Junior forward Steve Shively (Indianapolis, Ind./North Central) found the back of the net for the eventual match-winning goal in the 40th minute, one of his two goals on the day, as Valparaiso never trailed in a 3-0 victory over Western Michigan Sunday at Eastgate Field.
“I thought the difference today was that our guys outworked the other side,” said Crusader head coach Mike Avery. “I was worried about today’s game because we’ve had hard games the last few times out and were coming off of a long bus ride, and I was concerned about whether we would have enough legs to grind out a result. Our guys got in the game mentally, knowing they had to battle, and the goals eventually came. This was a very good win for us today.”
Valpo enjoyed the advantage in the first half, controlling the ball for the majority of the half and out-shooting Western Michigan, 11-5. The Crusaders put four shots on goal in the first 39 minutes, all of which were stopped by Bronco netminder AJ Reed, and also put another off the goalpost, while the Broncos could muster just three shots on goal, all saved by Kyle Zobeck (Coralville, Iowa/Iowa City West), and an attempt that ricocheted off the crossbar in the 30th minute.
Shively broke the scoreless tie on the scoreboard in the 40th minute with help from sophomores Zack Stivers (Brownsburg, Ind./Brownsburg) and Kyle Gentile (Brownsburg, Ind./Brownsburg), each of whom picked up their first assist of the season. Reed was drawn out to the right side of the net by the duo of sophomores, and Shively found himself all alone in the middle of the six-yard box with no defenders nearby and a gaping net. A simple re-direction of the ball with his head was all the junior had to do to put the Crusaders ahead.
That was not it for the first-half scoring, however, as Valpo picked up a key insurance tally less than three minutes later. Reed came out to try to pounce on a long Crusader lead pass, but mishandled the ball. It rolled right to Stivers, who blasted the ball in from 20 yards out for his first tally of the season to put Valpo ahead 2-0 going into the break.
The second half was more of the same by the Crusaders, as they dominated the run of play, registering 11 shot attempts in the final 45 minutes to Western Michigan’s six. With Valpo already ahead by two goals, Shively picked up the first multi-goal game of his career in the 74th minute to cement the game, getting in behind the Bronco defense on a long punt by Zobeck and chipping the ball over Reed’s head from the edge of the 18-yard box.
“It’s great to see Shively back on the score sheet, as he’s been a big part of this team’s offense the last two years,” said Avery. “A game like this, to score twice and have a couple other good chances, is great to see for him. I also thought Andrew Stewart (Buffalo Grove, Ill./Stevenson) and J.P. Lytle (Wooster, Ohio/Wooster City) played fantastic in the middle back today. In a game like this, with a lot of action going forward, it’s imperative to know you have the back locked down, and those two did a great job of that today.”
Shively’s two goals on the day increased his career tally to 11 markers, tied for the most among current Crusaders with Paul Leitelt (Munster, Ind./Munster). He helped lead a Valpo offensive attack that out-shot Western Michigan (1-6-1) by a 22-11 margin. The Crusaders also held a 7-1 advantage in corner kicks.
Zobeck made seven saves in net for the second straight match to earn the third shutout of his young career. He also added the assist on Shively’s second marker, the first assist by a Valpo netminder since Marc Cilfone picked up a helper in 2001. Reed stopped five shots for the Broncos before being replaced by Paul Lewis, who made two saves, for the final 17 minutes.
Valparaiso (4-3-1) has already matched its win total from last season with at least 11 matches left on the slate this year. The Crusaders will continue their three-match homestand at Eastgate Field with the Horizon League opener against Milwaukee on Friday at 3:30 p.m. All the action can be heard live on WVUR, 95.1 FM, Valparaiso and live statistics and audio can be found at www.valpoathletics.com.