Where to start on Friday evening for the Valparaiso women’s soccer team? The quickest goal in program history to start a game, one which sparked a three-goal barrage in the opening eight minutes? The most goals in a Horizon League game (4) since joining the league prior to the 2007 season? The win which made the Crusaders just the third team in league history to go 8-0-0 in Horizon League play? The fact that the victory was the 12th of the season for this year’s side, matching the program record for wins in a single season?
All of that and more was accomplished by Valparaiso Friday evening, as the Crusaders closed out the regular season with an emphatic 4-1 victory at Green Bay. With the win, Valpo – which had already secured the league regular season crown and the #1 seed for the league tournament – will head into the Horizon League Championship on a ten-match winning streak.
The Crusaders barely let the fans in Green Bay get settled before opening the scoring just 32 seconds into the match. Valpo possessed the ball in the midfield, where junior Rita Craven (Frankfort, Ill./Lincoln-Way North) took control. Craven dribbled forward at the Phoenix back line and slipped a pass between the center and outside backs on the right side, where sophomore Robin Wenzel (Woodstock, Ill./Marian Central Catholic) was making a run. Wenzel ran onto it and took it to goal, beating Green Bay goalkeeper Nastacia Behle to quickly make it 1-0 Valpo. The goal was the fastest to start a match in Crusader history, surpassing Lori Moore’s tally 44 seconds in at Oakland in 2002.
If that wasn’t enough, Valpo then struck again before the second minute was through. Senior Kelsey Draper (Perrysburg, Ohio/Perrysburg) made a run towards the end line, beating one player at the top of the 18-yard box before cutting inside at the end line to beat another. Draper then delivered a great end line serve to the top of the six, where redshirt freshman Vanesa Abad (Barrington, Ill./Lake Zurich [Ohio State]) was waiting to put it home with her first touch, making it 2-0 Crusaders. The goal came 1:46 into the match, with the 1:14 in between goals making it the fifth-fastest back-to-back goals in program history.
The Crusaders then all but put the match away in the eighth minute. In a setup very similar to their second goal, Abad took the ball to the endline and cut up the boundary. Sending the ball into the middle, this time it was sophomore April Cronin (Glenview, Ill./Glenbrook South) who put it away first time to make it 3-0 Valpo with just 7:01 elapsed. For Cronin, it was her team-high seventh goal of the season, a league-leading five of which have come within Horizon League play.
“I really liked how we came out tonight, obviously,” said Crusader head coach John Marovich. “Not just the fact we scored three goals so quickly, but I liked how we scored the goals - that it was off things we talked about that we wanted to do. We were able to really get forward early on and got really good decisions from everyone. Going against the wind in the first half, we talked tactically about keeping the ball on the ground and connecting passes looking for runs, and we did a nice job with that.”
Valpo killed off the remainder of the first half without allowing a goal despite playing against the win for the opening 45 minutes. The Phoenix cracked the scoreboard in the 60th minute on an Alex Zeller rebound goal following a save of a Chandra Eigenberger effort, but the Crusaders needed just four minutes to respond. Senior Abby Kenyon (Canton, Ohio/Jackson) lined up for a corner in the 64th minute and ended up scoring an Olimpico, as her re-start caught up in the wind and curled inside the far post in the upper 90 of the goal to make it 4-1 Crusaders. For Kenyon, it was her first career goal, while the four goals are the most Valpo has scored in a Horizon League game since joining the league.
“I think I was most impressed with the fact we were able to get out of the first half without giving up a goal,” said Marovich. “We did a nice job dealing with a very heavy wind. In the second half, I felt like we created a few more chances, and then Abby’s goal was obviously huge to answer Green Bay’s goal. It was just a fantastic job all around, and I’m super proud of everyone. We had a nice regular season, but now it’s time to move on to the second season – we have to be focused on what’s ahead and get back to work tomorrow.”
Redshirt sophomore goalkeeper Sydney Galvez-Daley (Chicago, Ill./Fenwick [Creighton]) was kept fairly busy on Friday, matching her season high with eight saves while surrendering just the one goal. Behle made one save for Green Bay (10-6-1, 4-4-0 Horizon), which out-shot Valpo by a 12-8 margin.
With the victory Friday, the Crusaders became just the third side in Horizon League history to go 8-0-0 through a league campaign, joining the 2009 and 2011 Milwaukee squads. The win was the 12th of the season for Valpo, matching a program record for wins in a single season held by the 2005 and 2006 teams. In addition, the victory extended the Crusaders’ winning streak to ten consecutive matches and the unbeaten streak to 16 straight matches.
Valparaiso (12-1-4, 8-0-0 Horizon) now waits for Monday’s first-round Horizon League Championship matches to be played to find out who they will play in Thursday’s semifinal at Brown Field at 7 p.m. The full bracket will be available at HorizonLeague.com and ValpoAthletics.com.