The Valparaiso University men’s soccer program was well represented as the Missouri Valley Conference unveiled its postseason awards and all-conference honors on Thursday evening.
Five Valpo players received accolades, led by first-team all-conference selections Rafael Mentzingen (Rio de Janeiro, Brazil / Bryan) and Demar Rose (Kingston, Jamaica / Wolmer’s Boys). Lucca Lacerda (Passos, Brazil / Mercy College) nabbed a spot on the All-MVC Second Team, while Akeem Bradford (Kingston, Jamaica / Camperdown [Cincinnati State]) and Adan Garcia (Dallas, Texas / Episcopal School of Dallas) received All-MVC Honorable Mention.
Rose played in all 17 games and filled a key leadership role this season after missing all of the 2017 campaign due to an injury. He scored one goal, had 22 shots and placed six shots on goal. The redshirt junior midfielder’s goal was an impressive one that tied the game at Evansville on Oct. 27 in the 82nd minute, helping Valpo nail down a 1-1 draw and an important point in the MVC standings. That draw allowed Valpo to clinch a spot in the MVC Tournament.
Mentzingen adds to his collegiate resume by garnering first-team all-conference for the second consecutive season. He totaled six points this season to rank second on the team and led the conference with 3.53 shots per game during the regular season. Mentzingen was featured as part of the MVC’s Scholar-Athlete Spotlight on Sept. 19 and was named to the All-Tournament Team for his play at the University of Wisconsin over Labor Day Weekend in a pair of matches against Big Ten teams.
Lacerda led the team with four goals and scored 10 points this season while playing in all 17 matches for Valpo. He scored three goals and had one assist over two matches in a four-day span in mid-October, including a brace to lift Valpo to a 2-0 Missouri Valley Conference victory at Bradley. His seven-point week propelled the team to a perfect 2-0-0 fall break road trip. That performance helped him earn College Soccer News National Player of the Week, Missouri Valley Conference Offensive Player of the Week and a spot on the College Soccer News National Team of the Week. He was one of only three players in the league with a brace in MVC play this season.
Garcia had one goal and two assists while playing in all 17 games this year. He had one goal and one assist on Oct. 20 vs. Central Arkansas, helping Valpo to a 2-2 draw against a team that went on to win the MVC regular season title. A Preseason All-MVC selection, the junior midfielder was a second-team all-conference performer last season.
Bradford had one goal and one assist in 16 games this season. He scored on a header on Oct. 10 at Eastern Illinois to provide a quick response to an Eastern Illinois goal. That tied the match at one in an eventual 2-1 Valpo victory. That marked Valpo’s first come-from-behind victory of the season and sparked a strong finish to the season. The senior was a steady force and a veteran presence in the midfield all season.
The team finished the season at 5-8-4 after rebounding from a tough midseason stretch with a six-game unbeaten streak to finish the regular season, the longest season-ending unbeaten streak in program history. Valpo finished the regular season with just one conference setback, the fourth time in program history the team has achieved that feat.
Valpo finished third in the regular season standings, the highest finish by Valpo in any sport since the University joined the Missouri Valley Conference in July 2017. The third-place finish also marked the program’s best regular season finish since 2011, when the team won the Horizon League regular season title.