After 110 tense minutes of soccer at Brown Field Sunday in first-round MVC Championship action resulted in a scoreless draw, third-seeded Valpo proved it was up to the task in the ensuing penalty-kick tiebreaker, converting all five of its attempts to top sixth-seeded Evansville, 5-3, and advance to the semifinals of the conference tournament.
How It Happened
- The two sides contested much of the first half in the middle third of the park, combining for just eight shot attempts over the first 45 minutes, only three of which were on goal.
- The best scoring chance for either team in the opening period came late in the half, as a corner kick in the 43rd minute led to Evansville’s Emilie Hall putting a header off the crossbar.
- The goal frame proved unkind to Valpo approaching the halfway mark of the second half. In the 64th minute, sophomore Natalie Graf (Williamsburg, Mich./St. Francis) had the ball on the right flank, about 25 yards from goal, and sent a left-footed shot towards the net which rang back off the crossbar.
- While the woodwork prevented a goal each way during regulation, it was Valpo freshman goalkeeper Nikki Coryell (Aurora, Ill./Metea Valley) who came up with the biggest save to maintain the 0-0 scoreline. Evansville’s Emily Wolak was played in for a one-on-one chance behind the Valpo defense in the 75th minute, but Coryell came off her line and pushed Wolak’s shot wide of goal with a dive to her right.
- The fixture went to extra time scoreless, and while Valpo out-shot Evansville 4-1 — including three shots on goal — in the extra 20 minutes, the match hit the 110-minute mark still at 0-0, necessitating the penalty-kick tiebreaker to determine which side would advance in the tournament.
- (0-0): Junior Alexis Gaffney (Broomfield, Colo./Legacy) was tasked with taking Valpo’s first penalty in the tiebreaker and converted with perfect placement in the upper-right corner. Evansville’s Nicole Benati scored the opener as well for the Purple Aces.
- (1-1): Senior Kiera Pratt (Plainfield, Ill./Plainfield Central) went lower left with her effort to make it two successful penalties in as many tries to open the tiebreaker. Evansville’s Emily Olson went high with her attempt as Valpo took the lead.
- (2-1): Freshman Kelsie James (Carmel, Ind./Carmel) used a powerful effort towards the upper left for Valpo’s third tally — Evansville goalkeeper Michaela Till got a hand on it, but was unable to keep it out of the net. Kristen Harvey answered for the Purple Aces with a successful try of her own.
- (3-2): Graf went just inside the right-hand post, about halfway up the frame, with a well-placed shot to make it four-for-four by the Valpo shooters. Emily Ormson pushed the tiebreaker to a fifth round as she netted her attempt for Evansville.
- (4-3): Senior Tahelah Noel (Buffalo, N.Y./Christian Central Academy) found herself on the bottom of the team dogpile after converting a shot into the lower-left corner of the goal to secure Valpo’s advancement in the tournament.
Inside the Match
- Valpo advances to the semifinals of the MVC Championship for the first time since joining the conference. Valpo’s last league tournament semifinal appearance came in 2014 en route to claiming the Horizon League Championship.
- Sunday’s result officially goes down as a draw, with the penalties serving as a mechanism to determine which team advances in the tournament.
- The tie was Valpo’s first non-loss in MVC Championship action. The Brown and Gold were previously 0-5-0 in the Valley Tournament, with three of those defeats coming from 1996-98 during their time as an affiliate member of the conference in women’s soccer.
- Valpo is now 2-2 all-time when determining via penalties tournament advancement, but had dropped its previous two penalty tiebreakers. Its only other successful penalty tiebreaker came 4-2 over Oakland in the 1999 Mid-Continent Conference Tournament.
- Coupled with a scoreless draw at Evansville earlier this season, Valpo finished a season with multiple draws against the same side for the first time in program history.
- Valpo has now played to five draws this year, the program’s largest total since finishing the 2011 campaign with five ties. Four of the draws this season have been of the 0-0 variety, the most scoreless draws in a single season in program history.
- Valpo finished the 110 minutes of action Sunday with a 17-10 advantage in shots and put seven on goal to the Purple Aces’ three.
- Coryell secured her sixth shutout of the season, tying Valpo’s record for a freshman goalkeeper (Erin Murray, 2004). She also is already tied for sixth in program history for career clean sheets.
Thoughts From Coach Marovich
“We don't look at today's match just as a step in our program's growth, but as taking the opportunity to push the bar higher for the athletic department. We had great fan support today and our athletes got to experience an exciting atmosphere to play in because this was an event, that we had the opportunity to host an MVC Championship game here on our campus. Today was another chance to celebrate the fact we're in the Valley, and we want to try to push that standard forward so that every team, every athlete on our campus gets the chance to experience what our players did today.”
“I felt like the first half was really played in the middle third of the field — it didn't feel like either team had a great sense of control of the match. It took us a bit of time to get into our rhythm. I felt like we had a better handle on the game in the second half — we dealt with winning the ball and keeping it better, and were able to create some more dangerous opportunities.”
“I thought every person who stepped to the line today to take a penalty executed that particular exercise extremely well. Our shots were hard-struck, well-placed, on frame - that was how you would want your team to go out and take PKs, and I'm so proud of how they came through. Then the mental and the emotional piece that goes with it, I felt we managed even better than the physical piece. Everyone was light and positive and lived in the moment.”
Valpo (4-3-5) advances to Wednesday’s MVC Championship semifinal at second-seeded Indiana State. In their meeting earlier this year, the Brown and Gold prevailed 2-0 at Brown Field. Wednesday’s match will kick off at 4 p.m. CT and can be seen live on ESPN+.