Valparaiso (1-5-2, 0-0-1 Horizon)
League play continues in the Windy City
Saturday, Sept. 29 - 7 p.m. - at UIC (3-4-2, 0-0-1 Horizon)
This Week in Crusader Soccer: Valparaiso continues a stretch of three consecutive Horizon League matches to kick off the league slate on Saturday evening, as the Crusaders make the short trip to Chicago to face off against UIC.
Previously: Valpo opened Horizon League play last Saturday night at Brown Field by earning a point with a scoreless double-overtime draw against a Loyola side which eliminated it from the Horizon League Championship last season. Earlier in the week, the Crusaders suffered a 1-0 loss in non-league play at IUPUI, their fifth consecutive one-goal defeat.
The Road Ahead: Horizon League play continues next Saturday as the Crusaders return to Brown Field to host Green Bay on Homecoming Saturday, Oct. 6 at 7 p.m. Valpo then steps briefly away from league action to head back to Chicago to face DePaul on Tuesday, Oct. 9.
Following the Crusaders: Live stats for the matchup against the Flames on Saturday evening will be available through www.valpoathletics.com.
Head Coach Mike Avery: Mike Avery returns for his sixth season at the helm of the Crusader men’s soccer program after being named Horizon League Coach of the Year and guiding the team to the league regular season championship in 2011. Avery, who owns 39 victories as Crusader head coach, has led Valpo to three of the four winningest seasons in program history over the last three years. Under his watch, 21 players have earned All-League accolades, including three Goalkeeper of the Year honorees and one Defensive Player of the Year.
Series Notes: The Crusaders are just 3-16-2 all-time against UIC, but have earned a pair of results against the Flames in the five years since joining the Horizon League, including a 1-0 win in overtime on Brown Field last season on Oct. 29. Jon Smith took a free kick from his own half that skipped over everyone and into the back of the net in the 99th minute of that game, ensuring the Crusaders at least a share of the Horizon League regular season crown. Kyle Zobeck earned a clean sheet with four saves in the victory.
Scouting the Opposition: UIC, like Valpo, drew in its Horizon League opener, and the Flames enter Saturday at 3-4-2 overall after most recently defeating nationally-ranked SIU Edwardsville, 1-0, on Wednesday evening. Ivan Stanisavljevic leads the Flames offense with four goals and two assists, while Joel Salmeron has scored three goals on the season. Piotr Kikolski has played all but one game in goal and boasts a 1.28 GAA.
Crusaders Picked Third in Preseason Poll: Valparaiso picked up the most first-place votes of any Horizon League team en route to being chosen to finish in third place during the 2012 season, according to preseason polling of the league’s head coaches. The Crusaders earned three of the eight first-place votes. Only Wright State and Cleveland State were selected ahead of Valpo.
Looking Back at 2011: The Valparaiso men’s soccer team captured the university’s first Horizon League regular season championship in any sport, as well as the soccer program’s first conference title since 1998, by going 9-6-5 overall and 5-1-2 in Horizon League action. The Crusaders had seven players earn postseason accolades from the Horizon League and boasted the league’s Coach of the Year, Goalkeeper of the Year and Defensive Player of the Year.
A Good Omen?: For the second consecutive year, Valparaiso opened the Horizon League season with a scoreless draw, battling Loyola to a 0-0 tie this year after doing the same in the opener at Cleveland State in 2011. Of course, last year’s league slate proceeded to go quite well, as Valpo closed the year 5-1-2 in league play and regular season champions. Last Saturday’s draw marks the fourth time in six seasons as an HL member that Valpo has tied its league opener.
Not For a Lack of Trying: It hasn’t been an absence of shot attempts that have kept the Crusaders from scoring recently. Over its last six games, when it has scored a total of one goal, Valpo has out-shot its opponents 83-54, including twice (WIU, WMU) registering at least 10 more shots than its opponent. In fact, over their last 21 matches dating back to last season, the Crusaders have been out-shot just once (UC Santa Barbara).
There’s Almost Always Drama: Close games are to be expected for the Crusaders as they enter Horizon League play Saturday night. With the pair of tight games last week, including the league draw against Loyola, seven of eight games this year have been ties or one-goal decisions, following a 2011 season in which 16 of 20 games were that tight. In fact, Valpo has now had 35 of 41 Horizon League contests end as one-goal decisions or draws since joining the HL prior to the 2007 campaign.
Zobeck Posts the Clean Sheet: Fifth-year senior goalkeeper Kyle Zobeck registered his second shutout of the 2012 season in the league opener against Loyola on Saturday, lowering his season GAA to 0.84, tops in the Horizon League and among the top-50 nationally. Zobeck extended his Valpo career record to 20 shutouts with the clean sheet.
Vervynckt Finds the Net: Junior Todd Vervynckt became the first Crusader to score goals in multiple games this year when he tallied in the first half at #9 UC Santa Barbara on September 7 Vervynckt, who is tied for the team lead with Andy Lynn with two goals and five points, now leads all active Crusaders with five career goals.
Strong Defense: Under Avery’s direction, last year’s Crusader squad continued to be strong in the back, surrendering just 14 goals on the season to set a new program single-season record for fewest goals allowed. This year’s team has lived up to the task so far, giving up just seven goals through the first eight games. Valpo gave up more than one goal for the first time in 12 games at #9 UC Santa Barbara, something that has happened just eight times since the start of the 2010 campaign. In addition, since the beginning of that season, the Crusaders have surrendered more than two goals just once.