The Valpo soccer team put together a gritty performance on the road Thursday to come away victorious, overcoming injury and an early one-goal deficit with a pair of goals in the second half to earn a 2-1 victory at MVC newcomer Belmont. The win keeps Valpo within striking distance of Missouri State atop the conference standings.
How It Happened
- The Bruins opened the scoring in the 11th minute, as Olivia Walker found the back of the net from the top of the 18-yard box.
- Valpo had a strong chance for the equalizer in the 30th minute with the ball finding its way behind the Belmont back line. In a sprint to the ball, Molly O’Rear (Naperville, Ill./Naperville Central) beat Bruin goalkeeper Sarah Doyle to the spot, but her first touch was secured by Doyle.
- Valpo netminder Nikki Coryell (Aurora, Ill./Metea Valley) made a nice diving save to her left to knock away an attempt from Belmont in the 43rd minute as the match went into halftime with the Bruins still leading 1-0.
- It took the Beacons less than seven minutes into the second half to connect on the tying goal. Sam Gountounas (Tinley Park, Ill./Andrew) won a strong headball at the top of Valpo’s defensive 18 to Cassidy Eckstein (Carmel, Ind./Carmel), who in turn fed Lindsey DuSatko (Plainfield, Ill./North). DuSatko started her run from 15 yards on the defensive side of midfield and continued on all the way into the attacking third, where she laid the ball over to O’Rear coming into the left-hand side of the box.
- O’Rear’s first effort at goal was blocked by a Bruin defender, but she regained control and battled around a second Belmont back to the top of the six-yard box, where she struck with her right foot into the bottom-right corner of the goal to level the match.
- On the front foot for much of the second half, the Beacons kept the pressure on in search of the go-ahead goal and were rewarded in the 76th minute. Valpo’s corner kick was first punched away by Doyle and then headed up by a Belmont defender, but the Bruins couldn’t get it out of the box, and the third ball was won by Addy Joiner (Chesterton, Ind./Chesterton), whose shot attempt hit the outstretched arm of a Bruin player for a handball and a penalty kick.
- Joiner had the chance to finish from the spot and did so with aplomb with her right foot, as despite Doyle guessing the correct direction, the sophomore’s effort slotted perfectly into the bottom-right corner to make it 2-1 Valpo.
- The Beacons saw out the match from there, as they did not surrender a shot on frame the remainder of the contest to come away with all three points.
Inside the Match
- Thursday’s win pushed Valpo’s record to 5-1-1 in MVC play this year. The Beacons remain three points behind Missouri State with a game in hand on the Bears.
- The result on Thursday secured a spot for Valpo in the MVC Tournament, which will feature eight sides this season.
- This was the Beacons’ first come-from-behind victory since a similar 2-1 win at Robert Morris on Aug. 29, 2021. In that match, Valpo also fell behind 1-0 in the first half before coming back with two second-half tallies.
- Thursday was the first time in Valpo’s last 10 matches that both the Beacons and their opponent had scored in the same match.
- O’Rear struck for her third goal of the season and second in as many matches. She has a total of eight points this season (three goals, two assists) — all of which have come within MVC play.
- Joiner’s penalty kick goal was her team-high fifth of the season and the second which stood as a match-winning goal. She successfully converted on the first penalty attempt of her career and now owns eight career goals.
- Coryell stopped a total of four shots to earn the victory in goal. Valpo trailed ever so slightly in total shots, 9-8, but put seven efforts on goal to the Bruins’ six and earned three of the match’s four corner kicks.
- Valpo’s back line was buoyed by strong performances off the bench by a number of reserves on Thursday. Emma Morrison (Canton, Mich./Plymouth-Canton) was forced to come on at center back after an early injury to Nicole Norfolk (Menomonee Falls, Wis./Divine Savior Holy Angels) and played the final 86 minutes. Gountounas came on to play 66 minutes at right back, while Sarah Epstein (Oswego, Ill./Oswego) — who had played a total of 56 minutes this season entering Thursday night — contributed 36 minutes off the bench.
Thoughts From Coach Marovich
“As a program, we talk about what piece of yourself are you giving to the team, giving the piece the team needs.”
“Tonight, we didn’t have a great start to the game — that happens over the course of the season. We lose Nicole to injury, Emma steps in. It’s the next player up mentality. Emma goes in and has a fantastic performance — I’m really proud of her for her work tonight, it really speaks to the depth of the team.”
“We had to make a few more changes to the back line because we weren't quite right. Sam comes on, does some really good things — wins headballs, goes to ground for tackles — things that the way the game was going, we needed in that moment. Sarah comes in and has a strong performance because every day she asks the very best of herself. She’s remained patient, working on her game — had the opportunity to go in tonight, puts in a great shift, and I’m really proud of her.”
“Tonight was what a really good team does — a complete effort, contributions from the bench, giving a performance and handling a game on the road to come away with a gritty win.”
Valpo (6-6-3, 5-1-1 MVC) finishes out the road portion of its schedule on Sunday afternoon at Murray State. The match is slated for a 1 p.m. kickoff and can be seen live on ESPN+.