Three points before noon on a Monday is a good way to start the week, and that’s exactly what the Valparaiso University women’s soccer team did Monday morning. Valpo got first-half goals from senior Caitlyn Oliver (Commerce Township, Mich./Walled Lake Northern) and junior Julia Lehnen (Menomonee Falls, Wis./Menomonee Falls) and a strong effort from sophomore goalkeeper Kezia Gesell (Winnipeg, Manitoba/Glenlawn Collegiate Institute) to earn a 2-0 road win in MVC play over Illinois State.
How It Happened
- Both teams came out on the front foot attacking on Monday morning, as Valpo put a pair of shots on goal in the first four minutes which were stopped by Illinois State goalkeeper Haley Smith. The Redbirds then put three attempts on goal in a four-minute span starting in the 11th minute, but Gesell was up to the task, stopping all three efforts.
- Valpo jumped in front in the 29th minute. Just 40 seconds after subbing into the match, senior Ava Porlier (Downers Grove, Ill./South) drove a shot at Smith, forcing the Redbird goalkeeper to make the save. But the rebound fell to Oliver, who put it away to make it 1-0 Valpo.
- Valpo doubled its advantage just over 11 minutes later as the match approached intermission, and it was another entry off the bench who created the goal. Lehnen came on in the 39th minute and took advantage of Smith coming out of the box just 1:38 later to find the back of the net and push the lead to 2-0.
- The two-goal advantage proved to be more than enough, as Gesell and the Valpo defense held onto the clean sheet. Gesell made saves on all five of Illinois State’s shots on goal in the final 45 minutes to keep the Redbirds off the board.
Inside the Match
- Monday’s match was the fourth of the season for Valpo affected by weather-related issues. It was originally pushed back from a 1 p.m. kickoff to 6 p.m. Sunday evening, before eventually being postponed until Monday morning.
- The 10 a.m. start time was the earliest for the program since kicking off at 10 a.m. in a neutral-site match against Kansas on Sept. 4, 2016.
- Monday’s fixture was played at The Corn Crib in Normal, Ill., a multi-purpose facility that is primarily the home of the Normal CornBelters of the Frontier League, an independent professional baseball league.
- The win over Illinois State was the first in program history for Valpo, which entered the match 0-6-0 all-time against the Redbirds.
- Monday’s win snapped a three-match winless streak for Valpo.
- Oliver’s goal was the first of her career, and also accounted for her first career points in her 49th career match.
- When Oliver struck 28:59 into the match, it snapped a scoreless stretch of 340:05 for the Valpo offense.
- Porlier’s assist on Oliver’s tally was her first of the season and the fourth of her career. The senior now has five points on the year and has been involved in three of Valpo’s four match-winning goals.
- Lehnen also recorded the first goal of her career, coming in her 18th appearance in the Brown and Gold.
- Meanwhile, on the defensive side, Gesell set a new career best by making 12 saves to preserve the clean sheet in the win. The sophomore stopped seven shots in the first half before recording five second-half saves.
- The 12 saves was the most by a Valpo goalkeeper since Kristen Manski made 13 saves in a scoreless draw with Wright State on Oct. 14, 2012.
- Gesell earned her first shutout of the year and her second career clean sheet. She has now allowed one goal or fewer in six of her seven starts this year, and saw her GAA drop to 0.99 on Monday.
Thoughts From Coach Marovich
“I thought it was a really great, resilient effort by our group today. With the changes from yesterday, I felt like our mindset was absolutely spot-on. I thought our players executed the tactical plan as we had discussed, but more importantly, they just came out and really competed at a great level.”
“It was nice to see us get some goals in the first half, and then be able to really stick together and take care to get the result on the road against a really good side. It was great to see both Julia and Caitlyn score their first goals of their career, and I was also proud of our defensive mindset and the effort of Kez in goal today – she made two real quality saves to keep the shutout.”
“Today was really a full team effort, everybody contributed well to this win today. Most importantly, what we celebrated today was ultimately our mindset – I felt like our team did an unbelievable job with managing everything on the weekend, and managing how to be a successful athlete today. I’m super proud of our group – we’re going to celebrate this win today, get back on campus and start preparing for another tough match on Saturday.”
Three of Valpo’s (4-6-2, 1-2-0 MVC) final four matches of the season will be on Brown Field, starting with Saturday night as Valpo hosts Missouri State at 7 p.m. The match will be broadcast live on ESPN3.