Valparaiso found itself down two goals early, and while the Crusaders cut the deficit to one goal early in the second half, they could not complete the comeback, as Wright State defeated Valpo 2-1 Friday evening in Dayton, Ohio in the first round of the Horizon League Championship.
“Playoff games have a different intensity, and our young guys took about 20 minutes to figure that intensity out today,” said Crusader head coach Mike Avery. “To its credit, Wright State came out and put us in an early hole. I thought we did a good job growing into the game and played a very good second half, but at the end of the day, it’s a 90 minute game and we didn’t play well in the first 20 minutes.”
The Raiders struck right away on their first scoring opportunity of the match. In the fourth minute, Tony Labudovski took a feed from Josh Grossman from about 16 yards out and found the upper corner of the net, out of the reach of Crusader goalkeeper Ryan Schwarz (Rockford, Ill./Boylan Catholic), to put Wright State up 1-0 early.
Wright Statecontinued its early offensive onslaught in the 11th minute, scoring its second goal of the match. Braden Fleak crossed the ball across the box from the right-hand side. Drew Eby took possession for the Raiders and found himself with an open net from six yards out for his first goal of the season to give WSU a 2-0 advantage.
The Crusaders would cut the deficit in half early in the second half. Steve Shively (Indianapolis, Ind./North Central) found the back of the net for his team-best fifth marker of the season in the 58th minute. But Valpo could not find the back of the net again, bringing its season to a close.
“I thought Paul Leitelt (Munster, Ind./Munster) did an outstanding job for us today,” said Avery. “He stepped up for us, filling in on defense in the absence of Andrew Stewart and really did a terrific job on the back line.”
With the loss, the Crusaders’ season ends at 4-11-3. Schwarz concludes his sophomore campaign with the lowest single-season goals against average by a goalkeeper in Valpo history, registering a 1.57 GAA on the season. In addition, the 28 goals allowed by the Crusaders on the season are the third-fewest allowed all-time by a Valpo squad and the fewest since 1987. On the offensive side of the ball, freshman Adrian Ortiz (Berwyn, Ill./Morton West) concluded the campaign with seven assists, matching the second-most helpers in a single season all-time at Valpo.