mike Avery took over the program in 2007, the Crusaders have registered three wins and four draws against the Big Ten. A year ago, Valpo fell in overtime to Northwestern before earning a draw at Michigan.
Series Notes – Northwestern: The Crusaders are 5-12 against their foes from the Big Ten Conference. They gave the Wildcats a game last season, falling 2-1 in overtime. A first-half goal by Adan Garcia allowed Valpo to own a 1-0 lead until Northwestern drew even in the 55th minute. The Crusaders and Wildcats will face off in consecutive seasons for the first time since 2001 and 2002. Valpo’s most recent win over Northwestern came in 2011, a 1-0 victory as part of the NIU Adidas Invitational in DeKalb, Ill.
Scouting the Opponent – Northwestern: The Wildcats will face off with the Crusaders in their third match of the season after topping Cleveland State 3-0 on Aug. 24 and earning a scoreless draw with Xavier on Aug. 26. A trio of Northwestern players – Camden Buescher, Tommy Katsiyiannis and Garrett Opperman – earned Big Ten Preseason Honors. Buescher led the team with four assists and scored two game-winning goals last season, while Katsiyiannis was the team’s leading goal scorer a year ago with seven. Opperman was a unanimous selection to the 2017 Big Ten All-Freshmen team after playing every minute of the season on Northwestern’s defensive line. Head coach Tim Lenahan has guided his squad to nine NCAA Tournament appearances in his 17 seasons in Evanston.
Series Notes – Wisconsin: This will mark Valpo’s third game against Wisconsin and first since 2003. The Crusaders and Badgers split a pair of one-goal affairs with Valpo winning 2-1 on Sept. 13, 2001 and falling 3-2 on Nov. 8, 2003. The win in 2002 was an upset over a team that was ranked 22nd nationally.
Scouting the Opponent – Wisconsin: Wisconsin went 12-5-5 last year and won a pair of NCAA Tournament matches, including an impressive victory over No. 12 Notre Dame to go to the Sweet 16. The Badgers, who were ranked 12th in the United Soccer Coaches Preseason Poll, have received national attention from numerous outlets leading up to the season and thus far in 2018. Wisconsin won its first outright Big Ten Tournament title last season. Returning starters Robin Olofsson, Mitch Guitar and Noah Leibold all earned preseason all-conference recognition. Head coach John Trask has guided the program to great success since taking over in 2010. Although this is Trask’s first time opposing Valpo as Wisconsin’s head coach, he did so three times during his tenure as the head coach at UIC, which spanned from 2005-2009.
Dynamic Duo: The Crusaders placed two on the Preseason all-Missouri Valley Conference team – midfielder Rafael Mentzingen and forward Adan Garcia. The two players shared the team lead in goals last season with nine apiece, a number that ranks tied for seventh in program history for goals in a single season. Mentzingen and Garcia became the first pair of Valpo teammates to each score nine goals or more in a single season in program history. Both received significant postseason accolades as Mentzingen was named second-team all-region, first-team all-conference and MVC all-tournament team, while Garcia garnered third-team all-region and second-team all-conference.
A Glance at the Goalkeepers: Nacho Miras is a returning starter at goalkeeper, leading the way for a deep position that also includes Dan Rosenfeld and Alex Richt. Miras etched his name into the single-season program record book a year ago, posting a goals against average of 1.64 that ranked 10th in program history. He had seven saves in his first career start on Aug. 25 at Northwestern, the most saves by a Valpo keeper in a debut since 2001. His success continued with a career-high eight saves on Sept. 3 at DePaul, helping him earn MVP honors at the Chicago Classic, MVC Defensive Player of the Week recognition and a spot on the College Soccer News National Team of the Week.
Freshman Feat: Sophomore Jonas Engler made a good first impression as a rookie last year, becoming the first Crusader with three goals as a freshman since 2014, when Stian Sandbekkhaug and Jordan James scored three apiece. Engler also had two assists to put his season point total at eight, the most by a Valpo freshman since Jordan Aidoud had 11 in 2012. Engler picked up All-MVC Honorable Mention a year ago.
Head Coach Mike Avery: In his 12th season at the helm of the Crusader men’s soccer program, Mike Avery owns a program-record 83 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 six times since his arrival. 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. He reached 77 victories in his 195th career match, while previous record holder Mis’ Mrak needed 288 matches to accumulate 76 wins.
Preseason Poll: The Crusaders were picked fifth in the Missouri Valley Conference preseason poll. Defending champion Missouri State is the favorite to win the league, followed by Loyola, Central Arkansas and Bradley.
A Look Back at 2017: The 2018 Crusaders will look to build upon their first season in the Missouri Valley Conference, which saw them knock off a Top 25 opponent, place two individuals on the United Soccer Coaches all-region team, have three players receive all-conference recognition and help their head coach shatter the school record for career wins. Valpo finished the season with eight wins, tied for sixth in program history for wins in a single season. The Crusaders scored 30 goals, which also ranked tied for sixth in the program’s single-season record book. Valpo has scored 30+ goals in each of the last two seasons, just the second time in program history and the first since 1986 and 1987 that the Crusaders have racked up 30 goals or more in back-to-back seasons.
Road Warriors: Valpo had six road wins last season, the second consecutive year and the third time in program history the Crusaders have racked up six true road victories. The 2017 season is tied with 2016 and 1997 for the most true road wins in a single season in program history.
Flying Many Flags: Head coach Mike Avery and his 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 12 countries – Spain, Mexico, Jamaica, Colombia, France, Brazil, Japan, Canada, Germany, England, Italy and the United States.
#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 2018 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. This year’s TOCO benefit game will be Oct. 6 against Loyola at Brown Field.