Valparaiso (2-7-1, 0-1-0 MVC)
Saturday, Oct. 6 – vs. Loyola (4-4-1, 1-0-1 MVC) – 7 p.m. CT
Wednesday, Oct. 10 – at Eastern Illinois (2-6-3, 0-0-1) – 3 p.m. CT
*records entering Saturday
This Week in Valpo Soccer: The Valparaiso University men’s soccer team will return to Missouri Valley Conference play on Saturday after three straight fixtures outside of league action. The most important stretch of the season awaits as the team closes the regular season with five Valley dates in its final six matches. Nearby conference foe Loyola comes to Brown Field on Saturday night before Valpo heads to Eastern Illinois on Wednesday, Oct. 10. It’s a special night for the program on Saturday as Valpo hosts its annual TOCO (They Often Cry Outreach) event.
Working with TOCO: Valpo is once again raising funds for They Often Cry Outreach (TOCO) this year. Throughout the 2018 season, the team is 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 on Saturday against Loyola at Brown Field. Valpo will wear its special blue kits and donations will be accepted at the gate. In addition, Valpo men’s soccer water bottles will be given away to the first 100 fans.
Previously: Valpo fell 4-1 to Oral Roberts on Monday, Oct. 1 at Brown Field as Rafael Mentzingen tallied his second goal of the season, providing the Valpo goal on a penalty kick in the 53rd minute. Valpo outshot the Golden Eagles 17-12 including a 13-6 advantage in the second half. Valpo played two games in three days after a match at Bowling Green two days earlier, so the team used 20 players on Monday.
Following Valpo: Live video of Saturday’s game will be available on ESPN3, which is free of charge with a cable subscription. Dave Huseman (play-by-play) and Ben Ariano (color commentary) will have the call. Live stats will be available on both Saturday and Wednesday. Links to live coverage can be found on ValpoAthletics.com.
Scouting the Opponent – Loyola: Both of Loyola’s conference tilts this season have required beyond the regulation 90 minutes. After a 1-1 draw with Drake on Sept. 22, the Ramblers prevailed 2-1 in overtime in their most recent match at Bradley on Sept. 29. Loyola’s goal came courtesy of Billy Hency, the first of his career. The only Rambler with multiple goals this season is Grant Stoneman, who leads the team with three. Fabian Lifka has a team-high two assists to go along with one goal. Three goalkeepers have seen action, led by Josh Lagudah, who owns a 0.81 GAA in seven games that ranks second in the conference. Loyola, under the direction of sixth-year head coach Neil Jones, was picked second behind Missouri State in the MVC preseason poll. The Ramblers went 14-4-1 in 2016, setting a school record for wins, winning the school’s first MVC regular-season title in any sport and picking up the first NCAA Tournament win in program history.
Scouting the Opponent – Eastern Illinois: The Panthers play Western Illinois on Saturday, Oct. 6 before hosting Valpo on Wednesday. They have played two Valley teams this season – a 1-1 tie with Evansville and 1-0 loss to Bradley. Another common opponent between these two teams is IUPUI, against whom Eastern Illinois earned a scoreless draw. Valpo beat the Jaguars 1-0 in overtime. A highlight of Eastern Illinois’ resume is a 0-0 draw with No. 4 Denver, a Summit League men’s soccer powerhouse, on Sept. 29. Eastern Illinois, picked fourth in the Summit League preseason poll, is led in goals by Christian Sosnowski with two. Jonathan Burke has played every minute in goal this season and has a 1.20 GAA and 39 saves entering Saturday. The Panthers are coached by Kiki Lara, who is in his fourth season at the helm.
Series Notes – Loyola: Valpo and Loyola have faced off every year since Mike Avery took over as head coach in 2007. The Ramblers lead the all-time series 14-5-7. Last season, Valpo made a grand entrance into the Missouri Valley Conference, upsetting a nationally-ranked Loyola side that had won The Valley the year prior with a 2-1 victory in the conference opener on Sept. 1. The match-winner came in the 88th minute of that game. These two teams are notorious for tight battles with one another, as the previous six head-to-head meetings had gone to overtime.
Series Notes – Eastern Illinois: Valpo defended its home field with a 3-1 victory over the Panthers last season behind Rafael Metzingen’s first career brace. Mentzingen accounted for the first and last goals, while Adan Garcia scored the match-winner in the 69th minute. The victory allowed Valpo to up its record to 6-10-1 in an all-time series that dates back to 1987. Valpo has won five straight head-to-head meetings and hasn’t dropped a match to the Panthers since 2007. These two teams were Mid-Continent Conference foes from 1988-1993.
Seniors in the Spotlight: Instead of one senior day, the Valpo men’s soccer program is continuing its unique tradition of honoring select seniors at each home game throughout the season. On Saturday, Alex Brown and Lucca Lacerda will take center stage as the seniors in the spotlight. Brown, a native of MayPen, Jamaica, has appeared in all 10 games this season and scored the match-winning goal in Valpo’s 1-0 win over Milwaukee. Lacerda, a native of Passos, Brazil, has also seen action in all 10 games in 2018, his first season at Valpo after transferring from Mercy College. He scored his first career goal on Sept. 29 at Bowling Green.
Climbing Career Chart: With two penalty-kick goals over the last week, Valpo senior Rafael Mentzingen is up to 11 goals for his career. Despite being in just his second season at Valpo, he has the most goals among active Valpo players and the most since Isaiah Madrid graduated with 15 in 2016. Mentzingen needs five more goals this season to crack the Top 10 in program history.
No Shortage of Shots: Valpo has found a way to consistently create chances throughout the season, as the team ranks second in the Missouri Valley Conference in shots at 14.60. A big part of that has been Rafael Mentzingen, who leads the league at 4.10 shots per game. Mentzingen also ranks 12th nationally in shots per game.
Goals Starting to Come: A bright spot for Valpo over the last three games has been an uptick in goal production. Valpo has scored at least one goal in three consecutive games for the first time this season. In addition, Valpo has scored more goals in the last three games than it did in the first seven games of the season combined. Valpo has played only one conference game and will finish with five of the next six fixtures against Valley opponents, so the season's most important stretch is still to come.
Excelling Academically: For the 16th straight year, the Valpo men’s soccer team has been awarded with the United Soccer Coaches Team Academic Award, as announced this week by the organization. Valpo has the third-longest streak in the nation. The United Soccer Coaches Team Academic Award is bestowed upon soccer programs whose student-athletes have excelled in the classroom. The award is given annually, and in order to qualify a program must obtain a composite grade point average of 3.00 or better for the academic year.
Scholar-Athlete Spotlight: Valpo senior Rafael Mentzingen was recognized by the Missouri Valley Conference for his well-roundedness as part of the MVC Scholar-Athlete Spotlight presented by Enterprise Bank and Trust Company on Sept. 19. An economics major with a theology minor, Mentzingen boasts an impressive 3.87 grade point average. He has served the community through his work with the Detroit Fieldhouse, the #oneValpo diversity campaign, St. Baldrick’s, They Often Cry Outreach and the Valpo Parks Department. He is active on campus as a member of the Valpo Economics Club and the Valpo International Student Organization.
Stout Defense: Valpo has continued its tradition of stout defense this season, shutting out the opposition on three occasions. Two different goalkeepers have earned clean sheets, as Dan Rosenfeld blanked Milwaukee before Nacho Miras led the way to a scoreless draw against Western Illinois for his second shutout of the year. Valpo already has three shutouts this season after having one a year ago. The Brown and Gold have allowed one goal or fewer in six of their first seven matches this season.
Nil Nil: The draw on Sept. 15 against Western Illinois was Valpo’s first stalemate since a 1-1 tie at Michigan on Aug. 28, 2017. Valpo hadn’t played to a scoreless draw since Nov. 7, 2016, a Horizon League Tournament match against Milwaukee that saw the Panthers advance on penalty kicks.
Brown with the Winner: Defender Alex Brown was part of a Valpo back line that limited Milwaukee to two shots on goal and helped shut out the Panthers on Sept. 7 in a 1-0 road win for Valpo. In addition, he scored the game-winning goal in the 90th minute, using a header goal for the only tally of the match by either side. Brown played 86 of the 90 minutes in the triumph and scored the second goal of his career, both match winners.
A Victorious Debut: Redshirt junior goalkeeper Dan Rosenfeld made his collegiate debut on Sept. 7 after three injury-plagued seasons. Rosenfeld made two saves in his first Valpo game, helping shut out a quality Milwaukee side in a 1-0 Valpo victory.
A Flair for the Dramatic: Both of Valpo’s wins this season have come on late match-winners to snap scoreless ties. On Aug. 24 against IUPUI, it was a 104th minute golden goal by Michael Marchionna that sent Valpo to victory, while Alex Brown’s goal against Milwaukee on Sept. 7 came in the 90th minute. Valpo beat a Panthers team that held a strong 29-14-10 home record in Kris Kelderman’s six seasons as head coach prior to the defeat.
Making Moves: After having just one assist and no goals through his first two seasons, redshirt junior Michael Marchionna emerged as a key cog for Valpo in the early portion of the season. He was involved in the team’s first three goals, racking up one goal and two assists early in the season. Marchionna has hit 16 shots this season, second on the team and ninth in the league.
All-Tournament Team: A pair of Valpo student-athletes were recognized as part of the All-Tournament Team for their play at Wisconsin over Labor Day weekend. Rafael Mentzingen and Nacho Miras both added all-tournament accolades to their resumes. Miras permitted just one goal in each game against quality Big Ten competition, recording six saves for the tournament. Mentzingen racked up nine shots over the two matches, two on frame.
Opening in Style: A 1-0 overtime victory over IUPUI allowed Valpo to start its season with a win for the first time since 2011. Valpo was also opening up at home for the first time since the 2011 campaign. Although it had gone winless in the last six season openers before that match, Valpo 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.
Dynamic Duo: Valpo 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 Valpo player 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 Valpo men’s soccer program, Mike Avery owns a program-record 84 career victories. Under Avery's guidance, the team has 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 program to a new standard in his time as head coach, as a team 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: Valpo was 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 team is looking to build upon the school’s first season in the Missouri Valley Conference, which saw Valpo 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 its 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 team 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 Valpo has 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 team has 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 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 Valpo 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.