Drake (6-5-3, 1-2-2)
at Valparaiso (4-7-4, 1-1-3 MVC)
Saturday, Nov. 3 – 7 p.m. CT
This Week in Valpo Soccer: The final chance to catch the Valparaiso University men’s soccer team in action at Brown Field this season will be on Saturday night as Drake comes to town for the regular season finale. Valpo can take comfort in the fact that it has done enough to secure a Missouri Valley Conference Tournament appearance regardless of Saturday’s outcome, but there’s still plenty to play for with tournament seeding on the line in the home finale.
Previously: The point that clinched the conference tournament berth came on Saturday as Valpo went on the road and played to a 1-1 draw against Evansville. Demar Rose scored a key equalizer in the 82nd minute before Valpo held on to the result through a card-filled 20 minutes of extra time that saw the two teams play the final seven minutes with Evansville at a 10 vs. 9 advantage. Goalkeeper Nacho Miras corralled a season-high six saves.
Following Valpo: This week’s game will be broadcast on ESPN3, which is available free of charge with a cable provider login. Dave Huseman (play-by-play) and Ben Ariano (color commentary) will have the call. Links to live video and stats are posted on ValpoAthletics.com.
Table Talk: Entering Saturday’s game, Valpo can finish anywhere from third to sixth in the MVC standings. Drake can clinch a tournament spot with a win or draw or an Evansville win or draw against Bradley. The only way Drake misses the tournament is if Valpo wins on Saturday and Bradley beats Evansville. Central Arkansas and Loyola are the two teams in contention for the league’s regular season title, while those two teams and Missouri State are battling for first-round tournament byes with two of those teams going straight to the semifinals.
Seniors in the Spotlight: The men’s soccer program has continued its tradition of honoring select seniors at matches over the course of the season instead of having one senior night. This week’s seniors in the spotlight will be Akeem Bradford and Rafael Metzingen. Bradford has one goal and one assist this season and has two goals and two assists in his two years on campus. Mentzingen has two goals and two assists this year and 11 goals and three assists for his two-year Valpo career.
Plentiful Promotions: There are plenty of reasons to catch Valpo men’s soccer at Brown Field on Saturday. It’s the program’s annual St. Baldrick’s benefit game, and any attendees who donate to the cause will receive a complimentary scarf and cup of hot chocolate. A participant in the St. Baldrick’s head-shaving event will be an honorary captain, while participants in the event will compete in a penalty kick shootout at halftime. The event will raise support for St. Baldrick’s Childhood Cancer Research Foundation. There will also be a gold rush t-shirt giveaway for the first 200 fans.
Unbeaten Streak: Valpo moved its unbeaten streak to five with last week's 1-1 draw at Evansville. Valpo is 2-0-3 during a five-game streak that marks the program's longest stretch without a loss since 2016, when Valpo went six straight without a setback from Sept. 24 to Oct. 11. The unbeaten streak started after a tough midseason stretch that saw Valpo drop four straight.
Tournament Time: Valpo has clinched a spot in the Missouri Valley Conference Tournament for the second consecutive season after joining the league in 2017. With one fixture remaining in the regular season, Valpo has only one league loss - 1-0 on the road against conference power Missouri State. Last week's game provided Valpo with a preview of the MVC Tournament site as the team visited Evansville, which will host the tournament at McCutchan Stadium next week.
Conference Results: If Valpo can come away with a win or draw on Saturday, it will finish the regular season with just one conference defeat. That would mark the fourth time in program history that Valpo finished with just one league loss, joining the Mid-Continent Conference regular season championship teams of 1997 (6-1-1) and 1998 (3-1-1) and the Horizon League championship team of 2011 (5-1-2). The three draws has already tied 2012 and 2015 for the most in conference play in a single season in program history. Should Valpo and Drake draw on Saturday, it would set the program record for conference draws in a single season.
Goalkeeper Goodness: Nacho Miras made a season-high six saves last week against the Purple Aces, in the process reaching the 100-save plateau for his collegiate career. Miras currently has a goals against average of 1.16, a mark that would rank eighth in program history if the season ended today. As a team, Valpo has allowed just 19 goals, a number that is in position to rank in the Top 10 in program history for fewest goals permitted in a campaign.
Scouting the Opponent: Drake’s win in conference play came over a Central Arkansas team that is in the hunt for the league title, while the Bulldogs have also earned draws against the other two of the league’s top three teams – Loyola and Missouri State. Drake is led by Leroy Enzugusi, who has seven goals (t-2nd MVC) and 15 points (3rd MVC) to pace the team. Drake is second in the league in goals with 21, an average of 1.50 goals per game. The Bulldogs also lead the league in saves with 86, 6.14 per game. Goalkeeper Jared Brown is the league leader in saves with 84 and saves per game at 6.00. Brown is the reigning MVC Player of the Week after making 10 saves in a scoreless draw with Missouri State. He also won the award on Oct. 2. Cole Poppen has eight assists to lead the MVC. Drake is coached by Gareth Smith, who has been at the helm since 2015.
Series Notes: These two teams played each other twice last season, once in the regular season and once in The Valley tournament. Rafael Mentzingen’s SportsCenter worthy goal was not enough for Valpo to come away with the win in the MVC Tournament meeting as Drake prevailed 4-2 in a game that took place at Bradley. Valpo erased a 2-0 deficit for a 3-2 overtime win in the regular season match in Des Moines, allowing Mike Avery to shatter a program record with his 77th career victory.
National Honors: Lucca Lacerda scored three goals and had one assist over two matches in a four-day span including a brace to lift Valpo to a 2-0 Missouri Valley Conference victory at Bradley on Oct. 13. His seven-point week propelled the team to a perfect 2-0-0 fall break road trip and helped him garner College Soccer News National Player of the Week, Missouri Valley Conference Offensive Player of the Week and a spot on the College Soccer News National Team of the Week. Lacerda became the first Valpo player with a brace this season. He started his impressive week with a goal and an assist in a 2-1 midweek victory over Eastern Illinois. Lacerda joins Central Arkansas' Niklas Brodacki and Loyola’s Aidan Megally as the only players with a brace in MVC play this season.
Keeping It Clean: When goalkeeper Nacho Miras picked up his fourth shutout of the season on Oct. 13 at Bradley, he entered the Top 10 in program history for shutouts in a single season with four. With his fifth career shutout, Miras is now tied with Dan D'Angela (1985-1986) and Rich Naden (1988-1990) for seventh on the program's career list. It was the fifth shutout for the team this season, up from one last year.
Multi-Goal Cushion: Winning on the road against a quality Bradley program was a tall task, but the guests were up to the challenge on Oct. 13. Valpo not only left Peoria with three points, but did so with the Braves facing a two-goal deficit. It was Valpo's first win by multiple goals this season, a feat the team most recently accomplished on Oct. 30 of last year with a 3-1 triumph over Eastern Illinois. The last time the program won a conference game with a multi-goal cushion was on Oct. 29, 2016 against Northern Kentucky.
Coming From Behind: Valpo recorded its first come-from-behind victory of the season on Oct. 10 at Eastern Illinois. The team was previously 0-7-0 when opponents scored first, but it came from a goal down to register a 2-1 win over the Panthers.
Nil-Nil, Part 2: For the second time this season, Valpo played to a scoreless draw on Oct. 7, this time against Loyola. Valpo also played 110 minutes of scoreless soccer on Sept. 15 against Western Illinois. Before this season, Valpo hadn't played to a scoreless draw at Brown Field since Sept. 7, 2015 against Loyola. The last time Valpo had two 0-0 deadlocks at home in the same season was 2012.
Excelling Academically: For the 16th straight year, the Valpo men’s soccer team has been awarded with the United Soccer Coaches Team Academic Award, as announced on Oct. 4 by the organization. Valpo has the third-longest streak in the nation. The United Soccer Coaches Team Academic Award is bestowed upon soccer programs whose student-athletes have excelled in the classroom. The award is given annually, and in order to qualify a program must obtain a composite grade point average of 3.00 or better for the academic year.
Scholar-Athlete Spotlight: Valpo senior Rafael Mentzingen was recognized by the Missouri Valley Conference for his well-roundedness as part of the MVC Scholar-Athlete Spotlight presented by Enterprise Bank and Trust Company on Sept. 19. An economics major with a theology minor, Mentzingen boasts an impressive 3.87 grade point average. He has served the community through his work with the Detroit Fieldhouse, the #oneValpo diversity campaign, St. Baldrick’s, They Often Cry Outreach and the Valpo Parks Department. He is active on campus as a member of the Valpo Economics Club and the Valpo International Student Organization.
Brown with the Winner: Defender Alex Brown was part of a Valpo back line that limited Milwaukee to two shots on goal and helped shut out the Panthers on Sept. 7 in a 1-0 road win for Valpo. In addition, he scored the game-winning goal in the 90th minute, using a header goal for the only tally of the match by either side. Brown played 86 of the 90 minutes in the triumph and scored the second goal of his career, both match winners.
A Victorious Debut: Redshirt junior goalkeeper Dan Rosenfeld made his collegiate debut on Sept. 7 after three injury-plagued seasons. Rosenfeld made two saves in his first Valpo game, helping shut out a quality Milwaukee side in a 1-0 Valpo victory.
Making Moves: After having just one assist and no goals through his first two seasons, redshirt junior Michael Marchionna emerged as a key cog for Valpo in the early portion of the season. He was involved in the team’s first three goals, racking up one goal and two assists early in the season.
All-Tournament Team: A pair of Valpo student-athletes were recognized as part of the All-Tournament Team for their play at Wisconsin over Labor Day weekend. Rafael Mentzingen and Nacho Miras both added all-tournament accolades to their resumes. Miras permitted just one goal in each game against quality Big Ten competition, recording six saves for the tournament. Mentzingen racked up nine shots over the two matches, two on frame.
Opening in Style: A 1-0 overtime victory over IUPUI allowed Valpo to start its season with a win for the first time since 2011. Valpo was also opening up at home for the first time since the 2011 campaign. Although it had gone winless in the last six season openers before that match, Valpo had three draws - including one at Big Ten foe Michigan State - and two overtime defeats in addition to a one-goal loss at No. 14 Kentucky in 2015. Valpo has seen three straight season openers go to overtime and six of their last seven lid-lifters have required play beyond the regulation 90 minutes.
Dynamic Duo: Valpo placed two on the Preseason all-Missouri Valley Conference team – midfielder Rafael Mentzingen and forward Adan Garcia. The two players shared the team lead in goals last season with nine apiece, a number that ranks tied for seventh in program history for goals in a single season. Mentzingen and Garcia became the first pair of Valpo teammates to each score nine goals or more in a single season in program history. Both received significant postseason accolades as Mentzingen was named second-team all-region, first-team all-conference and MVC all-tournament team, while Garcia garnered third-team all-region and second-team all-conference.
A Glance at the Goalkeepers: Nacho Miras is a returning starter at goalkeeper, leading the way for a deep position that also includes Dan Rosenfeld and Alex Richt. Miras etched his name into the single-season program record book a year ago, posting a goals against average of 1.64 that ranked 10th in program history. He had seven saves in his first career start on Aug. 25 at Northwestern, the most saves by a Valpo keeper in a debut since 2001. His success continued with a career-high eight saves on Sept. 3 at DePaul, helping him earn MVP honors at the Chicago Classic, MVC Defensive Player of the Week recognition and a spot on the College Soccer News National Team of the Week.
Freshman Feat: Sophomore Jonas Engler made a good first impression as a rookie last year, becoming the first Valpo player with three goals as a freshman since 2014, when Stian Sandbekkhaug and Jordan James scored three apiece. Engler also had two assists to put his season point total at eight, the most by a Valpo freshman since Jordan Aidoud had 11 in 2012. Engler picked up All-MVC Honorable Mention a year ago.
Head Coach Mike Avery: In his 12th season at the helm of the Valpo men’s soccer program, Mike Avery owns a program-record 86 career victories. Under Avery's guidance, the team has been a stellar defensive side, as eight of the top nine defensive seasons in program history have come during his tenure. Avery has led the program to a new standard in his time as head coach, as a team that had enjoyed just one winning season in the 24 years prior to his arrival has finished above the .500 mark six times since his arrival. He has also seen numerous players go on to play professional soccer, including active pros Zev Taublieb, Kyle Zobeck, Stefan Antonijevic, Jordan Aidoud and Nico Campbell. Avery shattered the program record with his 77th career victory on Sept. 16 at Drake. He reached 77 victories in his 195th career match, while previous record holder Mis’ Mrak needed 288 matches to accumulate 76 wins.
Preseason Poll: Valpo was picked fifth in the Missouri Valley Conference preseason poll. Defending champion Missouri State is the favorite to win the league, followed by Loyola, Central Arkansas and Bradley.
A Look Back at 2017: The 2018 team is looking to build upon the school’s first season in the Missouri Valley Conference, which saw Valpo knock off a Top 25 opponent, place two individuals on the United Soccer Coaches all-region team, have three players receive all-conference recognition and help its head coach shatter the school record for career wins. Valpo finished the season with eight wins, tied for sixth in program history for wins in a single season. The team scored 30 goals, which also ranked tied for sixth in the program’s single-season record book. Valpo has scored 30+ goals in each of the last two seasons, just the second time in program history and the first since 1986 and 1987 that Valpo has racked up 30 goals or more in back-to-back seasons.
Road Warriors: Valpo had six road wins last season, the second consecutive year and the third time in program history the team has racked up six true road victories. The 2017 season is tied with 2016 and 1997 for the most true road wins in a single season in program history.
Flying Many Flags: Head coach Mike Avery and his staff have continued to pull from all over the world for players to comprise the men’s soccer squad. This year’s roster features players from 12 countries – Spain, Mexico, Jamaica, Colombia, France, Brazil, Japan, Canada, Germany, England, Italy and the United States.
#oneVALPO: The Valpo men’s soccer program will continue to promote its #oneVALPO campaign, which celebrates diversity, via social and digital media and at its games. For more information, go to the #oneVALPO Facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/oneVALPO.
Working with TOCO: Valpo is once again raising funds for They Often Cry Outreach (TOCO) this year. Throughout the 2018 season, the team is working to raise money and awareness for TOCO’s work through sport with at risk children in the Caribbean and United States. This year’s TOCO benefit game was on Oct. 7 against Loyola at Brown Field.