Valparaiso (1-6-4, 0-1-2 Horizon)
Crusaders host key Horizon League battle Saturday night
Saturday, Oct. 13 - 7 p.m. - Cleveland State (6-5-1, 1-1-0 Horizon)
This Week in Crusader Soccer: The Valparaiso men’s soccer team looks to move up the Horizon League standings Saturday night as the Crusaders host Cleveland State under the lights at Brown Field at 7 p.m. Saturday night’s match will serve as the Crusaders’ fourth annual TOCO benefit match, with the standard admission fee waived in favor of a donation gate.
Previously: Valpo earned a pair of draws in its last two games, tying Green Bay in league play last Saturday night, 1-1, before tying by the same score against Big East foe DePaul in Chicago on Tuesday afternoon.
The Road Ahead: The Crusaders remain at Brown Field next Tuesday evening, Oct. 17, to host Northern Illinois in non-league action before hitting the road for a Horizon League matchup against currently-unbeaten Detroit on Sunday, Oct. 21.
Following the Crusaders: Saturday night’s match will have a live video stream on the Horizon League Network, with the live audio also available locally on WVUR (95.1 FM). Links for the live video and audio will also be available at www.valpoathletics.com, which will also have a link for live stats.
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: Valpo is just 3-10-1 all-time against the Vikings, but owns a 2-2-1 mark against Cleveland State since joining the Horizon League. Included in that mark was a scoreless draw last season in Cleveland to open league play, a match which saw the Crusader defense surrender just one shot on goal.
Scouting the Opposition: Cleveland State enters Saturday night’s matchup at 6-5-1 overall and 1-1-0 in Horizon League play after a mid-week league win over Wright State, 2-1. The Vikings have tallied 18 goals in 12 games, utilizing a balanced attack, as three players share team-high honors with three goals apiece. In goal, Brad Stuver has played every minute and owns a 0.96 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.
Fit to Be Tied: The Crusaders have come out with draws in three of their last four matches, including each of their last two fixtures. Valpo now has four draws on the season (2 0-0; 2 1-1), already the second-most ties in a single season in program history. Only last year’s side, which closed the season with five draws, finished with more ties.
Off the Schneid: The Crusaders found the back of the net for the first time in six matches last Saturday night against Green Bay, as Jaymie Bullard equalized in the 79th minute off a feed from Stipo Zeba. Prior to Bullard’s goal, his first of the season and fifth of his career, Valpo had gone over 610 minutes since its last goal. Junior Charles Barden then scored the first goal in Valpo’s draw with DePaul.
Not For a Lack of Trying: It hasn’t been an absence of shot attempts that have kept the Crusaders from scoring more goals this season. Over its last nine games, when it has scored a total of three goals, Valpo has out-shot its opponents 131-82, including three times (WIU, WMU, Green Bay) registering at least 10 more shots than its opponent. In fact, over their last 24 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 the heart of Horizon League play. With the pair of draws in the last two games, 10 of 11 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 37 of 43 Horizon League contests end as one-goal decisions or draws since joining the HL prior to the 2007 campaign.
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 10 goals through the first 11 games. Valpo gave up more than one goal for the only time this year in a 2-1 loss 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. As a team, Valpo ranks 39th nationally with a 0.84 GAA, while fifth-year senior goalkeeper Kyle Zobeck paces the Horizon League and sits 44th nationally with a 0.85 GAA of his own.
TOCO: Today marks the fourth annual TOCO benefit match for the Crusader men’s soccer program. The money raised this weekend for TOCO will go towards a number of initiatives that the organization, which is dedicated to improving the lives of underprivileged and at-risk children in the Caribbean through sports, health and enrichment programs, currently has going on. The initiatives include expanding the TOCO Clothesline Project to Grenada, St. Vincent and Dominica, a school supply drive, and a toy and bicycle drive.