Backed by a large, boisterous crowd at Brown Field Thursday evening, the Valpo soccer team took to the pitch for the second semifinal of the 2022 Missouri Valley Conference Championship against Murray State with high hopes. But a 13th-minute goal from the Racers’ Mary Hardy proved to be the difference maker, as despite 22 shot attempts, the Beacons were unable to find an equalizer, falling 1-0 to Murray State to end their season.
How It Happened
- Murray State got on the board inside of a quarter hour. Saraya Young headed on a long ball into the path of Hardy, who took a couple touches, found an angle to shoot and fired a shot inside the right post. Valpo goalkeeper Nikki Coryell (Aurora, Ill./Metea Valley) made a great effort to parry it, laying out to her left and getting a touch on it, but was unable to get enough behind it to keep it out the net.
- The Beacons were limited to just two shot attempts in the first 28 minutes, but started to figure things out in the last third of the opening half. Valpo forced MSU goalkeeper Jamie Skarupsky into a pair of saves in the final 15 minutes of the period, while Coryell stood her ground to keep it a 1-0 game, stopping three shots late in the half.
- Murray State had three shots in the first five minutes of the second half, but the final 40 minutes was almost entirely Valpo putting pressure on the Racer defense. The Beacons tallied 16 shot attempts over the last 40 minutes, with Skarupsky making six saves in that stretch and MSU blocking four shots as well.
- A couple of Valpo’s best chances came off the foot of senior Allie Anderson (Wheaton, Ill./Wheaton Warrenville South [Xavier]). Returning to action after missing the regular season finale due to injury, Anderson hit a shot from distance off an injury restart in the 74th minute that hit the crossbar and went over.
- Just over six minutes later, Anderson had another well-struck effort from 25 yards out, this time forcing Skarupsky to make a leaping punch save to keep it from sneaking under the crossbar and then diving on the loose ball before it could spin across the line.
- One final effort in the waning seconds from Abby White (Commerce Township, Mich./Walled Lake Central) was easily kept out by Skarupsky as Valpo’s season came to a close.
Inside the Match
- Valpo finished the night with a 22-17 advantage in shots and put nine on goal to the Racers’ five.
- Skarupsky made nine saves for MSU, while Coryell stopped four shots for the Beacons.
- The loss was just the second for Valpo in its last 11 matches and was its first loss at home since Sept. 11.
- It was the second time this season the Beacons have been shut out despite firing off at least 20 shots (Purdue Fort Wayne).
Inside the Season
- Valpo closes the 2022 campaign with an 8-7-4 overall record, the program’s third consecutive winning season.
- This year’s side won the program’s fourth conference regular season championship.
- Coryell finishes the season with a 0.91 GAA, seventh-best in a single season in program history, and seven clean sheets, which is tied for sixth.
- Anderson and Kelsie James (Carmel, Ind./Carmel) tied for team-high honors with five assists this year, tied for fourth-most in a single season in program history.
The Senior Class
- Valpo’s senior class will forever be remembered as the group which helped lead the Beacons to the athletic department’s first MVC team championship.
- A group of five have spent the last four years at Valpo: Kiley Dugan (Irwin, Pa./Penn-Trafford), Natalie Graf (Williamsburg, Mich./St. Francis), Georgia Henkel (Houston, Texas/Stratford), Nicole Norfolk (Menomonee Falls, Wis./Divine Savior Holy Angels) and Elizabeth Park (Davenport, Iowa/Bettendorf). The quintet has been part of tremendous growth within the program over their four years, going from two wins in their freshman season to 18 over the last two years.
- They also have seen incremental steps in success within the Valley, going from fifth place as freshmen, to third place as sophomores, to runners-up last year and finally to a regular season MVC title this season.
- Dugan has started each and every one of Valpo’s 69 matches over the last four years. A two-time All-MVC honoree, she has recorded three goals and four assists.
- Graf has made 66 appearances at Valpo, starting 57 times. An Honorable Mention All-Conference selection last season, she made the transition from forward to center back mid-career and was a mainstay in the back line the last two years.
- Henkel has started 16 matches in goal, posting four clean sheets between the posts.
- Norfolk has started all 66 of her appearances at center back. A two-time All-MVC selection, she has been the stalwart in the back over the last four years and set a program record for consecutive minutes played by a field player.
- Park has appeared in 25 matches, starting three times and tallying an assist last season. A standout in the classroom as well, she holds a perfect 4.0 GPA as a biochemistry major.
- Anderson and Abbey Hillman (Naperville, Ill./Naperville Central [Loyola]) joined the program prior to last season and have made a big impact in their two years at Valpo. Anderson has started 30 times in the midfield and has racked up seven assists, while Hillman stepped in to make 25 starts at right back as part of the Beacons’ defensive unit.
- Rounding out the seven seniors is fifth-year transfer Andrea Garcia (Aurora, Ont./Cardinal Carter Catholic [Hartford/FDU], who chose to spend her final year of eligibility at Valpo and made 14 appearances, scoring twice in the regular season finale against Indiana State.