The Valparaiso men’s soccer team hosted its first-ever home Horizon League contest at Eastgate Field on Sunday afternoon, but could not earn the victory, as rival Butler came in and defeated the Crusaders, 4-1.
“I think this was a day where our schedule caught up with us,” said Crusader head coach Mike Avery. “This is the second time we’ve played a League game on a Sunday coming off of a Friday game. Butler definitely earned the win today, but we’ve got to figure out ways to be sharper on the back end of these weekends.”
Paul Leitelt (Munster, Ind./Munster) had the game’s first scoring chance in the 7th minute on a free kick just outside the 18-yard box. Leitelt put the ball on target right underneath the crossbar, but Bulldog keeper Fabian Knopfler got up and just punched it over the bar to keep the game scoreless.
The game would not remain scoreless for long, however, as Butler’s Frank Patano took advantage of a long throw-in from Kyle VondenBenken and broke in alone on Crusader goalie Ryan Schwarz (Rockford, Ill./Boylan Catholic). Schwarz came out of his net to try to cut down the angle, but Patano placed a shot in the right-hand side of the net to give the Bulldogs a 1-0 lead in the 8th minute.
The Crusaders had some more chances early on in the opening stanza, as they were awarded four corner kicks in the first 13 minutes. But they could not push any of them across the goal line, and the two teams played scoreless soccer the rest of the half. Valpo and Butler each took five shots in the opening 45 minutes, with Knopfler making three saves and Schwarz two.
Butler quickly put an insurance goal on the board in the second half. After a scramble off of a corner kick, Connor Burt headed a shot on goal that was blocked by a Crusader defender. But the ball bounced right back to Burt, who successfully converted on his second chance in the 46th minute to give the Bulldogs a 2-0 lead.
Michael Clayton added another goal for Butler in the 66th minute before the Crusaders got on the board in the 74th minute. The Bulldogs were whistled for a foul in the box, giving Valpo a penalty kick, its first of the season. Zack Stivers (Brownsburg, Ind./Brownsburg) stepped up and buried the ball in the back of the net to cut the deficit to 3-1. But that was all the scoring for the Crusaders, and Butler added a penalty kick of its own in the 90th minute for the final score.
On the day, Valpo out-shot Butler 15-14, but the Bulldogs placed eight shots on net to the Crusaders’ seven. Schwarz ended the game with four saves, while Knopfler made six stops. Both teams took eight corner kicks, and Valpo committed 18 fouls versus 13 for Butler (4-2-2, 1-0-0 Horizon).
“From an effort standpoint, we never quit today, which was good to see,” said Avery. “We just have to be sharp with our play, especially since we’ve got three more League games in the next nine days. We should rebound well, similar to the way we did after the Evansville game.”
Valparaiso (2-5-1, 0-1-1 Horizon) concludes a brief two-game homestand on Wednesday, hosting Green Bay in Horizon League action. Kickoff is set for 4 p.m.