The Valparaiso University men’s soccer team will look to carry over the success experienced late in the 2018 season to a 2019 campaign that features a largely new-look roster.
After finishing last year on a six-game unbeaten streak, Valpo will lift the lid on the 2019 regular season on Friday night at Green Bay under the direction of 13th-year head coach Mike Avery. This year’s side is comprised of 15 newcomers and 13 returnees.
“The attitude of our team has been tremendous; our players enjoy each other greatly,” Avery said. “We’re seeing all the right things in terms of a group coming together; now it’s a matter of continuing to grow and hoping the results come along the way. All six teams qualify for the Missouri Valley Conference Tournament this year, so we want to be playing our best by the end of the season. It doesn’t matter if we’re good today; it matters if we’re good in November. We’re confident we can accomplish quite a bit this season.”
Valpo has enjoyed great success in developing professional-level talent across all positions in Avery’s time guiding the program, but that holds especially true at the goalkeeper spot.
After adding his name to the long list of successful Valpo goalkeepers, Nacho Miras was able to graduate and sign a professional contract, causing him to forgo his redshirt senior season. Consequently, the goalkeeper group is comprised of all new players. Danny Salazar (East Chicago, Ind. / Bishop Noll) and Edvin Holst (Stockholm, Sweden / Viktor Rydberg Gymnasium Jaraplan) have joined the team as freshmen, while Jorn-Jan van de Beld (Balkrug, The Netherlands / University of Twente) has transferred in for his senior season.
“We had anticipated Nacho being back for a fifth year, but then he had the opportunity to graduate and sign a professional contract in Spain,” Avery said. “We were thrilled for Nacho’s opportunity, but it did put us in a bit of a bind in terms of planning for our goalkeepers. Our staff worked hard in the offseason to secure three goalkeepers who have all been great. We haven’t determined a clear winner yet in the competition for the position as all three are capable of doing a very good job.”
Departed seniors Alex Brown and Matthew King headlined another position group that was hit by the graduation of numerous standouts.
Fifth-year senior Dylan Waugaman (Houston, Texas / Friendswood [Oregon State]) was a 2018 CoSIDA Academic All-American Second Team honoree, while redshirt junior Julien Bertho (Plumelec, France / Richland CC) is back after battling injuries last season. Junior Junta Callahan (Okinawa, Japan / Kadena) is another returnee who factors into Valpo’s plans on the back line. Sophomore Chavez Brooks (Kingston, Jamaica / Wolmer’s Boys School) is a newcomer of sorts as he took a year off in 2018 after debuting in 2017.
Freshman Jack Eaton (Valparaiso, Ind. / Chesterton) will make an immediate impact after winning the Gatorade Indiana Player of the Year honor as a prep senior. Dehai Abraham (Orlando, Fla. / Montverde Academy [East Tennessee State]) has transferred in for his junior season, while freshman Vukasin Bulatovic (Elmwood Park, Ill. / Elmwood Park) will also make contributions right away.
“We’re going to have some options on defense as all of our players are capable of doing a good job,” Avery said. “Chavez is consistent and athletic while bringing a toughness to our team. Jack has been terrific. Dehai and Vuk bring some electric play to the back. We defend better individually so far this year than we did at any point last year. The challenge is getting tactics sorted out, and that just takes time. We’ve played three exhibitions and improved each game, so hopefully that trend continues.”
The largest contingent of returning players comes in the midfield. Names like redshirt junior Chris Villalobos (Richardson, Texas / J.J. Pearce), junior Mason Marcey (Charlotte, N.C. / Charlotte Christian [Radford]), senior Adan Garcia (Dallas, Texas / Episcopal School of Dallas) and fifth-year senior Demar Rose (Kingston, Jamaica / Wolmer’s Boys School) are familiar ones to Valpo fans.
Rose represented Valpo on the Preseason All-MVC team and is one of four players conference-wide returning this year after receiving First-Team All-MVC accolades in 2018. Garcia was a 2018 All-MVC Honorable Mention performer after earning all-conference second team honors as a sophomore, a year where he scored nine goals and accrued 22 points.
Redshirt sophomore Lucas Oliveira (Rio de Janeiro, Brazil / Northeastern Oklahoma A&M) has joined the team as a transfer and made his debut in Sunday’s exhibition finale against Purdue Fort Wayne after receiving NCAA clearance. Freshman Andy Lomeli (Dyer, Ind. / Lake Central) has made a quick adjustment to the college game.
“When everybody is healthy, available and on form, we have as good of a midfield as anyone in the conference,” Avery said. “Our possession is very good and we’ve built that from the back to the middle to the front. We have players in the midfield who are capable of connecting the game. Demar is going to play professionally in the future and Adan has the potential to do so. Andy has surprised us with how quickly he’s adjusted to the college game. He’s arguably been our best player in preseason. We’re having a hard time getting him off the field, and that’s a good problem to have. We saw Lucas in live action for the first time on Sunday and he’s going to be a good complement to what we do. We’re thrilled with our midfield group.”
With one of the most talented attackers in program history in Rafael Mentzingen and a key contributor in Lucca Lacerda both now in the professional ranks, there are big shoes to fill up front for Valpo.
Sophomore Joe Kouadio (London, England / Moorland School) had a strong preseason and provides a big, athletic body at the forward position. Junior Ryan Madondo (Franklin, Tenn. / Franklin Road Academy [East Tennessee State]) brings Division-I experience to the table as he joins the team as a transfer.
Jonas Engler (Illingen, Germany / Georg Kerschensteiner Scule) has displayed versatility throughout his Valpo career and the junior’s strong left foot could be part of Valpo’s plans up front this year. Freshman Cole Rainwater (Schererville, Ind. / Lake Central) will log significant minutes as well.
“The name of the game is scoring goals, so the question is always who is going to score,” Avery said. “Joe and Ryan could form a pretty interesting partnership; that’s one of the more athletic duos we’ve had up top. With all of the possession we get out of our back and midfield play, it could be a very interesting attack. As a position group, it’s going to be fun to watch our strikers develop over time.”
Sticking with the theme of new faces, two of the three assistants on Avery’s staff are in their first season. Former assistant coach Chris Pfau returned to the women’s side of the sport as he departed for a job at Evansville, while former volunteer assistant Raul Barillas has taken an assistant coaching role at Northwest Nazarene University in Idaho.
“The changes were all positive, as the new positions were good situations for Chris and Raul,” Avery said. “Chris came from the women’s side as a longtime head coach and was really good at what he did here, but had the opportunity to go back to the place where he started in Division-I soccer and that was a good situation for him.”
Two-time Valparaiso graduate Brendan Roth was promoted to top assistant for the third year of his second stint on staff at Valpo. Roth spent the 2016 season as the head coach at Calumet College of Saint Joseph after previously serving as the director of soccer operations and reserve team head coach at Valpo. He played for Avery from 2007-2011.
“Elevating Brendan was a very simple decision,” Avery said. “He’s been great for our program and has been with me longer than anyone as both a player and coach.”
The program has announced the addition of two coaches with local ties as Mike Enghofer has taken over as the second assistant and Graeme Langford has assumed the role of volunteer assistant.
Enghofer spent the spring of 2019 serving as the top assistant at Indiana University Northwest, where he helped train and recruit as the program prepared for its inaugural season of competition. He received his degree in mathematics teaching in 2015 from Purdue Fort Wayne, where he enjoyed a decorated playing career for the Mastodons. During his time in Fort Wayne, Enghofer was a regular starter and helped lead the team to three Summit League Tournament appearances. He will train Valpo’s goalkeepers.
“I recruited Mike when he played at Merrillville High School,” Avery said. “He understands the local recruiting scene and is connected to local players. He loves the game and is a good person for our team to be around.”
Langford has served as a founder and director of the local premier soccer club NWI Lions United (formerly Three Lions United) since 2009. The Manchester, England native moved to America in 2007 to work for the Chicago Fire’s Camps and Training Program. He owns two years of college coaching experience at Calumet College of St. Joseph from 2016-2018.
“Graeme has a good eye for the game and is excited to be around college soccer,” Avery said. “He has a great personality and the players enjoy having him around. I’ve seen him coach from afar as my oldest son Alex has played with Lions United, and I’ve always been impressed with him. He’s a positive coach with a great demeanor. It takes a village to coach a team, and I’m very fortunate to have great help.”