Valparaiso (8-8-1, 3-5 MVC)
Tuesday, Nov. 7 – noon CT – Peoria, Ill. – Valpo vs. Drake (5-10-2, 2-4-2 MVC)
Wednesday, Nov. 8 – 6 p.m. CT – Peoria, Ill. – Valpo/Drake Winner at Bradley (10-7-2, 4-3-1 MVC)
This Week in Crusader Soccer: The Valparaiso University men’s soccer team will begin its first Missouri Valley Conference Tournament on Tuesday. The sixth-seeded Crusaders face off with seventh-seeded Drake to begin the event, which features all seven Valley teams competing for an automatic spot in the NCAA Tournament. This year’s tournament is being hosted by Bradley in Peoria, Ill. If Valpo wins on Tuesday, it will play Bradley on Wednesday, with the winner of that match advancing to Friday’s semifinal against Central Arkansas.
Previously: The Crusaders will look to rebound from a 1-0 loss in a tightly-contested match with Bradley that concluded the regular season on Saturday at Brown Field. The game was very evenly matched with each team placing five shots on goal and Valpo outshooting Bradley overall 14-13. Jha’Lon Johnson scored the lone goal in the 43rd minute, while Valpo’s Nacho Miras notched four saves.
Following the Crusaders: All MVC Tournament fixtures can be seen on The Valley on ESPN3. Sean Wheelock and Ty Keough will describe Tuesday’s action, while Scott Warmann will join Keough for the remainder of the tournament. Links to live video and stats will be available on ValpoAthletics.com.
Crusaders in the Conference Tournament: Valpo will be participating in its first Missouri Valley Conference Tournament this week. The Crusaders have played to first-round draws in each of their last two league tournament appearances – 2014 and 2016 – only to see the opposing team advance to the second round of the Horizon League Tournament on penalty kicks. Valpo’s last league tournament win was Nov. 6, 2012, 1-0 over Milwaukee.
Series Notes – Drake: The Crusaders picked up their first-ever victory over Drake earlier this season, going on the road to top the Bulldogs 3-2 after trailing 2-0 at halftime. That win bettered Valpo’s all-time record against Drake to 1-2-1. The Crusaders got goals from Rafael Mentzingen, Jordan James and Jonas Engler in the regular season meeting, which occurred on Sept. 16 at Cownie Stadium in Des Moines.
Scouting the Opposition – Drake: The Bulldogs enter the Valley Tournament as the No. 7 seed, but they found good success against top-seeded Missouri State, attesting to the parity of The Valley. Drake went to Springfield and knocked off Missouri State 2-1 on Oct. 14 before playing to a scoreless draw with the Bears in Saturday’s regular-season finale in Des Moines. After starting 0-3 in conference play, Drake won or tied four of its final five MVC matches. Leroy Enzugusi is the lone player on the team with more than two goals, as he has four. Caden McCullough has played every minute of every match in goal this season, racking up 69 saves while compiling a 1.65 GAA.
Series Notes – Bradley: If the Crusaders can survive their first round date with Drake on Tuesday afternoon, they’ll turn around to rematch Bradley on Wednesday. The host Braves came to Brown Field on Saturday and beat the Crusaders 1-0 in the first meeting between the two sides since 2008. The Braves hold an 8-5 edge in a series that dates back to 1989. The Crusaders knocked off then No. 25 Bradley 1-0 in the most recent meeting prior to this season, a 2008 neutral site match that took place in Evansville.
Scouting the Opposition – Bradley: Bradley’s win over Valpo and Loyola’s loss to Evansville helped the Braves secure the No. 3 seed for the tournament on the final day of the regular season. Bradley has posted three straight clean sheets including a pair of victories in conference play – 3-0 over Central Arkansas and 1-0 over the Crusaders. Roman Schindler leads the team in goals with six and points with 16. Younes Dayekh has contributed five goals, while goalkeeper Brandon Barnes has 96 saves and an 0.82 GAA.
Winning Ways: The Crusaders have already secured at least a tie for sixth in program history for wins in a single season. In addition, Valpo has scored 28 goals in 2017, which puts this year’s team in a tie for eighth in program history for total goals in a single year.
Record Book Watch: Sophomore Adan Garcia has already nailed down a place in Valpo’s record book as a member of the Top 10 for points in a single season. He enters the tournament with 20 points, which places him in a tie for 10th in program history. He is just the second Crusader since the start of the 2002 season to accumulate 20 points in a season, joining Isaiah Madrid, who had 25 in 2016. Garcia and Rafael Mentzingen are both one goal away from cracking the program’s single-season Top 10, while Garcia needs one more assist to enter Valpo’s Top 10 in that category. Nacho Miras enters the week with a 1.49 goals against average. As it stands, he would rank ninth in program history for single-season GAA. Ryan Schwartz’s 2007 season currently sits in ninth at 1.57, while Kyle Zobek’s 2008 season (1.47) is eighth.
Crusaders Among Valley Leaders: As a team, the Crusaders rank third in the conference in goals with 28 (1.65 per game). Mentzingen is third in the league in shots with 51 (3.00 per game), while the Crusaders have two of the league’s top four in points – Garcia (19) and Mentzingen (17). Garcia and Mentzingen have eight goals apiece, which places them tied for third in the MVC. Miras has made 68 total saves and 3.87 saves per game, both of which rank third in the MVC.
Senior Spotlight: The Crusaders will wave goodbye to a trio of seniors at season’s end. Ramone Howell has been a fixture over the last four seasons. He burst onto the scene by playing in 19 games and notching two goals and one assist in 2014. He enters this week with 66 career matches, seven career goals and seven career assists. Keck goes into the tournament having played in 42 games over four seasons. He has two goals and two assists in his career and one of each have come this year. The third senior is Tunji Osifeso, who joined the program last year after transferring from Campbell.
Regional Recognition: The Crusaders are ninth in the latest NSCAA West Regional rankings, which were released on Oct. 31. The Crusaders join three of their Missouri Valley peers in the Top 10 – Missouri State (No. 4), Loyola (No. 7) and Bradley (No. 8) in the rankings.
Head Coach Mike Avery: In his 11th season at the helm of the Crusader men’s soccer program, Mike Avery owns a program-record 82 career victories. Under Avery's guidance, the Crusaders have been a stellar defensive side, as eight of the top nine defensive seasons in program history have come during his tenure. Avery has led the Crusaders to a new standard in his time as head coach, as a program that had enjoyed just one winning season in the 24 years prior to his arrival has finished above the .500 mark in six of the last eight years. He has also seen numerous players go on to play professional soccer, including active pros Zev Taublieb, Kyle Zobeck, Stefan Antonijevic, Jordan Aidoud and Nico Campbell. Avery shattered the program record with his 77th career victory on Sept. 16 at Drake. Avery reached 77 victories in his 195th career match, while previous record holder Mis’ Mrak needed 288 matches to accumulate 76 wins.
Hats Off to Adan: Sophomore Adan Garcia scored three goals in the 5-2 win over Western Illinois to achieve the ninth hat trick in program history. Garcia becomes the eighth player with a hat trick as Brian Thiel has two. The program had just two hat tricks in 26 years from 1990-2015, and has now had hat tricks in consecutive years as Kendan Anderson (Oct. 31 vs. IUPUI) had one a year ago. This was Valpo’s first hat trick in a true road match since 1985. The program’s last six hat tricks have all been scored by players in their first or second year at Valpo.
Freshman Feat: Jonas Engler scored his third goal of the season against Western Illinois, becoming the first Crusader with three goals as a freshman since 2014, when Stian Sandbekkhaug and Jordan James scored three times apiece. Engler also has two assists to put his season point total at eight, the most by a Valpo freshman since Jordan Aidoud had 11 in 2012.
Road Warriors: Valpo owns six road wins this season, the second consecutive year and the third time in program history the Crusaders have racked up six true road victories. This season is tied with 2016 and 1997 for the most true road wins in a single season in program history.
Comeback Crusaders: The Crusaders put together a noteworthy comeback on Sept. 16 at Drake, erasing a 2-0 hole to beat the Bulldogs 3-2. That was only the second time during Mike Avery’s 11 years in charge of the program that Valpo has come from two goals down to win a match. The first was Oct. 10, 2014, when Valpo trailed Wright State 2-0, then rallied for five unanswered goals in the second half to win 5-2. Prior to 2014, Valpo hadn’t won after trailing by two goals since Sept. 27, 2006, a 5-4 win over Evansville.
Welcome to The Valley: The Valpo men’s soccer team turned heads right away in its first season in the Missouri Valley Conference. The Crusaders garnered immediate respect by winning their first-ever MVC match 2-1 at No. 18 Loyola, the league’s defending regular season champion. Valpo’s win snapped Loyola’s 28-match home unbeaten streak which went back three seasons. Valpo followed with the aforementioned 3-2 overtime victory at Drake.
Topping Ranked Foes: Valpo's win over No. 18 Loyola continued the program's recent history of success against nationally-ranked opponents. The Crusaders have five wins and one draw against nationally-ranked sides since the start of the 2013 season.
Other Ranked Successes
Oct. 14, 2015 at No. 23 New Mexico: T 1-1 (2OT)
Sept. 28, 2015 vs. No. 23 Omaha: W 1-0 (OT)
Sept, 23, 2015 at No. 18 Western Michigan: W 2-0
Sept. 11, 2014 at No. 7 Michigan State: W 1-0
Sept. 8, 2013 at No. 24 Michigan State: W 2-1
Fresh Faces: This season marked the debut of a new-look Valpo roster, as the Crusaders have experienced extreme turnover after carrying a senior-laden team in 2016. Only 10 players return who saw game action a year ago, and four of those appeared in eight games or fewer. The Crusaders had 14 players depart, 12 of whom appeared in 12 games or more. Crusader fans will have to keep their roster handy as they watch a team that features 19 newcomers this year. Just five of Valpo’s 31 goals in 2016 were scored by players who are back in 2017. Of the 11 players who started the season opener at Northwestern, only one started the 2016 season finale (Adan Garcia). Five of the 11 starters and six players in total made their Valpo debuts in the match.
Crusaders Picked Sixth in Preseason Poll: Valpo was picked to finish sixth of seven in a preseason poll of the conference’s head coaches. The Crusaders garnered 15 points in the poll, edging out Bradley (14) for sixth and narrowly behind fifth-place Drake (18). Defending regular season champion Loyola collected five of the seven first-place votes.
Howell Honored: Senior midfielder Ramone Howell represented Valpo on the 2017 Missouri Valley Conference Preseason All-Conference Team. Howell scored three goals and dished out two assists in 14 matches for the Crusaders a year ago. He totaled 33 shots, 14 of which were placed on goal. He is Valpo’s only returning player who scored more than one goal last season.
Looking Back at 2016: Last season, the Crusaders racked up 10 victories, matching the program record for wins in a single season. Following the campaign, they said goodbye to a deep and talented graduating class. Goalkeeper Nico Campbell finished with 22 career shutouts, one shy of a program record. Isaiah Madrid finished the season with 10 goals and 25 points, becoming just the sixth Valpo player to score double-figure goals in a single season and the first to reach 25 points in the last 25 years. Kendan Anderson turned the fastest hat trick in NCAA history on Oct. 31 against IUPUI, scoring three times in 1:21. The season ended as Milwaukee advanced on PKs following a first-round draw with Valpo in the Horizon League Tournament. Valpo was on the road 12 times, tying with two other Division I teams for the most road games, going 6-4-2 away from Brown Field. The team scored 31 goals, allowed 18 and notched seven shutouts.
Seasoned Staff: The Valparaiso men’s soccer coaching staff has the unique distinction of having four coaches (three assistants) with collegiate head coaching experience. Chris Pfau is in his first season as Valpo’s top assistant after spending the last six seasons as the head women’s coach at the University of Houston. Pfau has also guided women’s teams at Akron (2008-12) and Evansville (2005-06). Fourth-year assistant David Stroud was the head coach at St. Joseph’s College from 2011-13, while Brendan Roth spent the 2016 season in charge of Calumet College’s program. Valpo is the only team in The Valley with four individuals with head coaching experience on its staff.
Flying Many Flags: Head coach Mike Avery and his coaching staff have continued to pull from all over the world for players to comprise the Crusader men’s soccer squad. This year’s roster features players from 10 countries and 13 total players born outside the United States. In addition, the following states are represented – Kansas, Ohio, Indiana, Texas, Missouri, Maryland, California, Illinois.
#oneVALPO: The Crusader men’s soccer program will continue to promote its #oneVALPO campaign, which celebrates diversity, via social and digital media and at its games. For more information, go to the #oneVALPO Facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/oneVALPO.
Crusaders Working with TOCO: Valpo will once again raise funds for They Often Cry Outreach (TOCO) this year. Throughout the 2017 season, the Crusaders are working to raise money and awareness for TOCO’s work through sport with at risk children in the Caribbean and United States. As part of this effort, men’s soccer will be working with Valpo volleyball to fund a future international service trip, bringing the student-athletes of these two teams to the Caribbean to get on the ground with TOCO and work directly with children the charity supports.