The 2011 Horizon League Coach of the Year, Mike Avery finished his 12th year at the helm of the Valpo men’s soccer program in 2018.
Under Avery's guidance, Valpo has been a stellar defensive side, posting nine of the Top 10 defensive seasons in program history during his tenure. He has coached five Goalkeeper of the Year honorees during that stretch, and has also seen one goalkeeper (Kyle Zobeck) and one defender (Stefan Antonijevic) selected in the MLS Supplemental Draft and go on to play professional soccer.
Avery has led Valpo to a new standard in his time as head coach, as a program that had enjoyed just one winning season in the 24 years prior to his arrival has finished above the .500 mark six of the last 10 years.
Under Avery's watch, 45 players have earned all-league accolades, including five Goalkeeper of the Year honorees (Ryan Schwarz: 2007, 2009; Kyle Zobeck: 2011, 2012; Nico Campbell, 2015) and one Defensive Player of the Year (Stefan Antonijevic, 2011). He has also seen eight players go on to play professional soccer, including most recently Rafael Mentzingen with Lansing Ignite of USL League 1.
During the 2018 season, Avery oversaw the development of Rafael Mentzingen, who was a first-team all-conference and second-team all-region performer. At season’s end, Mentzingen became the latest name on a list of over 30 players who have gone on to professional careers after playing for Avery at either Valpo, Louisville or Notre Dame. Mentzingen signed with Lansing Ignite of USL League 1. In addition, Avery coached a second-team Academic All-American in 2018 in Dylan Waugaman. In total, Valpo had two first-team all-conference selections, one second-team all-conference honoree, two MVC Scholar-Athlete picks, an all-tournament team performer, a United Soccer Coaches second-team all-region honoree, three All-MVC honorable mention players, a CoSIDA academic all-region recipient and a CoSIDA second-team Academic All-American in a season filled with honors.
Avery helped his team rebound from a tough midseason stretch to put together a six-game unbeaten streak to close the 2018 regular season, marking the longest season-ending unbeaten streak in program history. Valpo finished the regular season third in the conference standings, the highest finish by Valpo in any sport since the University joined the Missouri Valley Conference in July 2017. Valpo finished the 2018 season with just one conference setback, the fourth time in program history the team has achieved that feat. The other teams to do so were the Mid-Continent Conference regular season championship teams of 1997 and 1998 and the Horizon League regular season championship team of 2011.
Under Avery’s tutelage, Nacho Miras finished the 2018 season with a goals against average of 1.13, a mark that ranked tied for seventh in program history for single-season GAA. He also had five shutouts, a total that ranked tied for seventh in program history for shutouts in a single season. Valpo allowed 21 goals during the 2018 season, a number that ranked tied for eighth in program history for fewest goals allowed in a season.
The 2017 season featured a noteworthy milestone for Avery, who shattered the program record for total wins by a head coach. He finished the year with 82 wins, reaching the record with his 77th career victory on Sept. 16 at Drake. The win came in his 195th career match, while previous record-holder Mis' Mrak needed 288 matches to accumulate 76 wins. Under Avery's instruction, two Valpo players received United Soccer Coaches All-Region Recognition, one player was named to the MVC all-tournament team, one received first-team all-conference, two earned second-team all-conference and one achieved all-conference honorable mention. In addition, Jacob Keck earned the State Farm MVC Good Neighbor Award. Avery guided a largely new team to a 2-1 road win over No. 18 Loyola in the first Missouri Valley Conference athletic event as a full-fledged member in program history.
The 2016 team finished the season with 10 wins, tying for the most in school history. Under Avery's tutelage, Isaiah Madrid became the first Valpo player to reach 25 points in a single season in the last 25 years and scored 10 goals, becoming the sixth Valpo player to score double-figure goals in a single season. Kendan Anderson turned in the fastest hat trick in NCAA history, scoring three times in 1:21 against IUPUI on Oct. 31. Valpo had two all-league first-team honorees in the same season for the first time since 2011.
In 2015, Valpo posted a 7-6-5 record, including a 2-1-1 mark against sides ranked in the Top 25 nationally, the first time in program history the team had defeated multiple Top 25 programs in the same season. Nico Campbell was tabbed the league's Goalkeeper of the Year, while Omar Lawrence and Isaiah Madrid both earned NSCAA Third Team All-Region honors - the fifth and sixth players to earn All-Region honors in Avery's tenure. In 2016, Lawrence and Madrid repeated NSCAA All-Region honors, with Madrid earning a place on the All-Great Lakes First Team and Lawrence landing a spot on the Second Team.
In 2014, the program matched its best winning percentage in program history by going 8-5-6, including a victory over No. 7 Michigan State – the highest-ranked team the Valpo has ever defeated and the second straight year Valpo knocked off a ranked Michigan State side. Valpo was ranked in multiple Top 25 polls during the season for the first time in program history, while the program also earned its highest ranking within the NSCAA Great Lakes Region poll (No. 4) during the season. The 2014 squad had a pair of players named Second Team All-Horizon League and one named to the league’s All-Newcomer Team, while Omar Lawrence was named an NSCAA Third Team All-Region selection.
Avery guided Valpo to a berth in the Horizon League semifinals in 2012, the third time in a four-season span Valpo advanced that far in the league postseason. Four Valpo players earned postseason honors from the Horizon League, highlighted by the repeat selection of Zobeck as Goalkeeper of the Year.
Following the season, Zobeck was drafted in the MLS Supplemental Draft by FC Dallas, the second straight season Valpo had a selection in the league's supplemental draft. He then became the first Valpo alum in program history to sign an MLS contract, inking a deal with FC Dallas. Meanwhile, Antonijevic signed a professional deal in the United States as well, joining the Fort Lauderdale Strikers of the NASL.
The 2011 season saw Avery lead the his team to Valpo's first Horizon League regular season title in any team sport, finishing the league slate with a 5-1-2 record and earning the right to host the Horizon League Championship. Avery, who guided Valpo to a 9-6-5 overall record in 2011, was named the league's Coach of the Year while coaching the Horizon League Defensive Player of the Year (Antonijevic) and Goalkeeper of the Year (Zobeck), as well as five other All-League honorees.
Along the way, Valpo posted the best defensive season in program history in 2011, surrendering just 14 goals in 20 contests, including 11 shutouts. Three players were named to the NSCAA All-Region teams, while Antonijevic became the first player in Valparaiso men's soccer history to be drafted by a Major League Soccer squad, as he was chosen by Sporting KC in the MLS Supplemental Draft.
Avery has also created a resurgence of interest around the program. From running 1,000 miles in five months to raise money for the program as part of The Extra Mile campaign to sending out regular updates to an extensive supporter e-mail list, Avery has helped generate a sense of ownership in the program among the fans.
The veteran Valpo head coach has encouraged the players in the program to give back, most significantly teaming with Taj Weekes’ children’s charity, TOCO, while also raising money for St. Baldrick's Foundation to help find cures for childhood cancers. Avery has been instrumental in helping the Valpo men’s soccer program create the #oneVALPO campaign, which was started to help celebrate diversity and has spread throughout other teams, the campus and the community.
Avery arrived at Valpo from the University of Louisville, where he was the top assistant under head coach Ken Lolla in 2006. While with the Cardinals, he helped the program to its first Big East Conference Tournament berth. He also served as the program’s recruiting coordinator.
Before heading to Louisville, Avery was an assistant for six seasons at the University of Notre Dame, where the Fighting Irish won a pair of Big East titles in 2003 and 2004. Notre Dame made five straight NCAA Tournament appearances, including two trips to the Sweet 16. Avery helped recruit and coach 11 All-America selections, four M.A.C. Hermann Trophy semifinalists and the 2006 NCAA Division I Hermann Award winner, Joe Lapira.
Prior to his stint at Notre Dame, Avery spent three seasons as the director of soccer at Cal State University, San Bernardino. While there, he served as the head coach of both the men’s and women’s varsity teams.
Avery began his head coaching career at Bethel College [Ind.], where he guided the program for three seasons. He led the men’s team through a rebuilding process, finishing with a 43-20-6 record, including an 18-4-2 mark in 1996. He was named the Mid Central Conference Coach of the Year and NCCAA Regional Coach of the Year in both 1995 and 1996, and in his final season with the Pilots, 1996, he led the men to a No. 1 national ranking in the NCCAA poll as well as a No. 11 ranking in the NAIA poll, both firsts for the program. In addition, he guided the women’s squad in 1996, its inaugural season.
Avery played at Westmont College in Santa Barbara, Calif. from 1986-1989. He was a two-time honorable mention All-American and four-time All-Conference and All-Far West selection while helping lead the Warriors to three NAIA national tournament appearances.
He received his degree in physical education in 1990 from Westmont and went on to play professionally both in the United States and abroad, enjoying stints with Real Santa Barbara, Askims IK (Sweden), and serving as a player-coach with the Indiana Invaders. Avery received his master’s degree in kinesiology from Midwestern State in 1994.
Avery and his wife, Valpo volleyball head coach Carin, reside in Valparaiso with their two sons, Alex and Kasongo (K.J.).