Valparaiso (8-7-0, 2-2-0 MVC)
Crusaders hit home stretch of regular season
Wednesday, Oct. 18 - 7 p.m. – Brown Field - Illinois State (8-6-2, 2-2-0 MVC)
Sunday, Oct. 22 - noon CT - Terre Haute, Ind. - at Indiana State (6-7-1, 1-3-0 MVC)
This Week in Crusader Soccer: With the regular season winding down, the Valparaiso University women's soccer team faces a pair of critical matches this week. The Crusaders open with a mid-week showdown on Wednesday night at Brown Field against Illinois State before traveling to Terre Haute for their final road game of the regular season Sunday afternoon at Indiana State.
Previously: The Crusaders forced extra time in a Missouri Valley Conference battle Sunday evening at Brown Field against UNI, but the Panthers found the match-winning goal in the 97th minute as the Crusaders fell by a 2-1 final. Cory Griffith scored her team-high seventh goal of the year midway through the first half to account for Valpo's tally.
Looking Ahead: The regular season comes to a close next Thursday, Oct. 26 at Brown Field as the Crusaders host Evansville at 4 p.m. Should Valpo advance to the MVC Tournament and be anywhere from the third through sixth seed, tournament action would open at campus sites on Sunday, Oct. 29.
Following the Crusaders: Wednesday's match will be braodcast live on WVUR (95.1 FM, Valparaiso), while Sunday's match can be seen live on The Valley on ESPN3, WatchESPN and the ESPN app. Links for the live coverage of both matches will be available via ValpoAthletics.com.
Head Coach John Marovich: The 2014 Horizon League Coach of the Year, John Marovich holds an 90-69-27 (.556) record both overall and with Valpo in his 10th season at the helm of the Brown and Gold. Just the third head coach in program history, Marovich became the winningest coach in program history midway through last season.
Series Notes: Illinois State - The Redbirds hold a 5-0-0 advantage in the all-time series over the Crusaders, but the two sides have not met for a decade. The last meeting came at Eastgate Field on Sept. 2, 2007 - a 2-1 Illinois State win.
Indiana State - Valpo is 7-2-2 all-time against the Sycamores and has earned results in seven straight matchups in the series. The last two times the two sides met resulted in draws, including most recently a 1-1 tie in Terre Haute in September of 2010.
Scouting the Opposition: Illinois State - The Redbirds enter Wednesday night's match at 8-6-2 overall and with an identical 2-2-0 record in Valley play as the Crusaders. Following back-to-back multi-goal wins within the conference, ILS dropped its last match at Indiana State, 2-1. A balanced offense has seen five players score either three or four goals on the year, while Kelli Zickert has tallied a team-high six assists to go with her three goals. Haley Smith has seen the vast majority of action in goal and has posted seven shutouts and a 1.01 GAA.
Indiana State - The Sycamores currently sit at 6-7-1 overall and 1-3-0 in MVC action, and host Evansville on Wednesday prior to Sunday afternoon's meeting. Katie Wells has started every match and scored a team-best six goals, while Hannah Sullivan has seen about two-thirds of the time in goal and owns a 1.73 GAA.
Glance at the Table: With just two or three matches remaining in the regular season for all of the Valley teams, the race for positioning in the table is heating up. The Crusaders enter the week tied with Illinois State and Missouri State for fourth place on six points, and all three teams are 2-2-0. Meanwhile, Loyola and UNI both sit on nine points, but have both also played an additional match as well. The top six teams advance to the MVC Tournament.
Keep On Scoring: Junior Cory Griffith now has three goals in the Crusaders' last four games as she found the back of the net again versus UNI on Sunday. Her seventh goal of the year is tied for fourth in the conference and moves her into ninth on Valpo's single-season chart, tying her mark from last season. She now owns 17 career goals – just one shy of fifth place in program history – and 40 career points. The junior has also tallied nine career match-winners - the most recent coming at Loyola on Oct. 7 - and is one away from tying Valpo's career record in that category, while with four match-winners this season, she is only one away from her own single-season mark.
Griffin With the Assist: Junior Sydney Griffin tallied yet another assist on Sunday, setting up Griffith's first-half goal. The helper was her team-best fifth assist of the year, tied for third-most in a single season all-time at Valpo. The junior is just one helper away from matching the Crusaders’ single-season record of six, shared by Lindsay Holley (2003) and Laura Murphy (2006). Four of Griffin's five assists have come over Valpo's last four matches.
Helping Out: Senior Grace Rogers continues to sit on the verge of moving atop a Crusader chart. Rogers recorded her fourth assist of the year at Drake on Sept. 30, giving her 12 career helpers to tie for second-most in program history - just one assist shy of the record of 13, held by Lindsay Holley.
Consistency In the Back: Four Crusaders have started every match this season, including three of Valpo's backs - Sydney Gountounas, Natalia Kontul and Ali Quillen. All three have played at least 1200 minutes, with Quillen playing a team-high 1277 of the Crusaders' 1357 total minutes this season. Gountounas has started 28 consecutive matches, while Quillen has been a member of the starting XI in each of the first 34 matches of her Crusader career.
Claiming Awards: Valpo has earned six total weekly awards from the MVC office this year, including most recently Drew Moulton's second Defensive honor on Sept. 25. Following the weekend with victories over Eastern Illinois and Belmont, Sydney Griffin was tabbed Offensive Player of the Week while Kezia Gesell earned Defensive Player of the Week accolades. Previously, following the season's first weekend, Griffin had been named the conference's Offensive Player and Newcomer of the Week and Moulton had been named Defensive Player of the Week.
Reaching A Milestone: The Crusaders celebrate a quarter-century of competition this fall, as the 2017 campaign is Valpo's 25th season of intercollegiate women's soccer. The Crusaders first took the field on Sept. 4, 1993 at Michigan State.
25th Anniversary Team Unveiled: As part of the program's celebration of its milestone year, the Crusaders held fan voting to determine their 25-member 25th Anniversary team and then unveiled the Starting XI from that group, which consists of:
Goalkeeper - Kristen Manski, 2013
Defenders - Kelly Evans, 1999; Janine Lytle, 2012; Jackie Thomas, 2008; Liberty Ziegahn, 2006
Midfielders - Rita Craven, 2015; Jennifer Grupe, 2001; Emily King, 2005
Forwards - April Cronin, 2016; Luisa Desario, 2012; Lori Moore, 2002
Valpo In The Valley: The 2017-18 school year is also a significant season for the Valpo athletics department as a whole, as on July 1, Valparaiso University became a member of the Missouri Valley Conference following a decade of membership in the Horizon League. The move to The Valley dovetails nicely with the soccer program's 25-year celebration, as the MVC is celebrating 25 years of women's competition in the conference as well. The women's soccer team is the only program at Valpo to have previously competed in The Valley, as the Crusaders were an affiliate member of the conference from 1996 through 1998. The highlight of the Crusaders' previous tenure in the conference was the play of goalkeeper Amy Cavanaugh, who set a school and conference record which still stands today with 224 saves during the 1997 season.
Crusaders Picked Fifth in Preseason Poll: Valpo has been chosen to finish in a tie for fifth place in the MVC preseason poll, as voted on by the conference’s head coaches. The Crusaders totaled 29 points in the preseason polling to tie UNI for fifth place. Illinois State received all but one first-place vote to top the poll, while Drake picked up the other first-place nod and was second in the polling.
Experience Returns: Among the 18 letterwinners back for the Crusaders in 2017 are eight of last season's 11 most regular starters. The team features plenty of new blood as well, however, as nine players are in their first season at Valpo - seven freshmen and two transfers.
Looking Back at 2016: The Crusaders are coming off of a 9-10-0 record in 2016, including a 5-4-0 mark within Horizon League play – good for a tie for fourth place. April Cronin earned First Team All-League honors as she closed out her stellar career with team highs of eight goals, five assists, and 21 points, departing Valpo second in program history in career goals and points and third in assists. Second Team All-League selection Cory Griffith struck for seven goals and three assists as a sophomore. Five of Griffith’s seven tallies were match-winners, setting a new Valpo single-season record.