Valparaiso (3-4-1, 0-0-0 MVC)
Friday, Sept. 17 - Illinois State (2-6-0, 0-0-0 MVC) - 7:30 p.m.
Next Up in Valpo Soccer: After eight nonconference games over a span of 25 days, the Valpo soccer team opens up Missouri Valley Conference play this weekend as it welcomes Illinois State to Brown Field. Valpo enters MVC action coming off of a three-goal win over Chicago State this past Sunday.
Previously: Valpo split its final two pre-conference matchups last weekend, falling to Western Illinois 2-1 under the lights at Brown Field last Friday evening before rebounding with a 3-0 victory over the Cougars of Chicago State at the SeatGeek Stadium Turf Field on Sunday afternoon.
Looking Ahead: MVC play continues for the Beacons next Friday evening as they travel to Terre Haute to face Indiana State.
Following the Beacons: Friday’s match will be broadcast live on ESPN3 and will have live stats available via ValpoAthletics.com. All remaining home matches and select road matches will be carried live on The Valley on ESPN.
Head Coach John Marovich: In his 14th season at the helm of the Valpo program, John Marovich holds a 106-103-37 (.506) record both overall and at Valpo as a head coach. The 2014 Horizon League Coach of the Year, Marovich holds Valpo’s all-time records for both victories and winning percentage.
Series Notes: Valpo owns just a 2-7-0 record against the Redbirds all-time, but both of those victories have come in the last three meetings between the programs. Valpo already has one win over Illinois State this calendar year, as it traveled to Normal for the regular season finale in April and came away with a 1-0 victory thanks to a goal from Natalie Graf and nine saves by Nikki Coryell. That win secured third place in the regular season standings for Valpo and gave the program a first-round home match in the MVC Tournament.
Scouting the Opposition: After posting a 4-7-1 overall record and a 4-4-0 record in MVC play during the spring 2021 campaign, Illinois State - which was picked second in the MVC preseason poll - currently sits at 2-6-0 this year following a challenging pre-conference slate. One of those victories came in the Redbirds’ last outing, however, as they traveled to Northern Illinois and came out with a 2-0 win. Natalie Vaughn-Low leads ISU with four goals and owns an assist as well, while Riley O’Brien has contributed three goals and two assists. Priya Gillan has started seven of eight matches in goal for the Redbirds and has a 2.25 GAA.
Valpo Picked Fourth in Preseason Poll: Valpo has been chosen to finish in fourth place in the MVC this fall in preseason polling of the conference’s head coaches. Valpo racked up 51 points in the polling — including one first-place vote — to come in fourth position. Loyola claimed the rest of the first-place votes to top the poll, while Illinois State and Indiana State were picked just in front of the Beacons. Valpo was 13 points clear of Missouri State and UNI, who tied for fifth place. Valpo also boasted a trio of preseason All-MVC honorees: Nikki Coryell (First Team), Kiley Dugan (First Team) and Kelsie James (Honorable Mention).
Looking Back at Last Season: Valpo enjoyed a strong spring 2021 campaign, posting its best regular-season finish since joining the MVC (third place) and advancing to the title match of the MVC Tournament for the first time. Valpo finished with a 5-4-5 overall record, a seven-game improvement from its record the previous season — the third-best year-over-year improvement in the nation. Freshman Nikki Coryell was the MVC Goalkeeper of the Year and was joined on the All-MVC First Team by senior defender Keegan Maris and sophomore forward Kiley Dugan - Second Team and Third Team All-Region honorees, respectively.
Who’s Back and Who’s New: Valpo returns 12 letterwinners from the spring 2021 campaign, eight of whom were regulars in the starting XI last season and six of whom found the back of the net in the spring. Joining the 12 letterwinners, as well as five other returnees, on this year’s team are two transfers and 10 freshmen.
Getting On the Scoresheet: It was a plethora of firsts at Chicago State on Sunday for the Valpo attack, as sophomore Cassidy Eckstein, freshman Dana Fish and junior Cierra Welch all found the back of the net for the first time in their respective collegiate careers. It is the first known time in program history that three players have all scored their first collegiate goal in the same match. Of Valpo’s eight goal scorers to date this year, six of them entered the season with zero collegiate goals.
A Helping Foot: Not to be outdone, two other Valpo players also registered their first collegiate point in the match at Chicago State as well. Senior Katie Hansen delivered the assist on Fish’s goal, while freshman Peyton Evans picked up the helper on Welch’s insurance tally.
Familiar One-Sided Scoreline: The win over Chicago State was the second consecutive Sunday that the Beacons earned a 3-0 victory, as they did so as well one week earlier against Saint Bonaventure. It is the first time Valpo has won multiple games by three-plus goals in the same season since the 2017 squad earned a 4-1 win over Fort Wayne and a 5-1 victory over Chicago State.
Finding Goal Scorers: The three first-time goal scorers at Chicago State gives Valpo eight different players who have found the back of the net at least once this season - the program’s highest number of goal scorers in one season since the 2017 team had 10 goal scorers. Interestingly, in a 21-season stretch from 1997 through 2017, Valpo had somewhere between seven and 10 goal scorers in every season but two: the 2004 side had 13 players score a goal, while the 2006 team saw 14 players put at least one away.
Always in the XI: With Georgia Henkel getting the start in goal Sunday at CSU, Nikki Coryell saw her streak of consecutive matches started come to an end at 21 straight matches. That leaves just four players who have started each of the season’s first eight matches: Kiley Dugan, Nicole Norfolk, Allie Anderson and Abby White. In their third season in the Valpo uniform, Dugan and Norfolk have both started all 40 matches since stepping on campus.
Goalkeepers Stand Out: Valpo got a pair of strong performances in goal in the final tuneups before the start of MVC play. Coryell made a career-high 10 saves in the Friday match against Western Illinois, limiting a Leathernecks side which already owns four-goal performances against Illinois State and UNI this season to just two goals. Then on Sunday, making her first start since the 2019 MVC Tournament, Henkel made a strong save on CSU’s lone shot on goal of the match and played well with her feet in starting the Valpo attack out of the back.
Back-to-Back Tallies: Freshman Addy Joiner has made an impact on the Beacons’ attack early on in her Valpo career. Chesterton’s record holder for career goals, Joiner found her first collegiate goal in the win over St. Bonaventure, and the very next match, found the back of the net against Western Illinois just 16 seconds after WIU had taken a two-goal lead. She became the first Valpo freshman with goals in consecutive fixtures since Vanesa Abad scored in the 2014 regular season finale and Horizon League Tournament semifinal, both against Green Bay.
Streak Comes to a Close: Junior defender Nicole Norfolk earned a well-deserved rest late in the St. Bonaventure match. Leading by three goals, John Marovich subbed Norfolk out in the 83rd minute, ending her streak of consecutive minutes played since stepping on campus at 3,591 straight minutes. She played all 1,659 minutes in 2019 as a freshman, played 1,379 minutes during the spring 2021 campaign and was at 553 straight minutes this season before coming off the park. Norfolk surpassed Tracy Roos’ mark of 3,413 consecutive minutes played (2009-11), the previous known program record for consecutive minutes played by a Valpo field player, late in the game at Robert Morris.