After learning earlier in the day that it had secured a berth into the Horizon League Championship, the Valparaiso women's soccer team closed out the regular season on Friday night at Brown Field by battling to a 1-1 (2ot) draw with Green Bay.
Valpo came out strong in the early going, with a couple of solid early scoring attempts. But it would be the Phoenix who cracked the scoreboard first, as Jenna Harrington fed Ahna Logan, whose shot from the top of the box snuck past Kristen Manski (St. Charles, Ill./North) into the lower left corner to give Green Bay a 1-0 edge 12 minutes into the game.
Valpo found the equalizer just over 10 minutes later, however. Rita Craven (Frankfort, Ill./Lincoln-Way North) played a through ball into the area, where freshman April Cronin (Glenview, Ill./Glenbrook South) ran onto it. Cronin's strike to the far post found the back of the net for the rookie's first career goal, knotting the fixture at one apiece.
"I liked how we responded tonight to giving away the early goal, and the way we got it back before the half," said Crusader head coach John Marovich. "We had a nice buildup and were patient with possession, and I felt like we were rewearded for our patience with a goal. As the game went along, the weather didn't help matters in trying to earn three points, but that's the Horizon League - every team is this league is a good side, and it's not easy to get wins. Tonight, we knew what our future held for us, and we made sure to do what we needed to do to prepare for Tuesday."
While both sides had plenty of shot attempts on the evening (Valpo - 16; Green Bay - 15), neither side was able to find the back of the net in the final 87 minutes as the match ended in a draw. Manski stopped eight shots to earn the tie for the Crusaders, while Katy Pilarzyk made three saves for Green Bay (4-8-5, 1-5-1 Horizon).
The Crusaders were guaranteed a spot in the tournament with a loss by Youngstown State Friday afternoon, and had actually secured the fifth seed in the bracket prior to the end of their contest. As the five seed, Valpo will travel to fourth-seeded Detroit for a 1 p.m. (CT) kickoff on Tuesday afternoon in first-round action. Details on tickets and live coverage will be available in the coming days.
"We're excited about being in the Horizon League tournament and getting the chance to go back to Detroit," said Marovich. "We're just going to get ourselves prepared over the next few days - physically, mentally and emotionally - after a long, hard season for the exciting time of year that is postseason play."