Valparaiso (14-1-4, 8-0-0 Horizon)
Crusaders make second NCAA Tournament trip in program history
Friday, Nov. 14 - at #12/11 Notre Dame (12-5-2, 7-2-1 ACC) - 6 p.m. CT
This Week in Crusader Soccer: After claiming its first Horizon League championship last weekend, Valparaiso heads to its second NCAA Tournament in program history and first since 2005, making the hour trip east to take on #12/11 Notre Dame, a number-four national seed, Friday night. The Crusaders enter the NCAA Tournament winners of 12 straight matches, the nation’s second longest streak.
Previously: Hosting the Horizon League Championship, the Crusaders continued their stout defense as Valpo won its semifinal match over Green Bay, 2-0, and the title match over Detroit, 1-0. Tournament MVP April Cronin scored the match-winning goal in both contests, including the decisive 84th-minute strike against the Titans.
Following the Crusaders: Notre Dame will be streaming free live video of the game, while WVUR’s Parker Gatewood and Tommy Mantice will have a live audio broadcast as well. Links for the live video and audio, as well as live stats, will be available at ValpoAthletics.com.
Head Coach John Marovich: John Marovich holds a 65-43-24 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 (.583) ever at Valpo, and ranks second in total victories.
Series Notes: The Crusaders’ all-time series with Notre Dame coincides with Valpo’s NCAA Tournament history, as its only previous NCAA Tournament appearance (2005) also came against the Fighting Irish. Notre Dame, a #2 national seed that year, finished with a 6-0 victory in that contest.
Scouting the Opposition: Notre Dame enters the NCAA Tournament at 12-5-2 on the season and went 7-2-1 in ACC play. The Irish secured an at-large bid to the tournament after falling in the semifinals of the ACC Tournament to #2 Florida State. Morgan Andrews (6g, 5a) and Lauren Bohaboy (7g, 2a) lead the Notre Dame offense, while Kaela Little (0.70 GAA, 11 shutouts) has seen almost all the action in goal.
The Tournament Wins: For a side so predicated on their defensive strength all season long, the Crusaders rose to the challenge when the stakes were highest and the lights were brightest. Valpo surrendered just six shots total over its two tournament victories and gave up just four shots on goal. April Cronin tallied the match-winner against Green Bay in the 22nd minute off a feed from Rita Craven, while Vanesa Abad found an insurance goal in the 73rd minute from Shelby Oelschlager. Then, Detroit registered just two total shot attempts in the championship match, just one on goal, while Cronin took a long free kick from Erika Schoemann in the 84th minute and slotted it home for the title-clinching goal.
All-Tournament Honors: It was a simple selection for MVP of the 2014 Horizon League Championship, as sophomore April Cronin received the accolade following her two-goal performance. She was joined on the All-Tournament Team by redshirt sophomore goalkeeper Sydney Galvez-Daley (2 shutouts), redshirt sophomore defender Shelby Oelschlager (played all 180 minutes on back line, 1 assist) and redshirt freshman forward Vanesa Abad (1 goal)
Regular Season Champions: Valparaiso secured the league regular season crown, the first in program history since joining the Horizon League, with a perfect run through the league slate. It is the third regular season championship overall in program history, joining the 2005 and 2006 Mid-Continent Conference championship squads. This season is the first since 1999 that Milwaukee has not earned at least a share of the Horizon League regular season crown, while Valpo is just the fifth program in league history to earn the outright regular season crown (Notre Dame, Butler, Milwaukee, Loyola).
Perfection in League Play: Not only did Valparaiso win the regular season title, the Crusaders did so without dropping a point in league play. The perfect 8-0-0 mark within the Horizon League was the first perfect slate by a Valpo squad in program history - the 2006 squad did go unbeaten in Mid-Con regular season action, but had a pair of draws mixed in. In addition, this year’s Crusaders are only the third Horizon League side to run the table in a nine-team league, joining the 2009 and 2011 Milwaukee sides.
Craven Claims Top League Honor: For the first time in Valparaiso women’s soccer history, a Crusader has been named league Player of the Year, as junior Rita Craven was named the Horizon League Player of the Year by the league’s head coaches. Craven, who was also honored as the league’s Offensive Player of the Year and was a First Team All-League honoree, is third on the team with five goals and tied for second with 13 points. The box-to-box midfielder tallied four match-winning goals, tying for the league lead and matching a Valpo single-season record.
Abad, Marovich Earn Major Awards: Craven was one of just three Crusaders to earn a major award in the league’s postseason awards. Redshirt freshman Vanesa Abad became the second straight Valpo player to earn Freshman of the Year honors, as she has tallied six goals and 13 points, both among the top-ten in the league. John Marovich earned Coach of the Year accolades for the first time in his tenture, the first time the Crusaders have received a Coach of the Year award since Stephen Anthony picked up the honor in the Mid-Con in 2006.
All-League Honors: Craven (First Team) and Abad (All-Freshman) were two of five Crusader players to earn spots on the league’s various postseason squads. Craven was joined on the First Team by sophomore April Cronin, who tallied nine goals on the season, a league-best five of which came within Horizon League regular season play. A pair of redshirt sophomores, defender Shelby Oelschlager and goalkeeper Sydney Galvez-Daley, represented Valpo on the Second Team.
Strong Defense Continues: The pair of shutouts in the Horizon League Championship continues the run the Crusaders have had as one of the nation’s top defensive squads. Valpo, which gave up just three goals in eight Horizon League contests and which has not allowed more than one goal since the first match of the season, ranks fifth nationally in goals against average (0.40) and fourth in save percentage (.886), while goalkeeper Sydney Galvez-Daley is fifth in GAA and sixth in save percentage.
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 wins in the Horizon League Championship, Valpo’s undefeated streak now sits at 18 consecutive matches, as the Crusaders have not lost since the opening contest of the season. Over that stretch, the team owns a 14-0-4 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 12 straight matches. The win over Milwaukee matched the previous record of eight straight wins (2006), while the title-clinching win over Detroit set a new standard.
Single, Solitary Loss: The last time Valpo lost a game (Aug. 22), the average gas price in Valparaiso was about $3.50/gallon. Nearly three months later, the Crusaders still have just the lone loss on the season, and gas is down to $2.82/gallon. Valpo is one of just five programs in the nation to enter the NCAA Tournament with one loss or fewer, joined by UCLA, Florida State, DePaul and Stanford.
What a Road Turnaround: Last season, the Crusaders struggled away from the friendly confines of Brown Field, posting just a 1-6-1 road record. This year, it has been a different story, as Valpo has not lost away from home, putting a 7-0-2 road mark on the line at Notre Dame Friday night. The Crusaders have won their last seven road matches, tied for the second-longest streak in the nation, and are one of just 11 squads nationally without a road loss this year.
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 a season-high #8 in this week's iteration of the poll, the sixth straight week the Crusaders have been ranked. Valpo is ranked behind five Big Ten teams, as well as one squad apiece from the Mid-American Conference and Missouri Valley Conference.
Academic Honors: The Crusaders haven’t limited their success to the field this season. A pair of starters - juniors Rita Craven and Jenny Fassbinder - both were named CoSIDA First Team Academic All-District V honorees and are both now under consideration for Academic All-American honors. In the classroom, Craven and Fassbinder are both biology majors who owns cumulative GPAs north of 3.90.
Scoring Barrage: While the Crusaders had already clinched the league title heading into the regular season finale against Green Bay, they wasted no time in making their mark on the game, scoring three times in the opening seven minutes of the 4-1 win. Robin Wenzel opened the scoring 32 seconds into the match, the fastest goal to start a game in Crusader history - surpassing Lori Moore’s previous record of 44 against Oakland in 2002. The second goal then came at the 1:46 mark from Vanesa Abad, the 1:14 between goals making it the fifth-fastest consecutive goals in school history. Abby Kenyon scored her first career goal to cap the scoring with an Olimpico in the 64th minute, giving Valpo four goals, its highest output in a Horizon League game since joining the league.
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 nine goals in the last 12 games - including the match-winner against Milwaukee, as well as both match-winners in the league tournament - and assisting on a goal in one of her scoreless games.
League, National Recognition: A top-ten defense nationally has seen the Crusaders earn numerous individual honors for players in the back this year. Valpo boasted four of the Horizon League’s Defensive Players of the Week, as goalkeeper Sydney Galvez-Daley twice earned the honor and defenders Shelby Oelschlager and Grace Rogers each once received the accolade as well. The defense has posted 12 clean sheets this season, a new program single-season record. Speaking of Oelschlager, she was named to College Soccer 360's Primetime Performers Honor Roll Oct. 28 for her work on the Crusaders' back line in the shutouts of Milwaukee and Detroit to clinch the Horizon League regular season title.
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.