Valparaiso (6-4-6, 2-2-4 MVC)
Thursday, Oct. 19 - UNI (12-3-1, 5-3-0 MVC) - 7 p.m.
Sunday, Oct. 22 - at UIC (4-7-4, 3-3-2 MVC) - noon
Next Up in Valpo Soccer: A lot is on the line this week for the Valpo soccer team as the regular season comes to its conclusion. The Beacons host UNI in their final home match on Thursday evening before closing out the regular season slate on Sunday afternoon at UIC.
Previously: Valpo picked up a big road win at Southern Illinois last Thursday, 2-1, but was unable to come away with points on Sunday, falling 2-0 to Belmont.
Looking Ahead: The MVC Tournament begins on Thursday, Oct. 26.
Following the Beacons: Both matches this week will be broadcast live on ESPN+. Links for the live video and live stats can be found at ValpoAthletics.com.
Head Coach John Marovich: In his 16th season at the helm of the Valpo program, John Marovich holds a 127-116-48 (.519) record both overall and at Valpo as a head coach. The 2014 Horizon League Coach of the Year and the head of the 2022 MVC Coaching Staff of the Year, Marovich holds Valpo’s all-time records for both victories and winning percentage.
Series Notes: UNI - Valpo holds a slight 5-4-2 edge in the series with the Panthers, but it is UNI with a 3-2-2 advantage since Valpo joined the Valley. Last season, it was the Beacons who claimed all three points to open MVC play in Cedar Falls, as Molly O’Rear scored her first career goal in the 87th minute for the deciding tally in a 1-0 Valpo win. Nikki Coryell made four saves to keep the clean sheet in that victory.
UIC - Valpo is 4-1-1 all-time since the Flames started their program prior to the 2014 season. In last season’s first matchup as MVC foes, the Beacons blitzed UIC for a 4-0 victory on Brown Field. Nicole Norfolk’s goal in the 19th minute would have been enough, while Addy Joiner, Abby White and Sam Gountounas found the back of the net as well. Nikki Coryell made five saves in the win.
Scouting the Opposition: UNI - The Panthers come into Thursday’s match with a 12-3-1 overall record this season and a 5-3-0 mark in MVC play - the lone Valley team without a draw on their docket in conference action. Last time out, UNI dropped a battle near the top of the table at Missouri State, 1-0. Olivia Knoepfle has a team-best seven goals on the season and has also tallied five assists, giving her a MVC-high 19 points. In goal, Caitlin Richards has played the vast majority of the minutes and owns a 0.91 GAA and a .759 save percentage.
UIC - The Flames enter the week at 4-7-4 overall and 3-3-2 in MVC play - just one point ahead of the Beacons. UIC had a bye on the last match day, as its last match was last Thursday - a scoreless draw against Belmont. Makenna Maloy has a team-high 10 points on the season (3g, 4a), while a trio of goalkeepers have split time in net.
Valpo Picked Second in Preseason Poll: The Beacons were chosen to finish in second place in preseason polling of the MVC head coaches. Valpo, which picked up one first-place vote and tallied 107 points in the polling, trailed only Missouri State in the voting. The Beacons far outpaced third-place UIC, which totaled 92 points. Notably, the program has matched or surpassed its preseason projection in each of its first six seasons in the Valley.
Quartet of Preseason Honorees: Plenty of individual standouts have helped Valpo get to the point where it is regarded as one of the Valley’s top programs, and four of them were honored with preseason All-MVC accolades. Fifth-year Nicole Norfolk joined seniors Lindsey DuSatko and Nikki Coryell as preseason First Team All-MVC selections, while junior Addy Joiner picked up Honorable Mention accolades.
Looking Back at Last Season: Valpo’s journey up the MVC table over the last few years culminated last season with a dramatic final day of the regular season which saw the Beacons emerge with the MVC regular season championship - Valpo’s first team title in any sport since joining the Valley. The Beacons finished the season with an 8-7-4 overall record, including a 7-1-2 mark in MVC action to claim the regular season crown. Nikki Coryell was named MVC Goalkeeper of the Year for a third straight season, while John Marovich, Brianne Barnes and Noah Smith were honored as the Valley Coaching Staff of the Year. Nicole Norfolk was named a Third Team All-Region honoree as well.
Regular Season Champions: Trailing by two points entering the final match day, Valpo needed a win and some help to earn the 2022 MVC regular season title, and got both. Molly O’Rear’s goal in the 36th minute against Indiana State not only gave the Beacons a lead they would not surrender, it put Valpo atop the live conference table for good, as Illinois State led Missouri State at that point, 2-0, en route to a 4-2 win. For Valpo, it was the program’s fourth regular season conference championship. Valpo previously won Mid-Continent Conference regular season crowns in back-to-back seasons in 2005 and 2006, and posted a perfect record to claim the 2014 Horizon League regular season title.
Who’s Back and Who’s New: Valpo returns 18 letterwinners, including nine starters, from last year’s squad which claimed the MVC regular season title. The returnees accounted for 16 of the Beacon’s 19 goals and 17 of their 18 assists in Valley play last season. 11 newcomers round out the 2023 roster - nine incoming freshmen, one transfer and one redshirt.
Strong Nonconference Record: The Beacons finished nonconference play with a 4-2-2 record. This year’s side is the first Valpo team to finish above .500 in nonconference action since the 2017 squad went 6-5-0 outside of Valley play. It is the program’s best nonconference record since going 4-1-4 in 2014.
Earning a Tournament Berth: Step one for Valpo this week is to secure its spot in the eight-team MVC Tournament. Entering the week in seventh place in the conference standings, the simplest route for the Beacons is to win at least one of their final two matches. At least one loss from each of the two teams currently tied for ninth (Indiana State and Illinois State) would also guarantee Valpo a place in the field.
Bye Still Within Reach: Third place is still mathematically within reach for Valpo, but the far more likely route to a first-round bye would be a fourth-place finish for the Beacons. The road to the fourth seed would require Valpo to defeat both UNI and UIC (again, mathematically, four points from those two matches could give Valpo a chance at the four, but it would take a perfect set of numerous other results), combined with a UNI loss or draw against Illinois State OR Murray State taking two or fewer points from its last two matches.
Finally Falling at Home: Valpo’s loss to Belmont on Sunday was the Beacons’ first defeat at Brown Field this year, as they had started 3-0-3 through six home matches. This is the second time in program history Valpo has been unbeaten in its first six home matches, joining the 2005 side.
Streaks Come to an End: A number of streaks came to an end when Valpo fell at Drake Oct. 8. The Beacons had been on a seven-match unbeaten streak (2-0-5) prior to the loss against the Bulldogs - the sixth unbeaten streak of at least seven straight fixtures in program history. In addition, Valpo’s 11-match unbeaten streak in MVC play dating back to last season (5-0-6) came to an end, as well as the Beacons’ string of 15 straight Valley matches without surrendering more than one goal. Perhaps the most impressive item which was snapped was the fact that the Beacons lost a match in which they held a lead. The last time prior to Drake Valpo had the lead in a match and didn’t come away with at least a draw was way back on Sept. 28, 2019 at Missouri State. Valpo had won or tied 34 consecutive matches in which it held a lead before falling to the Bulldogs.
Fit to Be Tied: With the draw against Illinois State, the Beacons are up to six ties on the season, setting a program record for draws in a single campaign. The 2010, 2011 and spring 2021 seasons all featured five deadlocks.
Joiner Just Keeps Scoring: One season after pacing Valpo in the goal-scoring department, junior Addy Joiner has continued her prolificacy in 2023. She netted just the eighth hat trick in program history on August 31 against Chicago State, while most recently, she scored what proved to be the match-winner in the Beacons’ 2-1 win at Southern Illinois. Joiner has scored a team-high eight goals this year to lead all Valley players, tied for ninth-most in a single season in program history. Joiner now has 18 career goals, tied for sixth-most in program history.
A Sudden Nose for Goal: Senior Chase Ray went the first 56 minutes of her collegiate career without a goal, but the midfielder has found the scoring touch in Valley play, scoring in three of the Beacons’ eight MVC fixtures. Ray opened her collegiate account with the tying goal at Evansville, scored the early match-winner in the second minute at Indiana State and most recently opened the scoring in Valpo’s win at Southern Illinois.
Etch Her Name in the XI: With 16 starts this season under her belt - all of which she has played the full 90 minutes - fifth-year center back Nicole Norfolk is up to 82 career appearances and 82 career starts in the Valpo uniform. She is tied with Beth Muskovich, who played for Valpo from 1996 through 1999, in both categories and should surpass Muskovich to stand alone atop both charts should she be in the starting XI Thursday night against UNI.
Three-Time Goalkeeper of the Year: Senior goalkeeper Nikki Coryell has quite simply been the Valley’s top goalkeeper throughout her career, as she has been honored as the MVC Goalkeeper of the Year in each of her three seasons. Last season, Coryell posted an 8-5-4 record with a 0.91 GAA and an .800 save percentage, posting seven clean sheets. Coryell and the Valpo defense surrendered just five goals in 10 MVC matches last season and posted five shutouts - matching the program record for the most clean sheets within conference play in a single season. In her three Goalkeeper of the Year campaigns, Coryell has posted a cumulative GAA of 0.59 and a save percentage of .878 in conference play.
Running Up Top: Senior forward Lindsey DuSatko enters the 2023 campaign having earned All-Conference honors in each of the last two seasons, as she was a Second Team honoree in 2021 and a First Team choice last season. The pacey forward was tied for second among Valley players with four assists in MVC-only play in 2022, picking up a helper apiece in four of Valpo’s regular season conference wins, and scored a goal as well. DuSatko assisted on the match-winning goal in the Beacons’ win at Murray State and scored the game-tying goal in Valpo’s draw with Southern Illinois.
Locking Down the Back Line: Fifth-year center back Nicole Norfolk has been the linchpin in the Valpo defense ever since stepping onto campus prior to the 2019 season. The stalwart in the back was a First Team All-MVC honoree in 2022 after earning Second Team recognition the previous year. Valpo’s record holder for consecutive minutes played by a field player, Norfolk played all but 14 minutes of Valpo’s first 15 matches of the 2022 season before suffering an injury in mid-October. With Norfolk on the field during Valley regular season play, Valpo surrendered just one goal in 544 minutes of play. Norfolk added Third Team All-Midwest Region honors to her resume as well last season.
She Scores, We Win: Junior forward Addy Joiner was more than just a spark off the bench in 2022 - she was an assassin in front of goal. A First Team All-MVC honoree, Joiner finished the regular season with a Valley-high seven goals on the year and eventually concluded the season in second place with her seven tallies. The two-time MVC Offensive Player of the Week scored six of her seven goals in Valley play, one apiece in six of Valpo’s seven MVC victories. Her six goals in conference play were the most by a Valpo player in league action since Jackie Kondratko netted six goals in Horizon League matches in 2009.
Wait, There’s More!: The aforementioned four First Team All-MVC honorees from a season ago represent just over half of the total number of honorees from last season’s regular season champions. Fifth-year midfielder Allie Anderson picked up Second Team All-MVC recognition in 2022, while junior left back Abby White was a Third Team All-MVC choice. Sophomore Molly O’Rear rounds out last year’s award winners, as she claimed a spot on the MVC All-Freshman Team.
Even More on Last Year’s Awards: Valpo’s four First Team honorees in 2022 set a program record for postseason honors, as the program previously boasted three First Team All-League recipients on three occasions. The Beacons have had multiple First Team All-MVC honorees each of the last three seasons, and also have had at least one representative on the MVC All-Freshman Team in each of their six seasons in the conference.