Valparaiso played scoreless soccer with UIC Wednesday night in Chicago, Ill. into a second overtime session, but the Flames pushed the match’s only tally across the goal line with under four minutes to play to win, 1-0.
“There’s certainly been frustration that both tonight and last Sunday, we’ve played well enough to come away with at least a point,” said Crusader head coach Mike Avery. “But we’re playing against teams that are very good at their home fields and it’s a difficult task. Credit has to go to UIC on its goal; they got behind us and got a really well-taken shot from a tough angle.”
The first half was a closely contested battle in the midfield, with neither team earning many quality scoring chances. The second half saw Steve Shively (Indianapolis, Ind./North Central) earn one of the best scoring chances of the match in the 55th minute, making a run and earning a 1-on-1 chance with Flame goalkeeper Jovan Bubonja. Shively struck a good shot, but Bubonja made a nice save to keep the match scoreless.
Crusader goalie Ryan Schwarz (Rockford, Ill./Boylan Catholic) stopped two shots in the second half to send the game into extra time. Schwarz also made one stop in the first extra session before Pavle Dundjer scored the game’s only marker in the 107th minute off a feed from Cesar Zambrano.
“We’re a work in progress, as we’ve been all season,” said Avery. “We’re still growing as a program. I’ve said all year that our goal was to be playing our best soccer in November. There’s no question that we’re better now than we were at the start of the season; we’re better now than we were two weeks ago. We just need to keep improving so we can keep playing deep into the postseason. Our defense and goalkeeping have been terrific recently, but we need to figure out how to score more goals to keep the pressure off.”
Dundjer’s shot was one of four the Flames put on frame, while the Crusaders were credited with one shot on goal. UIC (7-5-5, 3-1-3 Horizon) took four corner kicks to Valpo’s two. The Brown and Gold were whistled for 19 fouls versus nine by UIC.
“Ryan and the back four were fantastic today, as was Ken Perkins (Cedar Rapids, Iowa/Kennedy) in the middle of the midfield, where he’s played the vast majority of the last two matches,” said Avery. “Now we need to figure out how to quickly recover for a game in two days. There’s a lot at stake, with points still on the table so we can move up in the seeding. It’s our third game of the week, but we’ve gotten a lot of guys minutes the last two games, so we’ll be ready.”
Valparaiso (3-10-3, 1-4-2 Horizon) closes out the regular season at Eastgate Field on Friday afternoon against Cleveland State. Kickoff is slated for 3 p.m., and Crusader seniors Sean McGinnis (Chicago, Ill./Barrington) and Tyler Pagano (Mundelein, Ill./Mundelein [UMass]) will be honored at halftime as part of Senior Day.