Valparaiso jumped in front early, added a goal late in the first half, and hung on to defeat Western Illinois 2-1 on a warm, sunny Sunday afternoon at Eastgate Field in the Mid-Continent Conference opener for both schools.
Kendall Brown (Lake Zurich, Ill./Carmel H.S.) jump-started the Valpo offense just 6:52 into the match. The freshman took a feed through the middle from Lori Johnson (Sachse, Texas/Naaman Forest H.S.) and beat goalkeeper Loes Geurts for her seventh goal of the season, moving her into a tie for fourth place on Valpo's single season charts. The goal also sets a new freshman scoring record for the Crusaders.
Johnson added a goal late in the first half, which turned out to be the match-winner. Jen Bartels (Muskegon, Mich./Mona Shores H.S.) took a corner from left of the goal and found Johnson at the far post with just 28 seconds left in the stanza.
Western Illinois (3-2-2, 0-1 Mid-Con) tried to rally late, as Robyn Ruypers took a feed from Katelyn Wisner through the middle and beat Erin Murray (Pleasanton, Calif./Amador Valley H.S.) from 15 yards out to cut the lead to 2-1 with 5:31 left in the match. The Westerwinds had a chance to tie moments later, but Ashley Hoch's shot from 25 yards out rifled off of the crossbar.
Valpo outshot Western Illinois 15-13 for the match and held a 7-6 advantage on goal. The Crusaders won 11 corner kicks in the match, while surrendering just one.
Murray made five saves in the victory for the Brown and Gold, as the Crusaders improve to a perfect 4-0 at Eastgate Field this season. Geurts made three saves for the Westerwinds, while Julie Remes made one stop, seeing action over the final 24 minutes.
Valparaiso (5-2, 1-0) takes to the road on Tuesday afternoon to begin a four-match roadtrip against Northwestern in Evanston, Ill. Kickoff is set for 4 p.m.