Taking on a Miami (Ohio) side which is receiving votes in the national polling, it looked like Valparaiso would play into overtime with the RedHawks on Sunday afternoon at Brown Field before an 87th minute penalty kick proved to be the decisive moment in a 1-0 defeat.
Miami held the better of play early on in the game, but the Crusaders were able to keep the RedHawks from turning possession into shots. Miami had two shots in the first eight minutes and then did not have another shot attempt for over a half-hour, with Valpo goalkeeper Kristen Manski (St. Charles, Ill./North) making easy saves on the pair of shots on goal.
The Crusaders started to control play more as the half ticked on, and ended up with the best scoring chance for either side in the opening period. Less than a minute after Rita Craven (Frankfort, Ill./Lincoln-Way West) forced Miami netminder Allison Norenberg to make her first save of the game, a fortuitous bounce of the ball landed it at the feet of freshman April Cronin (Glenview, Ill./Glenbrook South) with a wide-open run at a 1-v-1 situation with Norenberg. But Norenberg came off her line well to cut down Cronin's angle and made a sprawling save at the rookie's attempt to keep the game scoreless as it headed into halftime.
Miami had a quality opportunity at goal in the 54th minute, as Katy Dolesh was past her defender on the right-hand side of the box, forcing Manski to come off her line to try to contest the shot. Dolesh slotted a shot along the ground that eluded Manski, but it would carom off the far post and back into the field of play as the game remained nil-nil.
The RedHawks would find their goal from the penalty spot just over three minutes before time. A push forward resulted in a Crusader defender taking down a Miami attacker in the box, and the referee called for the foul and pointed to the spot. Kelsey Dinges stepped up for Miami and placed the penalty kick inside the right-hand post for the game's lone goal. Valpo had a quality chance in the final minute of play, as a cross from the left found Robin Wenzel (Woodstock, Ill./Marian Central Catholic) alone at the edge of the box, but by the time Wenzel corraled the ball, a RedHawk defender had recovered and stepped in front of her effort to block it away.
Miami (1-1-0) ended up with a 13-7 edge in shots, and put seven on goal to Valpo's three. Manski made six saves for the Crusaders, while Norenberg stopped three shots to earn the shutout. The RedHawks also held a 6-2 edge in corner kicks.
Valparaiso (1-1-0) closes out the season-opening three-match homestand next Friday at Brown Field, as the Crusaders welcome Division I newcomer Grand Canyon to Northwest Indiana. Kickoff is set for 7:30 p.m., with live stats available at ValpoAthletics.com.