The Valparaiso women’s soccer team matched a program record for the longest unbeaten streak in program history, but more importantly earned three points in its first Horizon League match of the year as the Crusaders defeated Oakland Wednesday night, 3-0, at Brown Field.
The victory on Wednesday was the eighth straight result the Crusaders have earned, matching a stretch of eight consecutive matches in the middle of the 2006 campaign. This is also just the second time in program history Valpo has suffered just one defeat in its first nine matches of the year, joining the 2008 season.
“I thought our team executed extremely well tonight, and that we were real quality in the first 45 minutes,” said Crusader head coach John Marovich. “We were efficient with our chances in the first half, putting six of our eight shots on goal and scoring three goals, and I thought that was the result of a quality execution of our tactics.”
The impetus for the victory Wednesday night was junior Rita Craven (Frankfort, Ill./Lincoln-Way North). Craven found the back of the net twice for her first career multi-goal match and now owns a team-best four goals on the season. Her first goal ended up being the match-winning tally, the sixth game-winning goal of her career, which ties her for fifth-most in Crusader history. In addition, Craven has three match-winners this season, just one off of Valpo’s single-season record.
The Crusaders entered the match with just two first-half goals on the season, but would make quick work of the Golden Grizzlies, scoring all three of their goals in the opening 45 minutes, including two in the first 20 minutes. The opener came in the 11th minute, as senior Kaylee Draper (Perrysburg, Ohio/Perrysburg) took a free kick from 35 yards out. Draper sent it into the box, where sophomore Kat Anesini (Seattle, Wash./Ballard) brought it down and took a shot on goal. Anesini’s shot was saved by Oakland goalkeeper Stephanie Bukovec, but the rebound went to Craven at the far post, who tucked it away for the eventual match-winner.
Then, Valpo grabbed an insurance tally with a superb individual strike from sophomore April Cronin (Glenview, Ill./Glenbrook South) in the 20th minute. An attempted clearance out of their own end from the Golden Grizzlies was intercepted by Cronin, about 25 yards from goal. The sophomore took one step and unleashed a cracker of a shot, a golazo which rifled into the right-hand side of the net and left Bukovec no chance to react as Cronin put the Crusaders ahead 2-0.
The final goal would come for the Crusaders in the 38th minute. Anesini was on the run with the ball in the middle of the box when she was taken down by an Oakland defender. The referee immediately pointed to the spot, and Craven stepped up to take the first penalty attempt of her career. The junior calmly drove the ball to her right, easily beating Bukovec and making it 3-0 Valpo.
The Crusaders’ dominance in the opening 45 minutes was borne out by the numbers, as Valpo attempted eight first-half shots – six of which were on goal – while surrendering just one to the Golden Grizzlies. With Oakland pushing people forward in the second half, it registered seven second-half shots, three of which were on goal and all saved by Sydney Galvez-Daley (Chicago, Ill./Fenwick [Creighton]) to cap a four-save performance in the shutout, her sixth clean sheet of the year. Valpo recorded ten second-half shots as well, out-shooting Oakland for the game 18-8.
“Obviously it was a great game from Rita, scoring twice – I also thought Kaylee’s service was quite good tonight, and that Kat did an excellent job at center forward in her movement,” said Marovich. “I thought the back line did a very nice job killing off the game against quality opposition. This is a really nice win over an Oakland side that has a lot of quality in its team, and to get a result like tonight’s is a great start to the league season.”
Valparaiso (4-1-4, 1-0-0 Horizon) looks for another three points in league play and to remain at the top of the table on Saturday evening as the Crusaders make a tough road trip to Cleveland State. Kickoff is slated for 6 p.m. CT, with live video and live stats available through ValpoAthletics.com.