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Valpo Kicks Off Three-Game Road Trip
Wei Ming Wong played all 110 minutes of Sunday's tie against Loyola. (Ray Acevedo)
Wei Ming Wong played all 110 minutes of Sunday's tie against Loyola. (Ray Acevedo)

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Valparaiso at Michigan State - Wednesday, Sept. 30 - 3 p.m. CDT

*Valparaiso at Wright State - Sunday, Oct. 4 - 5 p.m. CDT

Coming Up for the Crusaders: Valparaiso begins a three-game road trip with a quick step out of league play to take on nationally-ranked Michigan State on Wednesday.  The Crusaders then travel to Dayton on Sunday for an evening match against Wright State.

The Matchups: Valpo (4-3-1, 1-0-1 HL) trails the all-time series with Michigan State (4-2-1) by a 1-9-2 margin, but both ties have come since Mike Avery’s arrival, despite the Spartans being nationally ranked each of the last two years when the Crusaders have faced them.  The last meeting, on Oct. 26, 2008, saw 110 minutes of soccer played without a goal, as Valpo fought the 24th-ranked Spartans to a scoreless draw in East Lansing.  Kyle Zobeck made five saves to earn the shutout.

Wright State (1-5-1, 0-1-1 HL) has won all seven previous meetings against Valpo, including a 2-1 victory at Eastgate Field on Sept. 28, 2008 in the two sides’ last meeting.  Rodolfo Lucas tied the game at one with a goal off a free kick in the 79th minute, but the Raiders registered another tally in the 85th minute for the final margin.

Previously: Valpo opened league play with a solid four-point weekend, shutting out Detroit 1-0 on the road before returning home and fighting 2008 Horizon League Tournament champion Loyola to a 1-1 draw.  Roby Del Giudice’s first career D-I goal was the difference maker against the Titans, while Zack Stivers registered his team-best fourth goal of the season to tie the match against the Ramblers.  Ryan Schwarz made nine saves in net while allowing just the one goal over the two contests.

Following the Crusaders:  The sports staff at Valparaiso’s campus radio station, WVUR 95.1 FM, will be broadcasting the match at Michigan State live over its airwaves and online at www.valpoathletics.com, but will not be broadcasting the Wright State match.  Both contests will have live stats links available through the official Crusader website.

Facing Ranked Foes: Wednesday’s match marks the eighth time the Crusaders will face a nationally-ranked side since Mike Avery took over as head coach prior to the start of the 2007 season.  While Valpo is just 1-2-4 in the previous seven contests, all seven games have been hard-fought struggles, as only one of the games was decided by more than one goal.  In addition, they have showcased the Crusaders’ increased defensive prowess, as Valpo holds a 1.07 team GAA in those games and has not given up more than two goals in any of the seven contests.

Stivers Leading the Way: Junior Zack Stivers has led the Crusader offense this year, surpassing his total from his first two seasons combined by scoring four goals in Valpo’s first eight games.  Stivers’ most recent tally was a big second-half marker against Loyola, helping the Crusaders to earn a point in a key league contest.  The junior currently ranks second in the league in goals scored and has also tallied two assists for a total of ten points, also second among league players.

Schwarz Stopping Shots:
Redshirt junior goalkeeper Ryan Schwarz has been steady as always in the net for the Crusaders this year.  Schwarz ranks among the league leaders with a 0.96 GAA and a .789 save percentage on the year, and has continued his tremendous play in Horizon League action.  After earning league Goalkeeper of the Year honors in 2007, posting a 1.02 GAA, Schwarz allowed just one goal and made nine saves in Valpo’s first two league contests last weekend.  He has now allowed no more than one goal in each of his last eight Horizon League regular season appearances.

Newcomers Scoring: Roby Del Giudice became just the latest in a line of Crusader newcomers this year to find the back of the net.  Of Valpo’s six goal scorers over its first eight games, four of them (Del Giudice, Jaymie Bullard, Stefan Antonijevic, Kevin Miller) were not with the program last season.

Iron Men: Two Crusaders have been a part of Valpo’s 11 men on the field every second this year to date.  Goalkeeper Ryan Schwarz has seen all the action in net, while Adrian Ortiz, who has played in all 44 matches in his career, has shifted to defense this year and has not come off the pitch through the Crusaders’ first eight matches.

Tabbed Sixth: Valparaiso has been projected to finish sixth in the Horizon League this season in preseason polling of the league’s nine head coaches.  UIC received six of the nine first-place votes and tallied 62 points to be tabbed the preseason favorite.  Loyola registered two first-place votes en route to 56 points, while Butler received the remaining nod for the top spot, recording 49 points.  Cleveland State (44 pts.) and Green Bay (38 pts.) preceded the Crusaders, who registered 25 points, in the polling.  Milwaukee (22 pts.), Wright State (16 pts.) and Detroit (12 pts.) rounded out the preseason projections.