Zack Stivers (Brownsburg, Ind./Brownsburg) scored his team-leading fourth goal of the season in the 64th minute, bringing the Crusaders back from a one-goal deficit as Valparaiso and Loyola fought to a 1-1 double overtime draw Sunday afternoon at Brown Field in Horizon League action.
“I thought we played very well today and am proud of the effort our guys played with,” said Crusader head coach Mike Avery. “These league weekends, playing two games in 48 hours, are real tests, and I thought both teams put in a good effort being on the back end of the weekend. I was proud of our resolve to come back from the goal down and also the way we pushed the issue in the latter parts of the game.”
Loyola broke onto the scoreboard as the game approached the midway point of the first half. Michael Ferguson gained possession deep in Crusader territory on the right flank and crossed the ball into the center of the box, where Alex Jones was waiting all alone for a header from five yards out to make it 1-0 Ramblers in the 18th minute.
Valpo nearly knotted up the game right before the half, as in the waning seconds, Kelvin Zelee (South Bend, Ind./John Adams [Indiana]) let a shot go from the right side that ricocheted off the crossbar and out of play. But the Crusaders gained a man advantage in the 52nd minute when a Loyola player was shown the red card and pressed the issue, eventually tallying the equalizer 12 minutes later. Clayton Lyons (Louisville, Ky./Trinity) fed Stivers on the left about ten yards out from the net, and the junior finished with ease into the left side of the goal.
While neither team would hit the scoreboard again, both squads found themselves with opportunities in the latter part of the second half and in the overtime sessions. The most promising chance for either side came in the 84th minute, when Loyola’s Ferguson found himself racing in one-on-one with Crusader netminder Ryan Schwarz (Rockford, Ill./Boylan Catholic). But Schwarz came out of his net to cut down the angle and sprawled out to knock Ferguson’s shot attempt straight up in the air and prevent the Ramblers from taking a late lead.
Valpo held a slight 14-13 advantage in shot attempts over Loyola (3-2-2, 0-1-1 Horizon), but the Ramblers put six shots on frame to the Crusaders’ three. Schwarz stopped five shots to earn the draw for Valpo, while Loyola goalkeeper Peter McKeown made two saves.
“At the end of the day, four points in the first weekend is a pretty good result for us,” said Avery. “Schwarz again came up very, very big in the latter stages of game and has just been terrific for us all year long. Now we are excited to travel on Wednesday, going up to East Lansing to take on nationally-ranked Michigan State. Experiences against top-25 teams are really good for us as we continue to keep growing as a program.”
Valparaiso (4-3-1, 1-0-1 Horizon) travels to take on #21 Michigan State on Wednesday, marking the third matchup with a top-25 foe this season. The Crusaders and Spartans will kick off from East Lansing at 3 p.m. CDT, and all the action can be heard live on WVUR, 95.1 FM, Valparaiso and online at www.valpoathletics.com, which will also have a link for live stats.