When the Valparaiso University men’s soccer team takes the pitch to begin the 2019 season, Northwest Indiana sports fans will notice a number of familiar faces donning the brown and gold that represents the Region’s Division I Team.
The program is holding true to its annual mission of recruiting across the nation and across the world while at the same time adding four Northwest Indiana standouts in this year’s recruiting class. Cole Rainwater (Schererville, Ind. / Lake Central), Jack Eaton (Valparaiso, Ind. / Chesterton), Daniel Salazar (East Chicago, Ill. / Bishop Noll) and Logan Tatalovich (Valparaiso, Ind. / Boone Grove) will all stay close to home and play for head coach Mike Avery’s program.
“What is slightly different from our recruiting classes in the last five years is that this year’s group features a very strong contingent from right here in Northwest Indiana,” Avery said. “The game has really grown in the immediate area around campus and there are a number of really talented players being produced locally. It was important to me that Valpo be a viable contender for the services of the local players, and it speaks to our growth as a soccer program, our growing presence as an athletic brand and Missouri Valley Conference member and our continued reputation of academic excellence as a University, that we were able to keep such talent close to home for college. We are looking to build on last season’s third-place league finish, and we know these guys will help us do that.”
Avery will continue to announce the recruiting class in the coming weeks as he unveils the program’s national and international signees.
“We will end up with a relatively large class to replace a large group of graduating players, and we think this incoming group will blend well with the strong core of returning players,” Avery said. “As always, we will have a mix of domestic high school players, junior and/or senior college transfers and compliment the entire group with a few international recruits. This approach to recruiting has worked well in the past for us, and it allows our #oneVALPO philosophy to continue as we move forward.”
“It is always exciting to officially introduce your recruiting class to the Valpo community of alumni, families, faculty, staff, fans and friends,” Avery said. “It’s the culmination of a long road with work done along the way by a lot of folks in admissions, financial aid, compliance, faculty across various departments of interest, our current players and of course, my staff. Brendan Roth, in particular, has worked very hard on this class and should be commended for a job well done.”
Cole Rainwater, Schererville, Ind., Lake Central, Defender, Indiana Fire Academy
Rainwater was a standout as a freshman and sophomore at Lake Central, where he played under his father Jereme, before continuing his soccer career with the Indiana Fire Academy as a junior and senior.
Coach Avery on Rainwater: “Cole is a local player who has followed a unique path in his soccer career to great success. Cole made a tough decision to forego high school soccer because he valued the opportunity to participate in the U.S. Soccer Development Academy with the Indiana Fire out of the Indianapolis area. When you look at a young man who has made so many sacrifices for his sport – traveling two hours each way for training and games with his club; excelling academically despite the time commitment and travel for club; not only skipping high school soccer, but skipping a chance to play for a very good high school team that is coached by his own father– this is a player who knows what he wants and is willing to do what it takes to achieve it.”
“Cole is a versatile player with a high soccer IQ and a team-first attitude, no doubt the product of being a coach’s kid. I've seen him play with great success as a striker, an attacking midfield player, a wide player and a defensive midfield player. It will be interesting to see where he best fits in our team once all the pieces are on the field together, but wherever he plays, I know that in Cole I will get his very best effort supported by high-level talent and experience.”
Jack Eaton, Valparaiso, Ind., Chesterton, Midfielder, Indiana Elite FC
Eaton was named the state’s Player of the Year by the Indiana Soccer Coaches Association following his senior season. He also received All-American honors from United Soccer Coaches after leading the Trojans to the Class 3A state championship, the program’s first state title.
Eaton helped the Trojans go 21-0-2, post 13 shutouts and allow just 14 goals while scoring seven goals and providing one assist. Chesterton finished the season ranked No. 12 in the USA Today/United Soccer Coaches Super 25.
Coach Avery on Eaton: “In a word, Jack Eaton is a winner. That seems to be the easiest way I’ve found to describe him. Jack is an excellent athlete, a tough and driven competitor, and he has great instincts as a defender. One only had to watch him in his second sport of basketball as he helped lead his Chesterton High School team to a tremendous season to see this. His tenacious defense, his leadership, his confidence – all those things were on display and that wasn't even in his preferred sport. Those qualities come out in everything Jack does because that is who he is, and, really, who doesn’t want that on a team? He’s a throwback to the hard-nosed multi-sport high school athlete that this region has always produced.”
“As a soccer player, Jack also has had a tremendous high school and club career. He has played locally for a very good Indiana Elite club, a team that plays a style similar to how we play here at Valpo, and he has all the tools to be a very good college defender.”
Daniel Salazar, East Chicago, Ill., Bishop Noll, Goalkeeper, Indiana Elite FC
Salazar was one of the best goalkeepers in the area this season, saving 89 percent of his shots on goal while lifting Bishop Noll to a Class 2A state championship. The incoming Valpo freshman had seven saves in the state championship game, a 1-0 win over Indianapolis Cardinal Ritter.
Coach Avery on Salazar: “I have had the chance to watch Danny play both with his Bishop Noll high school team and with his Indiana Elite club soccer team, and I always come away impressed with three things: 1) his ability to calmly and effectively lead his team; 2) his quickness and shot stopping ability; and 3) his feet - Danny could probably be an effective player in any position on the field. When you add to these factors his impressive commitment to his academics and to his family and friends, you can see clearly why I am so excited about this player.”
“We have been spoiled in some ways during my time with our goalkeeping – our last three starters all have signed or will sign professional contracts, and there are four or five others with that kind of ability who took a different path after graduation. Next fall will be the first time in a while where we enter in with a wide open goalkeeping situation and I expect Danny will be right in the mix even though we are bringing in a talented group of players vying for that number one spot.”
Logan Tatalovich, Valparaiso, Ind., Boone Grove, Forward, Fort Wayne United West
Tatalovich joins Valpo’s program after an illustrious prep career at nearby Boone Grove. He was part of a senior class that finished its four seasons with a 59-21-2 record, three sectional championships and two regional titles. He led the team with 22 goals during his senior season.
Coach Avery on Tatalovich: “Of all my recruits, I am most intrigued by Logan. This is a young man with enormous potential and if he continues to develop both athletically and in terms of his soccer, we could really have hit the jackpot with this recruit. The first thing you notice about Logan is that he’s big. We may have taller players, but somehow Logan just looks massive on the field. He is a prototype back to goal striker and he uses his physical tools very well in and around the goal mouth. Logan also finishes very well with both feet, with his head, and has a knack for being in a dangerous position to poach goals.”
“Logan’s challenge will be in adapting to the pace, fitness demands and physicality of the college game where he may not just be the biggest player on the field. He will also need to adapt technically when time and space is taken away from him, but he has a great club coach in Dave Kurtz and he is a hardworking, honest and humble player. Logan plays with great passion and I trust that his competitiveness will drive him to work to maximize his natural gifts.”