Valparaiso (9-1-4, 5-0-0 Horizon)
Crusaders have chance to clinch first Horizon League title this week
Wednesday, Oct. 22 – Milwaukee (5-9-2, 1-3-2 Horizon) – Brown Field – 7:30 p.m.
Saturday, Oct. 25 – Detroit (7-5-1, 4-1-0 Horizon) – Brown Field – 2 p.m.
This Week in Crusader Soccer: Valparaiso enters the next-to-last week of the regular season with an opportunity to secure its first Horizon League title since joining the league prior to the 2007 season and has the chance to do so at home, taking on Milwaukee Wednesday night before hosting second-place Detroit on Saturday afternoon.
Previously: The Crusaders remained perfect in Horizon League play, extended their winning streak to seven straight matches and their unbeaten streak to 13 consecutive matches with a 2-1 win at Wright State on Saturday. Valpo fell behind early on, but goals from April Cronin and Vanesa Abad gave the Crusaders the come-from-behind win.
Following the Crusaders: Wednesday night’s match will have live video on the Horizon League Network. Links for the live video on Wednesday and live stats for both matches will be available at ValpoAthletics.com. Over the course of the 2014 season, seven matches will have free live video on the Horizon League Network, including four matches at home, while WVUR, Valpo’s student radio station, will also be broadcasting select home matches.
Head Coach John Marovich: John Marovich holds a 61-43-24 record both overall and with Valpo in his seventh season at the helm of the Brown and Gold. Just the third head coach in program history, Marovich has the best winning percentage (.579) ever at Valpo, and ranks second in total victories.
Series Notes: Milwaukee – The Crusaders are still in search of their first victory in program history over the Panthers, as they enter Wednesday 0-15 all-time against UWM. The series has been much more competitive over the past few years, as the last two games have been decided by just one goal, including a 3-2 loss in Milwaukee last season.
Detroit – Valpo is just 3-8-0 all-time against the Titans. The Crusaders defeated Detroit two seasons ago at home, but last season, the Titans picked up two wins in an 11-day span, the second of which came in the first round of the Horizon League Championship.
Scouting the Opposition: Milwaukee – The Panthers enter Wednesday night’s contest on the outside looking in at the league tournament field, as they sit in eighth place in the HL standings with a 1-3-2 league record (5-9-2 overall). Milwaukee most recently battled Oakland to a scoreless draw. Kelly Lewers leads the Panther offense with six goals and 17 points, while Paige Lincicum has played all but 65 minutes in goal and posted her first clean sheet of the season last time out.
Detroit – The Titans enter the week as the team closest to the Crusaders in the league table, owning a 4-1-0 HL mark and a 7-5-1 overall record. Detroit hosts Oakland on Wednesday afternoon before the Saturday night showdown at Brown Field. Alyssa Riley paces the Titans with six goals and 15 points, as she has been in on nine of Detroit’s 15 goals. In goal, Marina Manzo owns a 1.03 GAA and an .819 save percentage.
Still Atop the Table: The Crusaders continued their perfect run through Horizon League play with last Saturday’s win at Wright State, making it five straight victories to open the league slate. This marks the most consecutive wins to start league play since Valpo joined the Horizon League, as only the 2011 squad had even won its first two matches. With the five wins, Valpo sits atop the league table with 15 points, a full three points clear of Detroit and five points clear of the rest of the pack.
Looking For a Banner: Valpo enters this week with a chance to clinch a share of the Horizon League regular season title as soon as Wednesday evening. A win over Milwaukee Wednesday night, combined with a Detroit loss earlier that day to Oakland, would secure the Crusaders at least a tie for the regular season title. Valpo would also clinch at worst a share of the league title with a win over the Titans Saturday evening, regardless of the results from earlier in the week.
Tournament Thoughts: A win over Detroit on Saturday would also guarantee that Valpo would host the Horizon League women’s soccer Championship semifinal and finals for the first time since joining the league. The Crusaders enter the week already having secured at least the fourth seed for the HL Championship, and with just one more point over the last three games, would move into the top-two and earn a first-round bye.
Single, Solitary Loss: The last time Valpo lost a game (Aug. 22), the average gas price in Valparaiso was about $3.50/gallon. Two months later, the Crusaders still have just the lone loss on the season, and gas has been spotted in the Valpo area under $3/gallon in the past couple days. Valpo is one of just seven programs in the nation to enter this week with one loss or fewer, joined by UCLA, Virginia, Florida State, DePaul, Stanford and Colgate.
Unbeaten Streak: The win over Cleveland State on Sept. 27 set a new record for the longest undefeated streak in program history, and the streak continues today. With the most recent win over Wright State, Valpo’s undefeated streak now sits at 13 consecutive matches, as the Crusaders have not lost since the opening contest of the season. Over that stretch, the team owns a 9-0-4 record. The unbeaten streak has bested the record previously held by the 2006 side, which had gone eight straight undefeated (all victories).
Winning Them All Recently: The Crusaders started their current unbeaten run with a number of draws, going 2-0-4 in the games from Aug. 24-Sept. 14. But starting with the game at Eastern Illinois, it has only been entries in the win column for Valpo, as it has now won seven straight matches. With a win on Wednesday, the Crusaders would match the 2006 team's eight-match winning streak, the longest in program history.
Regionally Ranked: For the first time in program history, the Crusader program has earned a spot in the NSCAA Great Lakes Region poll this season. Valpo currently sits at #10 in this week's iteration of the poll, the third straight week the Crusaders have been ranked. Valpo is joined in the poll by seven Big Ten teams, as well as one squad apiece from the Mid-American Conference and Missouri Valley Conference.
Cronin Continues Strong Run: Sophomore April Cronin has just one goal last season as a rookie and went through the first seven matches this season without finding the back of the net. But since scoring a goal at Eastern Illinois on Sept. 19, Cronin has been stellar, scoring five goals in the last seven games and assisting on a goal in one of her two scoreless games. Three of her five goals have been in Horizon League games, tying her for league-high honors.
Abad Finds Match-Winner: On the opposite end of the spectrum from Cronin was redshirt freshman Vanesa Abad. Abad had scored three of Valpo’s first nine goals of the year over the first eight matches, but had been held scoreless over a five-match stretch. Last time out, Abad changed that, netting the eventual match-winner (the first of her career) early in the second half to keep Valpo’s winning streak alive at Wright State.
Craven Ties Program Mark: For the seventh time in her career and the fourth time this season, junior Rita Craven came up with a match-winning goal, finding the back of the net in the 74th minute of the Crusaders' win at UIC. With four match-winning goals, Craven ties Valpo's single-season record in the category, while her seven career match-winners are tied for second most in Crusader history. Craven's four match-winning tallies this season are also tied for most in the Horizon League.
Strong Defense Continues: The Crusaders surrendered just one goal to Wright State last week and continue to be one of the nation's best defensive squads. Valpo, which has given up just two goals in five Horizon League contests to date and has not allowed more than one goal since the first match of the season, ranks seventh nationally in goals against average (0.47) and tenth in save percentage (.875), while goalkeeper Sydney Galvez-Daley is 11th in GAA and 22nd in save percentage. Galvez-Daley, Rogers and center back Shelby Oelschlager have each been named Horizon League Defensive Player of the Week once this season as well.
Crusaders Picked Fifth in Preseason Poll: The head coaches selected Valparaiso to finish in fifth place in the Horizon League this season according to the preseason poll. Milwaukee was picked to capture the league title, with Oakland and Wright State right behind the Panthers.
Roster Breakdown: This year’s Crusader squad brings back 19 players from last season’s roster, 16 of which saw action last year and seven of whom were regular starters. In addition, six newcomers – two transfers and four freshmen – join the fray as well.