As time was winding down in regulation Sunday afternoon in DeKalb, Ill., it was a senior who stepped up big for Valparaiso, as Chadd Sult (South Bend, Ind./John Adams) found the back of the net with just 17 seconds left to play to give the Crusaders a thrilling 1-0 victory over Northwestern in the finale of the niu Adidas Invitational. Valpo concluded the tournament in second place out of the four participating teams.
“I’m really proud of the guys to find a way to get a result today,” said Crusader head coach Mike Avery. “It wasn’t our best day, we weren’t playing particularly well or sharp. I think it had a lot to do with the fact we played a really hard game Friday night, combined with how warm it was today. Both teams really struggled a bit to connect, resulting in not the prettiest of games. We were a little bit lucky to weather the storm, but hung on, paid attention to detail and eventually were able to capitalize.”
A fairly even game, the contest looked like it was destined for overtime in the waning minutes, as neither side had even a shot since the 79th minute. But in the 90th and final minute of regulation in the scoreless duel, the Crusaders found themselves with a late counter-attack. Sophomore Todd Vervynckt (Plymouth, Ind./Plymouth) sent a cross from near the end line down the left-hand side into the box, where Sult, up from his right back position, knocked it home right into the center of the back of the net for the dramatic game-winning goal. For Sult, it was his second career tally, while Vervynckt now owns a team-best five points on the season through five games.
Neither side had much in the way of chances over the course of the game, as both Valpo and Northwestern (1-3-1), which entered the weekend receiving votes in the NSCAA Great Lakes Region polling, were credited with just nine shot attempts each. Valpo goalkeeper Kyle Zobeck (Coralville, Iowa/Iowa City West) had to make just two saves, stopping efforts in the 43rd minute and in the 74th minute following a corner kick to earn the shutout, the ninth clean sheet of his career. Tyler Miller made two saves as well for the Wildcats, stopping strikes from freshman Gerardo Avelar (San Salvador, El Salvador/Colegio San Francisco) in the 22nd and 79th minutes.
“[Sult’s goal] was a really nice goal on a well-crafted play,” said Avery. “It certainly felt good. After all the really close games we’ve been playing, to win one at the end was a nice feeling. Hopefully this is something we can build on and we look forward to playing at home on Friday night. After playing so many straight games on the road, it will be nice to get back home.”
A trio of Crusaders earned All-Tournament honors for their play Friday and Sunday. Sult and Vervynckt were two of Valpo’s representatives, and were joined by fifth-year senior Stefan Antonijevic (Buffalo Grove, Ill./Stevenson [College of Lake County/Marquette]).
Valparaiso (2-2-1) returns to action at Brown Field on Friday evening, as the Crusaders host IUPUI in non-league action at 7:30 p.m. All the action can be seen live on the Horizon League Network via www.valpoathletics.com, which will also have a link for live stats.