The Valpo soccer team put together a dominating performance on Brown Field Thursday evening in its season-opening matchup with Eastern Illinois, with goals by Sam Gountounas (Tinley Park, Ill./Andrew) and Allie Anderson (Wheaton, Ill./Wheaton Warrenville South [Xavier]) helping to give the Beacons a 2-1 victory over the visiting Panthers.
How It Happened
- Valpo was on the front foot from the opening whistle on Thursday, and a barrage of shots just past the 10-minute mark nearly led to the Beacons’ first goal. Gountounas had a shot from distance which EIU goalkeeper Ella Kratochvil came well off her line to save, and the rebound found Anderson, whose attempt to give Valpo the lead was thwarted only by a Panther defender on the back line.
- The aforementioned duo eventually teamed up to put Valpo on top 10 minutes shy of halftime. Anderson gained possession about 45 yards from goal and started a dribble, going around one defender before feeding Gountounas in the center of the field. The junior touched it back first-time to Anderson on her continued run, and Anderson carried it inside the 18-yard box before slotting it back to the middle for Gountounas, who put a sliding effort with her right foot inside the left post for the game’s first goal.
- Junior Dana Fish (Sheboygan, Wis./Sheboygan North) nearly made it 2-0 just two minutes before the halftime whistle with a nice strike from the top of the box towards the left post, but Kratochvil made a full-out diving save to keep it a one-goal game.
- Coming out of intermission, it took Valpo less than four minutes to double its lead. The Beacons won an EIU goal kick in the attacking third, getting the ball to senior Aubrey Ramey (Jacksonville, Fla./The Bolles School [DePaul]) on the right side of the field. Ramey fed it over to junior Peyton Evans (Parker, Colo./Legend) running down the touchline, and Evans proceeded to deliver a well-struck cross to the middle of the box. Anderson was on the receiving end and took the header well, catching the EIU keeper flat-footed as the ball went inside the right post.
- EIU got one goal back in the 61st minute on a header from Abby Reinl, but the Beacons’ lead was not threatened in the final 29 minutes as they closed out the season-opening win.
Inside the Game
- Thursday’s win was Valpo’s first in a season opener since the spring 2021 season (2-1 over Chicago State) and the first in a fall season opener since 2018 (2-1 at Green Bay).
- Thursday’s match date of August 17 matched the earliest season opener in program history. The aforementioned 2018 match also took place on August 17, as well as a 1-0 win over IUPUI on August 17, 2012.
- Thursday’s victory evened the all-time series between Valpo and EIU at 7-7-3. The Panthers opened the series with a 7-0-1 record from 1995 through 2002, but Valpo has enjoyed the 7-0-2 advantage from 2003 through the present day.
- Valpo dominated the stat sheet, out-shooting EIU 22-3 and putting eight shots on goal to the Panthers’ one. The Beacons also held an 8-2 edge in corner kicks.
- The goal by Anderson, which eventually stood as the match-winner, was a long time coming for the fifth-year midfielder. In her 57th career match and her 35th in the Valpo uniform, Anderson found the back of the net for the first time.
- Anderson also picked up the assist on the opening goal, her eighth helper at Valpo and ninth career assist overall. She comes off a 2022 season where she tied for team-high honors with five assists.
- Gountounas’ goal was the second of her collegiate career, joining an insurance tally last season in Valpo’s win over UIC.
- Evans picked up the primary assist on Anderson’s header for her second career assist, as she previously tallied an assist in a win at Chicago State as a freshman.
- Making her Valpo debut on Thursday, Ramey notched the first point of her collegiate career with the secondary assist on the match-winner. She had previously appeared in 23 matches over three seasons at DePaul.
- Ramey started in her Beacon debut and went the full 90 minutes, as did freshman Anna Cup (Bartlett, Ill./South Elgin). Freshman Daisy Boardman (Warrington, England) also made her collegiate debut on Thursday, playing 55 minutes off the bench.
Thoughts From Head Coach John Marovich
“It’s always a big deal to kick off a new season and get that first win. What I really liked tonight is that we came out and had very good energy, which showed in the success of our press. I felt like we won the ball back higher up the park, which created chances for more possession in our attacking third. Overall, our team effort was good — we showed good willingness to get into tackles to win the ball back quick.”
“I thought Sam stepped into the starting 9 role and put together an excellent performance, including a nice goal. It was great to see Allie, who’s put in so much hard work, get her first goal tonight and have it be a quality goal on a beautiful header off a good service from Peyton. I felt like our young players who came in today for the first time really put in a good shift and showed some quality as well.”
Valpo (1-0-0) will go for its first 2-0-0 start since 2017 on Sunday afternoon at Brown Field when the Beacons take on Northern Illinois at 1 p.m. The match can be seen live on ESPN+.