The Valparaiso women’s soccer team extended its incredible run of form Saturday afternoon in Horizon League play at Wright State, overcoming an early one-goal deficit thanks to goals from April Cronin (Glenview, Ill./Glenbrook South) and Vanesa Abad (Barrington, Ill./Lake Zurich [Ohio State]) to down the Raiders 2-1. The victory secures a spot in the Horizon League Championship field for the Crusaders.
With the win, the Crusaders maintained their spot atop the league table, as they now are a perfect 5-0-0 in Horizon League play. With 15 points, Valpo is currently three points clear of Detroit, five points clear of Cleveland State - with a game in hand over the Vikings - and eight points clear of the rest of the field.
The win was the seventh consecutive for the Crusader side, leaving this year’s team just one victory shy of matching the 2006 team’s school-record stretch of eight straight wins. In addition, Saturday’s victory extends the team’s program-record unbeaten streak to 13 consecutive matches (9-0-4).
Valpo controlled Saturday’s matchup with the Raiders early on, firing four shot attempts in the first 13 minutes, including one that needed to be cleared off the line by a WSU defender. But it would be Wright State which cracked the scoreboard first, as Natalie Sedlock let a shot rip from over 30 yards out in the 15th minute, an effort which moved around in the wind and found its way into the back of the net to give the Raiders a 1-0 lead.
The Crusaders continued to push, now looking for the equalizer, and the tying goal would eventually come in the 29th minute. A clearance came out around midfield, where Cronin was able to gain possession. The sophomore took it herself, beating a Wright State defender up the middle of the field, and was able to finish past WSU goalkeeper Halle Pyle to make it a 1-1 game. For Cronin, it was her fifth goal of the season, tying her for team-high honors.
"I thought our team responded quite well to adversity on the road today after giving away a goal early," said Crusader head coach John Marovich. "I thought we stayed settled and didn't panic. We found ourselves a goal before the half, which felt critical at that point."
Out of the halftime break, it took the Crusaders less than four minutes to bury the eventual match-winner. Sophomore Sydney Rumple (Rockford, Ill./Boylan Central Catholic) won the ball on the edge of the box and took a touch, getting a WSU defender on her back. Rumple laid the ball off towards the near post to a cutting Abad, who took her shot well to beat Pyle and put the Crusaders on top 2-1. The fourth goal of the season for Abad, it was her first career match-winning effort.
"Sydney has been working extremely hard all season long, and took advantage when she got an opportunity today," said Marovich. "She was quality in what she did inside the 18-yard box to get it to Vanesa. We also have to give a lot of kudos to Vanesa, because the play started with her 25-yard sprint back to keep a ball in which looked like it was going out - it obviously ended up leading to the goal, and I think it's fitting that she ended up the one scoring it."
The Crusaders dealt well with the Wright State pressure following the go-ahead tally, as despite the fact the Raiders registered ten shot attempts with the wind at their back in the second half, only two of them were on goal. Sydney Galvez-Daley (Chicago, Ill./Fenwick [Creighton]) made both saves to earn the win for the Crusaders, while Pyle took the loss for Wright State (5-9-1, 2-3-1 Horizon). The Raiders out-shot Valpo for the match, 12-10, the first time this season the Crusaders have been on the wrong end of the shot totals.
"In the first 15 minutes of the second half, we really came out determined," said Marovich. "We had a nice run, got into the attacking third and got the goal to go ahead. At that point, we had the wind in our face, and we did a really good job to be able to kill the game off with the pressure that Wright State was putting on."
Valparaiso (9-1-4, 5-0-0 Horizon) returns home next week for two matches, beginning with a mid-week showdown against Milwaukee. Kickoff is slated for 7:30 p.m., with live video through the Horizon League Network, live audio via WVUR (95.1 FM, Valparaiso) and live stats available at ValpoAthletics.com.