The Valparaiso women's soccer team took advantage of a Western Illinois miscue to claim the lead in the 62nd minute, and freshman Allegra Godfrey (Oshkosh, Wis./Oshkosh) capped the night with her first career goal late as the Crusaders earned a 2-0 victory Friday night at Brown Field.
"I thought we did a much better job of keeping the ball tonight, something i've been critical on our group so far this year about doing," said Crusader head coach John Marovich. "We came up with some very good ideas, and had three or four really quality chances early in the match that unfortunately didn't result in goals. When we got away from looking to connect with our teammates, I felt the game got really unorganized, but when we were able to keep the ball, we put ourselves in really good situations to get forward."
The Crusaders peppered shots at the Leatherneck defense early, tallying five shot attempts in the first 15 minutes, but could not find the back of the net. Perhaps the best early chance for the Crusaders came on a nice individual effort from sophomore Jenny Fassbinder (Hudson, Wis./Hudson), whose shot in the 15th minute skidded just wide of the right-hand post. The game would go to the half scoreless, as Western Illinois' best chance came courtesy of a header from Gina Scaffidi in the 30th minute which went wide right.
Valpo finally broke through to take the 1-0 lead in the 62nd minute, thanks in part to the Leatherneck defense. Following a foul, senior Tara Ellis (Portage, Ind./Portage) lined up over a free kick on the right flank about 40 yards out from goal. Ellis sent the service into the box, where a WIU defender headed it past her own goalkeeper and into the back of the net for an own goal, putting the Crusaders ahead.
The Crusaders added the insurance tally courtesy of Godfrey in the 81st minute. Senior Amanda Ulin (Solon, Iowa/Solon) sent a high arcing ball deep into the left-hand side of the box from the right wing. Godfrey waited on the ball, timed her jump perfectly and struck a precise header past Western Illinois goalkeeper Laura Atkinson and inside the far post to make it 2-0 to the Crusaders.
"Allegra is a really heady player - she has a knack for the game and does the little things really well," said Marovich. "On the goal, she didn't go right to the ball, but kept fading toward the back post. That movement drew the defender with her, and gave Allegra a chance to put the header back across the goalmouth. It was a well-deserved first goal for her with the hard work she's put in during training."
Valpo out-shot Western Illinois (4-4-1) on the evening by a 12-9 count and put six shots on goal to the Leathernecks' four. Atkinson made four saves in the losing effort, while Kristen Manski (St. Charles, Ill./North) stopped four shots of her own to earn the shutout - her sixth of the season and 28th of the career, breaking a tie for second-most in Horizon League history.
"Rita Craven did a really nice job in the first half - she really impacted the game by getting forward out of the midfield," said Marovich. "We wanted to give her a bit of a break, and so we brought on Sarrah Ludwig and we brought on Allegra, and I think again that's where the depth of the team comes into play, that they came on and were effective for us."
Valparaiso (5-3-1) closes out its non-league slate on Sunday afternoon at Brown Field as it hosts Eastern Illinois at 1 p.m. The game will serve as Senior Day for the Crusader women, as the six Valpo seniors will be honored prior to the game. Live stats and audio for the fixture will be available through ValpoAthletics.com.