Valparaiso (9-9-0, 3-4-0 MVC)
2017 Missouri Valley Conference Tournament - First Round
Chicago, Ill. - Loyola Soccer Park
Sunday, Oct. 28 - at Loyola (12-6-0, 4-3-0 MVC) - 1 p.m.
Next Up in Crusader Soccer: The sixth-seeded Valparaiso University women’s soccer team opens Missouri Valley Conference tournament play with a first-round matchup at third-seeded Loyola Sunday afternoon at 1 p.m. The Crusaders will be looking to repeat the regular season result from Chicago, which saw Valpo earn a 2-1 victory.
Previously: Valpo dropped its regular season finale on Thursday evening at Brown Field to Evansville by a 2-1 final, concluding the regular season at 9-9-0 overall and 3-4-0 in MVC action.
Looking Ahead: With a victory on Sunday, the Crusaders would move on to take on second-seeded and host Missouri State on Friday, Nov. 3 in semifinal tournament action.
Following the Crusaders: Sunday’s match will be broadcast live on The Valley on ESPN3, WatchESPN and the ESPN app. Links for the live video, as well as live stats, will be available via ValpoAthletics.com.
Head Coach John Marovich: The 2014 Horizon League Coach of the Year, John Marovich holds an 91-71-27 (.553) 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 the 2015 season.
Series Notes: Valpo’s most-common opponent all-time, the Crusaders will be matching up with Loyola for the 26th time on Sunday afternoon. The Ramblers hold a 15-9-1 advantage in the series, but Valpo has won the last four meetings, including a 2-1 win in Chicago earlier this season. Cory Griffith tallied the match-winning goal for the Crusaders in that matchup, while Drew Moulton stopped five shots in goal.
Scouting the Opposition: Loyola enters the MVC Tournament at 12-6-0 overall and 4-3-0 in regular season conference action. The Ramblers earned the tournament’s third seed by virtue of winning a tiebreaker with UNI. The conference’s most prolific offense, Loyola has found the back of the net 59 times this season - 28 more than any other MVC squad. Jenna Szczesny is tied for the conference lead with 12 goals on the year, while Katie Grall ranks third with 11 goals.
Valpo In Tournament Action: The 2017 MVC Tournament actually marks the Valpo women’s soccer program’s fourth appearance all-time in The Valley’s postseason event, as the Crusaders previously were a conference member from 1996 through 1998. Valpo is still in search of its first MVC Tournament win, however. In their 10 seasons as a member of the Horizon League, the Crusaders went 4-6-2 in league postseason tournament action - including a pair of wins to claim the 2014 postseason title.
Approaching Double Figures: Valpo’s 2-1 win last Sunday at Indiana State was the Crusaders’ ninth of the year, leaving them just one victory shy of the 10-win milestone. Should Valpo reach double digits in wins, it would be the 10th season in program history with 10 or more victories.
Success on the Road: The Crusaders entered MVC play on Sept. 23 with a 1-5-0 record away from home in non-conference action. But Valpo turned things around on the road in conference play, going 3-1-0 away from home with wins at Missouri State, at Loyola and at Indiana State.
Taking Charge Up Front: Junior forward Cory Griffith has been the Crusaders’ go-to up top all season, and scored another goal in the regular season finale against Evansville to reach double figures on the year with 10 goals. Griffith is tied for third in a single season in program history with her 10 goals, just one shy of the Crusaders’ single-season record, and ranks fifth in points with 23. Meanwhile, the junior completed a brace last Sunday at Indiana State to register the match-winning goal in a 2-1 win - that match-winner brought Griffith into a tie for both single-season GWG (5) and career GWG (10) atop the Valpo record books.
Making An Immediate Impact: Junior forward Sydney Griffin scored just two goals in the first two seasons of her collegiate career at New Hampshire, but has been a force on the attack from day one for the Crusaders this year. Griffin ranks second on the team and sixth in the conference with six goals, and has also proven an adept distributor with five assists - tied for fourth in a single season in program history and just one off the record.
Rogers Sets Assists Mark: Senior defender Grace Rogers entered the final week of the regular season just one assist shy of Valpo’s program record for career assists, but made sure she would enter the postseason alone atop the chart, as she tallied an assist in each of Valpo’s last two matches of the year. Rogers assisted on the Crusaders’ first goal at Indiana State for her 13th career helper to match the previous record, and then broke the tie with an assist last time out against Evansville. That assist against the Purple Aces was Rogers’ sixth of the year as well to tie the Crusaders’ single-season record.
Helping Out: In the first 24 years of Crusader women’s soccer, there had been only 19 times when a player tallied four or more assists in a single season. But this year’s squad features four players with at least four helpers. Rogers and Griffin lead the way with six and five assists, respectively, while Keegan Maris and Natalia Kontul own four assists each as well. As a team, Valpo has tallied 29 assists on its 27 goals this year, matching the team record for assists in a single season set in 2005.
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 1500 minutes, with Quillen playing a team-high 1547 of the Crusaders’ 1627 total minutes this season. Gountounas has started 31 consecutive matches, while Quillen has been a member of the starting XI in each of the first 37 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. 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 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.
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.