The 2011 Horizon League Coach of the Year, Mike Avery begins his ninth year at the helm of the Crusader men’s soccer program in 2015.
Under Avery's guidance, the Crusaders have been a stellar defensive side, posting eight of the top-10 defensive seasons in program history over his first eight seasons. He has coached four Goalkeeper of the Year honorees during that stretch, and has also seen one goalkeeper (Kyle Zobeck) and one defender (Stefan Antonijevic) selected in the MLS Supplemental Draft and go on to play professional soccer.
Avery has led the Crusaders to a new standard in his time as head coach, as a program which had enjoyed just one winning season in the 24 years prior to his arrival has finished above the .500 mark four of the last six years. Last season in 2014, the program matched its best winning percentage in program history by going 8-5-6, including a victory over #7 Michigan State – the highest-ranked team the Crusaders have ever defeated and the second straight year Valpo knocked off a ranked Michigan State side. The Crusaders were ranked in multiple top-25 polls during the season for the first time in program history, while Valpo also earned its highest ranking within the NSCAA Great Lakes Region poll (#4) during the season.
The 2014 squad had a pair of players named Second Team All-Horizon League and one named to the league’s All-Newcomer Team, while Omar Lawrence was named an NSCAA Third Team All-Region selection – the fourth player to earn All-Region honors under Avery. Under his watch, 32 players have earned All-League accolades, including four Goalkeeper of the Year honorees (Ryan Schwarz: 2007, 2009; Zobeck: 2011, 2012) and one Defensive Player of the Year (Antonijevic, 2011). He has also seen five players go on to play professional soccer, including most recently Zev Taublieb, who inked a deal with Sacramento Republic FC of the USL.
Avery guided the Crusaders to a berth in the Horizon League semifinals in 2012, the third time in a four-season span Valpo advanced that far in the league postseason. Along the way, the Crusaders matched the program record for most consecutive games without a loss, as Valpo went undefeated in six consecutive games in October, four of which were Horizon League contests. Four Crusaders earned postseason honors from the Horizon League, highlighted by the repeat selection of Zobeck as Goalkeeper of the Year.
Following the season, Zobeck was drafted in the MLS Supplemental Draft by FC Dallas, the second straight season Valpo had a selection in the league's supplemental draft. He then became the first Crusader alum in program history to sign an MLS contract, inking a deal with FC Dallas. Meanwhile, Antonijevic signed a professional deal in the U.S. as well, joining the Fort Lauderdale Strikers of the NASL.
2011 saw Avery lead the Crusaders as they captured Valpo's first Horizon League title in any team sport, finishing the league slate with a 5-1-2 record and earning the right to host the Horizon League Championship. Avery, who guided Valpo to a 9-6-5 overall record in 2011, was named the league's Coach of the Year while coaching the Horizon League Defensive Player of the Year (Antonijevic) and Goalkeeper of the Year (Zobeck), as well as five other All-League honorees.
Along the way, the Crusaders posted the best defensive season in program history in 2011, surrendering just 14 goals in 20 contests, including 11 shutouts. Three players were named to the NSCAA All-Region teams, while Antonijevic became the first player in Valparaiso men's soccer history to be drafted by a Major League Soccer squad, as he was chosen by Sporting KC in the MLS Supplemental Draft. For his efforts on the sideline, Avery agreed to an extension in the summer of 2012.
Avery has also created a resurgence of interest around the Crusader program. From running 1,000 miles in five months to raise money for the program as part of The Extra Mile campaign, to sending out regular updates to an extensive supporter e-mail list, Avery has helped generate a sense of ownership in the program among the fans. This has transferred into support at the home venue, as the Crusaders have enjoyed their eight highest average home attendances in program history over his eight seasons.
He also has encouraged the players in the Crusader program to give back, most significantly teaming with Taj Weekes’ children’s charity, TOCO, over the last three years, as well as raising money the past two years for St. Baldrick's Foundation to help find cures for childhood cancers. Avery also has been instrumental in helping the Valpo men’s soccer program create the #oneVALPO campaign, which it started to help celebrate diversity and has spread throughout other teams, the campus and the community.
Avery arrived at Valpo from the University of Louisville, where he was the top assistant under head coach Ken Lolla in 2006. While with the Cardinals, he helped the program to its first Big East Conference Tournament berth. He also served as the program’s recruiting coordinator.
Before heading to Louisville, Avery was an assistant for six seasons at the University of Notre Dame, where the Fighting Irish won a pair of Big East titles in 2003 and 2004. Notre Dame made five straight NCAA Tournament appearances, including two trips to the Sweet 16. Avery helped recruit and coach 11 All-America selections, four M.A. C. Hermann Trophy semifinalists, and the 2006 NCAA Division I Hermann Award winner, Joe Lapira.
Prior to his stint at Notre Dame, Avery spent three seasons as the director of soccer at Cal State University, San Bernardino. While there, he served as the head coach of both the men’s and women’s varsity teams. In his three years as men’s coach, Avery led the Coyotes through a successful rebuilding campaign.
Avery began his head coaching career at Bethel College [Ind.], where he guided the program for three seasons. He led the men’s team through a rebuilding process, finishing with a 43-20-6 record, including an 18-4-2 mark in 1996. He was named the Mid Central Conference Coach of the Year and NCCAA Regional Coach of the Year in both 1995 and 1996, and in his final season with the Pilots, 1996, he led the men to a #1 national ranking in the NCCAA poll as well as a #11 ranking in the NAIA poll, both firsts for the program. In addition, he guided the women’s squad in 1996, its inaugural season.
Avery played at Westmont College in Santa Barbara, Calif. from 1986-1989 where he was a two-time honorable mention All-American and four-time All-Conference and All-Far West selection while helping lead the Warriors to three NAIA national tournament appearances.
He received his degree in physical education in 1990 from Westmont and went on to play professionally both in the United States and abroad, enjoying stints with Real Santa Barbara, Askims IK (Sweden), and serving as a player-coach with the Indiana Invaders. Avery received his master’s degree in kinesiology from Midwestern State in 1994.
Avery and his wife, Valpo volleyball head coach Carin, reside in Valparaiso with their two sons, Alex and Kasongo (K.J.).