Valparaiso (9-4-2, 5-0-1 MVC)
Saturday, Oct. 23 - Evansville (6-3-5, 2-2-2 MVC) - 7 p.m.
Next Up in Valpo Soccer: The Valpo soccer team closes out the fall 2021 home regular season slate on Saturday night as it hosts Evansville at Brown Field. While a top-two spot in the MVC regular season standings is already secured, the Beacons will be looking for their 10th win of the season and to extend their unbeaten streak to nine consecutive matches.
Previously: Valpo’s seven-match winning streak came to an end at the hands of UNI last Sunday in a scoreless draw on Brown Field. The point the Beacons picked up was enough to clinch a top-two spot in the MVC regular season standings, however, while Valpo kept its fifth clean sheet in six Valley matches this season.
Looking Ahead: It’s all on the line next Thursday afternoon, as the MVC regular season champion will be decided when Valpo visits Loyola.
Following the Beacons: Saturday’s match will be broadcast live on ESPN+ and will have live stats available via ValpoAthletics.com. All remaining 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 112-103-38 (.518) 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: The Purple Aces hold a 9-3-4 advantage in the all-time series, but Valpo is unbeaten in the last three meetings. Last season saw the two sides play to a scoreless draw at Evansville during the regular season and then play to a scoreless draw in the first round of the MVC Tournament on Brown Field before Valpo won the shootout, 5-3, to advance in the tournament.
Scouting the Opposition: Evansville enters Saturday’s fixture with a 6-3-5 overall record this year and is 2-2-2 in MVC play, most recently earning a 1-0 win over Southern Illinois back on Oct. 13. The Purple Aces are looking to clinch a berth in the MVC Tournament on Saturday night and are on pace for their best finish in the Valley since 2016. Emily Ormson has netted a team-high six goals of the 18 goals Evansville has put away and has added an assist as well for 13 points. In goal, Michaela Till has played the vast majority of the minutes and owns a 1.16 GAA and an .824 save percentage.
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.
Unbeaten Streak Continues: Despite the draw against UNI, Valpo’s unbeaten streak continues at eight consecutive matches, tying the second-longest unbeaten streak in program history. The 2014 squad went 18 consecutive matches without losing (14-0-4), while the 2006 (8-0-0) and 2009 (7-0-1) teams each went eight straight without losing. The seven-match winning streak tied the 2009 team for the third-longest winning streak in program history.
Securing a Top-Two Spot: With Sunday’s draw, Valpo now sits at 5-0-1 in MVC play, good for 16 points. The Beacons are assured of at worst a tie for second place in the final regular season standings and own the tiebreaker over Indiana State, giving them the bye to the MVC Tournament semifinals. The regular season finish will not only be the soccer program’s best since joining the MVC, it will be the best regular season finish by any Valpo team since the move to the Valley.
All on the Line - Next Week: Counterintuitively, the outcome of Saturday’s match against Evansville will have zero impact on Valpo’s eventual seed for the MVC Tournament. With a win over the Purple Aces, Valpo would enter next Thursday’s match at Loyola with both sides on 19 points, but the Ramblers would almost assuredly hold the tiebreaker in the event of a draw in the finale based on goal differential in MVC play (Loyola +16, Valpo +6), meaning Valpo would need to beat the Ramblers to earn the 1 seed. Meanwhile, even if Saturday’s result is a draw or a loss, Valpo could make up its deficit in the standings heading into the finale by beating Loyola to earn the 1 seed.
Getting Defensive: Valpo’s current eight-match unbeaten streak has included seven clean sheets, with only Missouri State putting a goal away against the Beacons during this stretch. The first four wins in the unbeaten streak all came via shutout — prior to this year, you have to go back to 2009 to find the last time Valpo won four in a row, all in shutout fashion. Valpo put together a streak of 419 consecutive minutes of shutout soccer between Sept. 10 and Oct. 3, and is currently on a 337-minute shutout streak. Thanks to their defense during this stretch, the Beacons have not trailed in a match since their Sept. 10 loss to Western Illinois.
Double-Digit Wins: This year’s side is trying to become the 10th team in program history to reach the 10-win mark. Four of the previous nine 10-win teams come under the guidance of Coach Marovich, including the record-setting 14 wins in 2014.
Regionally Ranked: For the second consecutive week, Valpo has earned a spot in the United Soccer Coaches Midwest Region rankings. The Beacons broke into the regional rankings at #10 last Tuesday, Oct. 12, and moved up one position to #9 in this week’s rankings. This year’s side is the first Valpo squad to be ranked since the 2017 team was ranked for the first three weeks of that season - back then, 15 teams were ranked, while only 10 are ranked now.
Third Time’s the Charm?: Valpo and Evansville will be renewing acquaintances for the third time this calendar year on Saturday, as the two squads played to a pair of scoreless draws in the spring. The Purple Aces are the third of four opponents for Valpo who it will play three times this calendar year, after having never done so with any opponent in program history prior to 2021. Valpo is 3-0-0 in the year 2021 against Indiana State and is 0-1-2 against UNI, while it will meet Loyola for a third time this calendar year in the regular season finale.
Nikki Notches Another Shutout: The Missouri Valley Conference slate has been like Groundhog Day for sophomore goalkeeper Nikki Coryell - wake up, post another clean sheet. Last time out, Coryell stopped nine shots in the scoreless draw with UNI - her fifth shutout in Valpo’s six MVC fixtures. She was named MVC Defensive Player of the Week on Monday for her effort in goal against UNI and earlier in the week against Drake, when she stopped five shots in a 1-0 win. Coryell has posted a 0.16 GAA and a .972 save percentage in Valley action, surrendering just a lone goal to Missouri State over Valpo’s six conference fixtures, while her 0.83 GAA and .869 save percentage overall this year both rank second in the MVC. Her numbers in MVC play are even more spectacular when you consider that, of the 564:35 played in conference so far, Valpo has been tied for 454:59 (80.6% of the minutes) and owned a mere one-goal edge for 92:31 (16.4% of the minutes).
Coryell on the Charts: With at least three matches left this year, Coryell has already cracked Valpo’s single-season shutout top-10 with her five clean sheets this season. She now owns 12 career shutouts, fifth-most in program history and just two shy of fourth. Nine of her clean sheets have come in the 14 MVC matches she has played. Coryell surpassed the 2,500-minute mark for her career Sunday, meaning she now qualifies for career goals against average charts as well. Her 0.67 GAA to date in her career is easily best in Valpo history, besting Sydney Galvez-Daley’s 0.80 mark, and she currently ranks second in MVC history as well.
Raking in the Honors: Valpo has set a program record for number of conference weekly honors this season, with Coryell’s award this week the eighth this year, spread among seven different athletes. In addition to Coryell’s two Defensive Player of the Week awards, Nicole Norfolk has also been named Defensive Player of the Week. Addy Joiner, Dana Fish and Abby White have been Freshman of the Week honorees, while Kelsie James and Lindsey DuSatko have earned Player of the Week accolades.
A Classic Goal: Sophomore forward Kelsie James has had some memorable strikes in her two seasons with the Valpo program, but when you consider quality and importance, perhaps none tops the Olimpico she scored directly from a corner last time out at Drake in the 72nd minute. The goal proved to be the match-winner in Valpo’s 1-0 victory, James’ second match-winner of the season. She leads all MVC players with seven goals on the season and is second in the conference with 17 points, both marks on the verge of cracking Valpo’s single-season top-10 charts.
Finding Goals Late: Four of the Beacons’ five wins in the MVC have come courtesy of a match-winner in the 70th minute or later. The winner against Illinois State (Dana Fish) came in the 83rd minute, against Indiana State (Lindsey DuSatko) came in extra time, against Southern Illinois (Fish) came in the 75th minute and against Drake last time out (James) came in the 72nd minute. The only exception was the match at Missouri State, when Valpo netted two goals before 20 minutes were up.
A Memorable Senior Night: This year’s group of seniors — Peyton Flynn, Alexis Gaffney, Katie Hansen, Morgen Metzger and Jenna Schluter – had a Senior Night to remember last Saturday against Cornell College. Flynn, Gaffney, Hansen and Metzger all started and all finished the match. Gaffney scored the first two goals of her career, while Metzger scored her first career goal as well and also picked up an assist. Flynn recorded an assist on Gaffney’s second goal, while Hansen played all 90 minutes at center back.
Trio of Firsts: The trio of Gaffney, Metzger and Claire Bonnici all scored their first collegiate goal in the Cornell College win, the second time this season Valpo has had three first-time goal scorers in the same match. The Sept. 12 win over Chicago State featured the first collegiate goals for Cassidy Eckstein, Dana Fish and Cierra Welch. Prior to this season, Valpo had never had three players net their respective first career goals in the same match.
Many Goal Scorers: 11 different players have found the back of the net this year for the Beacons, the third-most in a season in program history. The 2006 side had 14 different goal scorers, while the 2004 team had 13. The Beacons now count nine different first-time goal scorers among their 11 goal scorers this season, while nine of the 13 players who have recorded assists entered the season without a collegiate assist.
Always in the XI: Three players have started each of the season’s first 15 matches: Kiley Dugan, Nicole Norfolk and Abby White. In their third season in the Valpo uniform, Dugan and Norfolk have both started all 47 matches since stepping on campus.