Valparaiso (7-6-3, 6-1-1 MVC)
Thursday, Oct. 20 - Southern Illinois (8-3-3, 5-1-2 MVC) - 7:30 p.m.
Sunday, Oct. 23 - Indiana State (2-9-3, 2-4-2 MVC) - noon
Next Up in Valpo Soccer: The Valpo soccer team has it all to play for this week as it closes out the regular season, and will do so within the friendly confines of Brown Field. The Beacons take on Southern Illinois Thursday night and Indiana State Sunday afternoon in control of their own destiny, as a pair of victories guarantees them no worse than a share of the MVC regular season title.
Previously: Valpo posted a pair of come-from-behind victories on the road last week, overcoming early one-goal deficits for 2-1 wins at both Belmont and Murray State. Sophomore Addy Joiner, who scored a goal apiece in the two matches, was named the MVC Offensive Player of the Week.
Looking Ahead: The MVC Tournament opens next Thursday, Oct. 27, but the earliest the Beacons would have to potentially play would be a second-round game on Sunday, Oct. 30.
Following the Beacons: Thursday’s match will be broadcast on ESPN+, while Sunday’s will be carried on ESPN3. All nine of Valpo’s home matches are slated for broadcast on The Valley on ESPN (ESPN+ or ESPN3), while select road matches will be broadcast as well.
Head Coach John Marovich: In his 15th season at the helm of the Valpo program, John Marovich holds a 120-111-41 (.517) 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: Southern Illinois ‑ It’s a brief series history against an SIU program still in its infancy, but Valpo holds a 1-1-0 advantage in the first two matchups between the two teams. Last season, the Beacons earned a 2-0 home win over the Salukis, as Dana Fish scored the eventual match-winner in the 75th minute and Kelsie James put the match away with a penalty kick in the 89th. Nikki Coryell made five saves to earn the clean sheet in that win.
Indiana State - Valpo has enjoyed a vast amount of success against the Sycamores over the years, as its 12 wins over ISU are tied for the second-most against a single program in team history. Overall, Valpo holds a 12-3-2 advantage in the series and is 5-1-0 since joining the Valley. Each of the last two meetings - the spring 2021 MVC Tournament semifinal and last year’s regular season matchup - have ended 1-0 in extra time on a golden goal from Lindsey DuSatko.
Scouting the Opposition: Southern Illinois - The Salukis are one of the nation’s most improved sides this year, as after going 0-15-1 in 2021, SIU enters the final weekend of the regular season with an 8-3-3 overall mark. The Salukis are unbeaten in their last five, including back-to-back 1-0 wins over Murray State and Illinois State in their last two matches. A balanced attack has seen 11 different players combine for the team’s 17 goals, while in goal defensively, Maddy Alaluf has seen the majority of action and owns a 1.00 GAA and an .823 save percentage.
Indiana State - The Sycamores are just 2-9-3 overall, but are in the hunt for a potential MVC Tournament berth at 2-4-2 in Valley play. Indiana State has dropped three matches in a row, however, and will play at UIC Thursday night before traveling to Valparaiso. Ella Gorrie has been involved in half of the Sycamores’ eight goals this season, tallying two goals and two assists, while Maddie Alexander and Tara Hoffman have split time in goal.
Valpo Picked Atop Preseason Poll: The Beacons will be the hunted rather than the hunter this season, as Valpo was chosen atop the MVC preseason poll. Valpo gathered eight out of 11 potential first-place votes and totaled 116 out of 121 potential points, 22 points clear of second-placed Indiana State in the poll. Notably, the program has matched or surpassed its preseason projection in each of its first five seasons in the Valley.
Quartet of Preseason Honorees: Plenty of individual standouts have helped Valpo get to the point where it is the preseason Valley favorite, and four of them were honored with preseason All-MVC accolades. Seniors Kiley Dugan and Nicole Norfolk were joined by juniors Nikki Coryell and Kelsie James as preseason honorees. Valpo topped all MVC schools with four members of the preseason All-Conference squad.
Looking Back at Last Season: Valpo put together its best season since joining the Valley last fall, finishing the year with a 10-6-2 overall record and a 6-1-1 mark in Valley play to finish in second place in the standings. The Beacons went unbeaten in their first seven MVC fixtures, part of a nine-match unbeaten streak - the second-longest such streak in program history. Eight players earned postseason awards from the MVC, highlighted by the selection of Nikki Coryell as MVC Goalkeeper of the Year for a second straight season. Kelsie James joined Coryell on the All-MVC First Team, while James and Kiley Dugan were both Second Team All-Region selections.
What’s Back and What’s New: Valpo returns 20 letterwinners from last season’s MVC runner-up squad, including nine starters. Joining the fold this year are six newcomers - five freshmen and one transfer.
What’s On the Line: Quite simply, everything. Valpo enters the week having already clinched a top-three finish in the MVC regular season standings, but has in its hands its own destiny in terms of the final standings, as two wins would guarantee no worse than a tie for the regular season title. Valpo has won three previous conference regular season titles (2005, 2006 - Mid-Continent Conference; 2014 - Horizon League). Should the Beacons finish tied with Missouri State atop the table, the Bears would get the #1 seed and hosting duties for the MVC Tournament semifinals and championship match by virtue of their head-to-head win. Every step up the standings is meaningful, as the #3 seed will have to host a second-round match to earn its way into the semis, while the #2 seed goes directly to the semis and the #1 seed gets hosting privileges.
Comeback Victories: Valpo took all six points from last weekend’s road trip thanks to its resiliency, bouncing back from one-goal deficits both at Belmont and at Murray State to earn 2-1 wins. Prior to last weekend, the Beacons had not come from behind for a victory since a 2-1 win at Robert Morris on August 29, 2021. It marks just the second time in program history that Valpo has come from behind to win in consecutive matches - in nonconference play early in the 2006 season, Valpo was down 2-1 at Belmont before winning 3-2 in extra time and followed with a 3-1 win at Lipscomb after trailing 1-0.
Joiner Just Keeps Scoring: Sophomore Addy Joiner has been more than just a spark off the bench this season - she’s been an assassin in front of goal. Joiner added two more goals to her account last week, converting a penalty kick for the match-winning goal at Belmont and then equalizing in the first half of Sunday’s win at Murray State. Joiner, who was named MVC Offensive Player of the Week for her two-goal weekend, has scored an MVC-high six goals this year - all of which have come as a reserve. Five of Joiner’s six goals have come in Valley play, one apiece in each of the five matches she has entered off the bench. Her five goals in conference play match the most by a Valpo player in league action since Jackie Kondratko netted six goals in Horizon League matches in 2009, while Joiner has now also scored in three consecutive matches ‑ the first Valpo player to score in back-to-back-to-back fixtures since Cory Griffith tallied goals in the last three matches of the 2017 season.
O’Rear Keeps Pushing: Freshman Molly O’Rear has established herself as a presence in the Valpo attack, and was key to the Beacons’ win at Belmont, finding the back of the net less than eight minutes into the second half to level the match at 1-1. All eight of O’Rear’s points (3g, 2a) - including two match-winning goals - have come within MVC play, tied for fourth-best in the conference within MVC matches.
Top-10 Placements: A trio of Beacons have cracked into the top-10 of various record book charts this season. Junior goalkeeper Nikki Coryell earned the 19th clean sheet of her career Oct. 9 against Evansville, tied for 10th-most in MVC history, while junior Kelsie James picked up her 10th career assist in that match, which is tied for sixth-most in Valpo history. Most recently, senior Allie Anderson’s corner kick led to Joiner’s goal at Murray State for her team-high fifth assist of the season - tied for fourth in a single season in program history.
Knocking Home Goals: This year’s Valpo side is the most prolific on the attack within Valley play since Valpo joined the MVC, having already found the back of the net on 14 occasions - the highest-scoring league campaign since finding the back of the net 15 times in Horizon League play in 2015. Three of the Beacons’ six wins have come by multiple goals, matching their number of multi-goal conference wins from the last three seasons combined. It’s the first time since 2009 that Valpo has won at least three matches in conference action by two or more goals.
Limiting the Opposition: While the attack has been on point, so has the Beacons’ defensive unit within MVC play. Valpo has surrendered just three goals through its first eight MVC matches and has posted five clean sheets - matching the program record for the most clean sheets within conference play in a single season. Last year’s side also registered five shutouts, while the 2011 and 2014 Valpo teams both blanked five Horizon League foes. The Beacons have surrendered more than one goal just once in their last 25 MVC regular season matches, a stretch which includes 14 clean sheets.
Saving PKs: When Nikki Coryell faced a penalty kick with mere minutes to play in the Oct. 9 win at Evansville, the stakes were relatively low - the three points were already secured with a 3-0 lead, the only thing gained with her penalty save was keeping the clean sheet. One week later, in the 50th minute at Murray State, the stakes were at the other end of the scale. Coryell was the only thing standing between the penalty spot and the Racers taking a 2-1 lead. But not only did Coryell successfully save her second penalty try in a week’s span, her save directly led to Valpo’s match-winning goal, as the ensuing corner resulted in a counter for the Beacons. Coryell now owns three career penalty saves.
Streak Comes to an End: Senior center back Nicole Norfolk started each of the first 65 matches of her collegiate career since arriving at Valpo for the 2019 season, but suffered an injury in the opening minutes on Thursday. Norfolk, who had been off the field for just 91 minutes total over her four seasons prior to last week, then did not feature on Sunday at Murray State, snapping her starting streak.
A Historic Honor: Nikki Coryell was tabbed MVC Goalkeeper of the Week Sept. 26 for her pair of shutouts against UIC and Drake, her second weekly award of the season from the conference office and the sixth of her career. With six weekly awards, Coryell is now tied with Lori Moore (six-time Mid-Continent Conference Player of the Week) as the most prolific weekly award winner in program history.
Winning Weekly Awards: The Beacons have claimed seven weekly honors from the MVC office to date this season, the latest Joiner’s second honor of the season this week. In addition to the awards for Joiner and Coryell, Molly O’Rear (Sept. 20, Freshman), Nicole Norfolk (Sept. 26, Defensive) and Abbey Hillman (Oct. 10, Defensive) have been recognized by the conference this year.
Conference Success: Valpo is building on its success within conference play over the last few seasons. Since the start of the spring 2021 campaign, the Beacons are 15-4-5 within regular season MVC matches - a mark which improves to 15-2-5 with the removal of the two Loyola matches.
A Great Start: Valpo earned all nine points with three victories in its first three MVC fixtures, something which has been a good omen in the past. This year’s side is the seventh in program history to start conference play at least 3-0-0, as Valpo did so four times in the Mid-Continent Conference, once in the Horizon League and last season in the Valley. All six previous sides to start with at least three straight wins finished no worse than second in the final conference standings, including three conference regular season titles.
National Recognition: Senior Kiley Dugan and junior Kelsie James both earned preseason recognition on a national level, as both were named preseason Players to Watch by United Soccer Coaches. The preseason Players to Watch lists were released for the first time this season by the Division I All-America Committees to promote college soccer leading up to the official start date for the regular season. The lists included United Soccer Coaches All-Americans and first or second team All-Region players from 2021 who are scheduled to return for the 2022 season.
Always in the XI: Three players have started all 16 matches for Valpo this season: Allie Anderson, Kiley Dugan and Natalie Graf. In her fourth season in the Valpo uniform, Dugan has started all 66 matches since stepping on campus.