Valparaiso (0-0-0, 0-0-0 MVC)
Friday, Aug. 17 - at Green Bay (0-0-0, 0-0-0 Horizon) - 7 p.m.
Sunday, Aug. 19 - at Eastern Illinois (0-0-0, 0-0-0 OVC) - 1 p.m.
This Week in Crusader Soccer: The 26th season of Valparaiso University women’s soccer kicks off this weekend with a pair of road matches. Valpo opens the campaign Friday evening on the not-so-frozen tundra at Green Bay before turning around for a Sunday afternoon matchup against Eastern Illinois.
Previously: Valpo avoided defeat in both of its exhibition matches, drawing Western Michigan, 2-2, and winning at Oakland, 2-0. Adi Johnson and Anna Eksten found the back of the net at WMU, while Cory Griffith and Caitlyn Oliver tallied goals in the win over the Golden Grizzlies.
Looking Ahead: Valpo opens a four-match homestand next weekend with two home contests in three days, hosting Toledo on Friday evening and Purdue Fort Wayne on Sunday afternoon.
Following the Crusaders: Both matches this weekend will have live stats available through ValpoAthletics.com. Friday night’s match at Green Bay will also be broadcast live on ESPN+, ESPN’s director-to-consumer subscription streaming service available through the ESPN app.
Head Coach John Marovich: The 2014 Horizon League Coach of the Year, John Marovich holds an 91-72-27 (.550) record both overall and with Valpo entering his 11th season at the helm of the Brown and Gold. Just the third head coach in program history, Marovich holds Valpo’s all-time records for victories and winning percentage.
Series Notes: Green Bay - Valpo owns a 9-8-3 advantage in the all-time series with the Phoenix, but it has been the Crusaders who have dominated recently, as all 12 positive results have come in the last 12 meetings, dating back to 2007. Valpo will carry a four-match winning streak in the series into Friday’s meeting, including most recently a 2-0 win at Green Bay on Oct. 1, 2016.
Eastern Illinois - Valpo trails the all-time series with the Panthers 6-7-1, but all six Valpo wins have come in the last six meetings. Valpo earned a 3-2 win in extra time over EIU last season on Sept. 1 at Brown Field, as Tahelah Noel leveled the match with just 75 seconds to play and Cory Griffith found the golden goal just 39 seconds into the extra period.
Valpo Picked Sixth in Preseason Poll: Valpo has been chosen to finish in sixth place in the MVC preseason poll, as voted on by the conference’s head coaches. The Crusaders totaled 24 points in the preseason polling. Loyola picked up five first-place votes en route to topping the poll, while Missouri State (two first-place votes) and UNI (one first-place vote) were tabbed second and third, respectively.
Looking Back at 2017: Valpo is coming off of a 9-10-0 record in 2017 and posted a 3-4-0 mark in Missouri Valley Conference play, good for a tie for fifth place. Cory Griffith was a First Team All-MVC selection and earned Third Team All-Region honors after matching Valpo’s single-season record with 11 goals scored. Five Valpo players in all received postseason recognition from the MVC, as Sydney Griffin, Kelsey Jahn and Grace Rogers were Honorable Mention All-Conference and Keegan Maris earned a spot on the conference’s All-Freshman Team.
Making the Step Up: Valpo faced a giant step up in conference competition last season as it made the move from the Horizon League to the Missouri Valley Conference. The Crusaders jumped from the nation’s 28th-ranked league in 2016 to the nation’s 12th-ranked conference in 2017. The average team RPI in the MVC in 2017 was 85 spots better than the average team RPI in the Horizon League the previous year. This upgrade in competition allowed Valpo to finish the 2017 campaign 57 spots higher in the RPI despite posting the same win-loss record as the previous season.
An Experienced Group: Valpo welcomes back nine of its 11 regular starters from last year’s campaign and 20 letterwinners in all, including players who combined for 26 of the Crusaders’ 28 goals last season and every minute at goalkeeper.
An Early Start: Friday night’s season opener at Green Bay comes on August 17, matching the earliest start to a season in program history. The 2012 squad opened play at Brown Field on August 17 against IUPUI, earning a 1-0 victory.
Griffith Leads the Way: Coming off a season where she was a First Team All-MVC and Third Team All-Region selection, senior Cory Griffith will once again be called upon to lead Valpo’s attack in 2018. Griffith is coming off a record-setting campaign last year, as she tied Valpo’s single-season records for both goals (11) and match-winners (5) and ranked in the top-35 nationally in both categories. She enters her final season with 21 career goals, tied for third-most in program history, just four shy of second and 14 off of Lori Moore’s career record of 35. Her next match-winner will move her into solo first place in Valpo history in career GWG as well.
Stalwarts in the Back: Among Valpo’s nine returning starters from last year’s squad are a pair of players in the back who started all 19 matches a season ago. Junior Ali Quillen has been part of the starting XI in all 38 matches over her first two seasons and played a team-high 1,637 minutes last year, leading Valpo in minutes played for a second straight season. Quillen has played the entire 90+ minutes in 34 of her 38 career matches. Redshirt junior Natalia Kontul joined Quillen in starting all 19 matches in the back last year and played a total of 1,590 minutes, third-most on the team.
Options at Goalkeeper: Valpo enters the 2018 campaign with four goalkeepers on its roster, all of whom have shown the ability to contribute at the collegiate level. Senior Drew Moulton was the regular in goal last year, starting 13 matches and posting a 1.27 GAA - good for fifth in the MVC. Sophomore Kezia Gesell made six starts in goal last year as a freshman and finished sixth in the MVC with a 1.38 GAA. Tess Barrett, who missed last season due to injury, was the regular Valpo keeper in 2016 and finished third in the Horizon League with a 1.17 GAA over 14 starts. Meanwhile, junior Courtney Johnson joined the program over the summer from Illinois Springfield, where she recorded a 1.30 GAA in 30 starts over two seasons.