Valparaiso (5-7-4, 2-1-3 MVC)
at Missouri Valley Conference Tournament
McCutchan Stadium | Evansville, Ind.
Wednesday, Nov. 7, 3 p.m. CT – vs. Drake (6-6-3, 1-3-2)
Friday, Nov. 9, 3 p.m. CT – vs. Loyola (9-6-2, 3-1-2)
Sunday, Nov. 11, 1 p.m. CT – MVC Championship
This Week in Valpo Soccer: The Valparaiso University men’s soccer team seems to be peaking at the right time as the squad enters the Missouri Valley Conference Tournament on a six-game unbeaten streak. Valpo goes into the week as the No. 3 seed in the tournament, very much in the mix for the conference title and the automatic berth in the NCAA Tournament that comes along with it.
Previously: Valpo ended the home portion of the season in style, running its unbeaten streak to six with a 1-0 victory over Drake on Saturday night at Brown Field. Mason Marcey scored his first career goal in the 30th minute to provide the difference in the match. Nacho Miras put together a strong showing in goal, registering six saves to notch the shutout victory.
Following Valpo: The 2018 MVC Tournament will air on ESPN+ with Sean Wheelock providing the play-by-play and Ty Keough adding color commentary throughout the tournament. Links to live video and stats can be found on ValpoAthletics.com.
Unbeaten Streak: After dropping its fourth straight match on Oct. 1 in a 4-1 home loss to Oral Roberts, Valpo plummeted to 2-7-1 on the season. Since that point, the team has made an impressive turnaround, putting together a six-game unbeaten streak to close the regular season. The streak has matched a six-game stretch that occurred from Sept. 24 to Oct. 11, 2016. The longest unbeaten streak in program history is eight and took place in 2015. This marked the first time in program history Valpo went undefeated over the final six matches of the regular season.
Conference Results: Valpo finished the regular season with just one conference setback. This marks 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 tied 2012 and 2015 for the most in conference play in a single season.
Tournament Seeding: Valpo finished the regular season with nine points in conference play, earning sole possession of third place in The Valley standings. This marked the program’s highest finish in the league standings since winning the Horizon League regular season title in 2011. In addition, men’s soccer also garnered Valpo’s best regular season finish in any sport since the University joined the Missouri Valley Conference prior to the 2017 fall season.
Good as Gold in the Goal: Nacho Miras has continued a long-standing tradition of excellence at the goalkeeper position for Valpo. The redshirt junior has notched six saves in each of the last two games, equaling a season-high that he established on Sept. 29 at Bowling Green. His career-high is eight saves, which came twice last season – at DePaul and vs. Central Arkansas. Miras has a goals against average of 1.08, a mark that would rank seventh 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. Miras registered his fifth shutout of the season, moving him into a tie for seventh for the most shutouts in a single season in program history. He joins an elite group of players who have at least one season with five shutouts or more: Kyle Zobeck, Nico Campbell, Ryan Schwarz, Kevin Hughes, Jeff Oleck and now Miras. His next shutout would move him into a tie with Campbell’s 2014 season and Hughes’ 1987 season for fifth all-time.
Head Coach Mike Avery: In his 12th season at the helm of the Valpo men’s soccer program, Mike Avery owns a program-record 87 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.
Series Notes – Drake: This match marks a rematch in more ways than one as Valpo will face Drake for the second time in five days and will oppose the Bulldogs in the opening round of the MVC Tournament for the second consecutive year. Valpo is coming off a 1-0 win over Drake on Saturday that saw Nacho Miras make a penalty-kick save in the 84th minute and another save in the 88th minute to preserve the three points. Last year, 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.
Scouting the Opponent – Drake: Drake’s win in conference play came over a Central Arkansas team that won the regular season title, while the Bulldogs also earned draws against the other two of the league’s top four teams – Loyola and Missouri State. Drake is led by Leroy Enzugusi, who has seven goals (t-3rd MVC) and 15 points (3rd MVC) to pace the team. Drake is second in the league in goals with 21, an average of 1.40 goals per game. The Bulldogs also lead the league in saves with 89, 5.93 per game. Goalkeeper Jared Brown is the league leader in saves with 87 and saves per game at 5.80. Drake is coached by Gareth Smith, who has been at the helm since 2015.
Series Notes - Loyola: When Valpo and Loyola get together, odds are fans are going to get their money's worth. This year’s regular season match marked the seventh time in the last eight meetings that the two teams have played extra time. It was also Valpo's fourth scoreless draw with the Ramblers since 2012. All-time, Valpo is 5-14-8 in the head-to-head series.
Scouting the Opponent – Loyola: Loyola’s lone loss in league play came 1-0 to regular season champion Central Arkansas on Oct. 27. The Ramblers are second in the league in GAA at 0.91 and first in shutouts with nine. Goalkeeper Josh Lagudah leads the league with eight clean sheets. Grant Stoneman and Aidan Megally share the team lead in goals with three apiece, while Fabian Becerra and Fabian Lifka each have three assists. Loyola is coached by Neil Jones, who is in his sixth season.
Familiar Territory for Some: The tournament takes Valpo assistant coach Chris Pfau to a familiar location, as he served as the head women’s coach at Evansville in 2005-2006. However, the home of the Purple Aces is less familiar territory for others, as Valpo hadn’t visited Evansville since 2008 prior to this season. The side did have the benefit of playing a regular season match there less than two weeks ago – a 1-1 draw with the Purple Aces on Oct. 27.
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 joined Central Arkansas' Niklas Brodacki and Loyola’s Aidan Megally as the only players with a brace in MVC play during the 2018 regular season.
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.
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.
Preseason Poll: Valpo was picked fifth in the Missouri Valley Conference preseason poll. Defending champion Missouri State was 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.