Valparaiso (9-5-3, 5-0-1 Horizon)
Wednesday, Nov. 2 - 7:30 p.m. - Butler (7-7-2, 2-3-1 Horizon)
Saturday, Nov. 5 - 1 p.m. - at Green Bay (9-6-1, 4-3-0 Horizon)
This Week in Crusader Soccer: Valparaiso needs just one point over its final two Horizon League games this week to clinch the outright league regular season crown. The Crusaders open the week at Brown Field Wednesday night against Butler, which will serve as Valpo’s Senior Night as well as the program’s annual TOCO benefit game. Valpo then closes the regular season on the road Saturday at Green Bay.
Wrapping Up Last Week: Two more clean sheets were on the books after last week’s contests as the Crusaders clinched at least a share of the Horizon League regular season championship. Valpo got a goal from Charles Barden early in the second half and made it stand up on Wednesday in a 1-0 win at Loyola. The Crusaders then won in dramatic fashion Saturday night at Brown Field against UIC, as a long free kick from Jonathon Smith found the back of the net in the 99th minute for the golden goal in another 1-0 win.
Following the Crusaders: Wednesday’s game will feature a live video stream via the Horizon League Network, as well as the audio broadcast on WVUR, 95.1 FM, Valparaiso. Links for both can be found on www.valpoathletics.com, which will also have links for live stats for both of this week’s contests.
Head Coach Mike Avery: Mike Avery is in his fifth season at the helm of the Crusaders’ men’s soccer program, having led Valpo to three straight winning seasons for the first time in program history. Avery, who currently owns 38 victories as head coach at Valpo, has led the Crusaders to their three winningest seasons all-time over the last three years.
Series Notes: Butler - 1-13-0 overall (0-4-0 under Avery); last meeting 1-0 (2ot) #14/15 Butler at Butler 10/1/10 [Burt 109’ for Butler; Valpo 3 shots on goal; Schwarz 2 saves]
Green Bay - 2-11-0 overall (1-4-0 under Avery); last meeting 1-0 GB at GB 10/23/10 [Banks 70’ for GB; Valpo 4 shots on goal; Schwarz 5 saves]
Scouting the Opposition: Butler - The Bulldogs enter Wednesday night’s game at 7-7-2 overall and 2-3-1 in Horizon League play, right in the middle of the fight for the final two berths in the Horizon League Championship. Butler has scored 21 goals on the year, led by seven markers from Austin Oldham, who has also picked up four assists. Jon Dawson has seen the majority of minutes between the pipes and is 4-6-1 with a 1.62 GAA.
Green Bay - The Phoenix are 9-6-1 overall and 4-3-0 in Horizon League play, but had a five-match winning streak snapped last time out with a 2-1 loss at Wright State. Tony Walls leads the team with 17 points (6g, 5a), while Sam Krenzien has added five scores. Ryan Wehking has played all but 168 minutes in goal and owns a 1.15 GAA.
Regular Season Champions: The Crusaders earned Valpo’s first Horizon League championship in any team sport on Saturday evening by taking all three points against UIC. The win gave the Crusaders 16 points, with only Cleveland State and Wright State alive to even tie Valpo atop the table. The regular season title is the first by a Crusader men’s soccer team since the 1998 side went 3-1-1 to bring home the Mid-Continent Conference hardware.
Shutout Streak: A goal at the 84:27 mark October 9 against Oral Roberts. That marks the last time the Crusaders have surrendered a goal, a stretch of over three weeks. With the pair of shutouts last week against Loyola and UIC, Valpo now has posted five straight clean sheets, a new program record for most consecutive shutouts. They also have now set the program record for longest shutout streak, as it sits at 484 minutes and counting entering this week.
Strong Defensive Presence: It isn’t just the lack of goals recently that tells the story of how strong the Crusader defense has been over the last three weeks - it’s the lack of attempts they’re surrendering. Valpo’s opponents have totaled just 29 shots over the last five games and have placed just nine efforts on goal, compared to the Crusaders’ respective offensive numbers of 72 and 31 over that same stretch.
Zobeck Keeping It Clean: Redshirt junior goalkeeper Kyle Zobeck continues to imprint his name on the Crusader record books. Zobeck, who is running away with Valpo’s single-season shutout record (currently at 10), matched Ryan Schwarz’s career record with the blanking of UIC last time out, as Zobeck now holds 17 career shutouts. The junior, who leads the Horizon League in both shutouts and goals against average (0.67), is now tied for ninth in league history with 10 shutouts in a single season and is just two clean sheets away from the league’s career top-10 in the category.
Another Player Recognized: It hasn’t just been Zobeck who has been getting recognized for the string of shutouts, however. Fifth-year senior defender Stefan Antonijevic was named to the College Soccer News National Team of the Week this past week for his play at center back in the shutouts of Loyola and UIC. Over the five straight clean sheets, Antonijevic has played all but one minute, and in fact has come off the pitch for just 31 minutes in all this season.
Among the National Leaders: Valpo’s run of clean sheets has helped the Crusaders move near the top of the nation in a few defensive categories. As a team, the Crusaders currently are tied for sixth in shutout percentage (0.59), alongside national powerhouse Akron, and are ranked 12th in team goals against average (0.67). Individually, Zobeck sits in 17th place nationally with his 0.67 GAA.
Just Win, Baby, Win: Not to be overlooked in the run of shutouts is that Valpo has now won four consecutive games, matching the program record for most straight victories. This year’s squad now sits with the 1997 team, which won four consecutive fixtures from Sept. 24-Oct. 5, as Crusader squads with at least four straight wins.
Moving Into the Rankings: For the first time this year, Valparaiso moved into the NSCAA Great Lakes Regional rankings this week, sitting in ninth position when the poll was released on Tuesday. The Crusaders, who are the only Horizon League squad ranked in this week’s top-10, sit between Marquette and Wisconsin in this week’s polling.
Three Straight Winning Seasons: Prior to 2009, the Crusaders had enjoyed just one above-.500 campaign in program history. That has changed recently, as Valpo clinched its third consecutive winning season with the result Saturday against the Flames. The Crusaders’ nine wins are tied for second-most in a single year all-time at Valpo, just one shy of the record of 10 set by the 2009 side.
Home Field Advantage: Every year since Mike Avery’s arrival, the Crusaders have recorded at least a .500 record at home. Following the win over UIC last Saturday, the Crusaders are 6-1-1 at home this year, improving Avery’s record at home to 21-11-5 (.635). Valpo still has one more Horizon League home contest against Butler, and if the Crusaders are outright regular season champions, they would host the final two rounds of the HL Championship on Brown Field.
There’s Almost Always Drama: The Crusaders returned to their form of playing many close games last week. With the pair of one-goal victories, 13 of Valpo’s 17 games this year have been ties or one-goal decisions. The Crusaders have now had 32 of 38 Horizon League contests end as one-goal decisions or draws since joining the HL prior to the 2007 campaign.
Extra Time = Result Time: Valpo entered this season just 5-9-10 since joining the Horizon League when games went into extra time. But this year, the Crusaders have been undefeated in all five such contests. Valpo has earned a pair of overtime victories, both in Horizon League play, and has also drawn on three occasions.
Barden Breaks Out: Sophomore midfielder Charles Barden has quietly been Valpo’s most effective offensive weapon in Horizon League play. The sophomore has struck for three goals in league action, including most recently the match-winner at Loyola, and has also added an assist for seven points. Barden, who leads the Crusaders overall with four goals, has not needed many attempts to rack up his markers, as he has taken just seven total shots this year, five of which have been on goal.
Spreading the Wealth: Jonathon Smith made his first goal of the season a game-winner last time out against UIC, continuing the trend of a balanced offense from Valpo. There have now been 14 different Crusaders to find the back of the net this year, as Valpo has tallied 24 goals through 17 games. Six different players have tallied multiple goals, led by Barden’s four goals, while eight more have added one goal apiece. In addition, all nine of Valpo’s victories have featured different players picking up the match-winning goal.
Record-Setting Performance: The Crusaders opened the season with a bang on Aug. 26, scoring eight goals in the 8-0 victory over Calumet. The eight goals marked a new program record for goals in a single game; previously seven, which was accomplished twice, most recently in 1995. The eight-goal winning margin also set a new team record in that category.
Crusaders Picked Fourth in Preseason Poll: The head coaches selected Valparaiso to finish in a tie for fourth place in the Horizon League this season according to the preseason poll. Only Butler, Cleveland State and Milwaukee were projected ahead of the Crusaders.