Valparaiso (4-7-3, 1-1-2 MVC)
at Evansville (3-6-6*, 1-2-1 MVC)
Saturday, Oct. 27 – 5 p.m. CT
This Week in Valpo Soccer: The Valparaiso University men’s soccer team has hopes that Saturday’s game will be a preview of a trip to come. Making the journey from Valpo to Evansville twice in a 10-day span has never sounded so appealing, as Valpo will return to the home of the Purple Aces as long as the team takes care of business over the final two matches and secures a spot in the Missouri Valley Conference Tournament. The stakes are high on Saturday as Valpo and Evansville lock horns in another important game in the conference standings.
Previously: Valpo gained a point in The Valley standings with a 2-2 draw against Central Arkansas last week at Brown Field. Michael Marchionna and Adan Garcia each had goals to help Valpo out to a 2-0 lead, but the Bears battled back by scoring twice in a three-minute span in an eventual 2-2 deadlock. Garcia finished with a goal and an assist in the match, while Rafael Mentzingen provided the assist on the Garcia goal.
Following Valpo: This week’s game will be broadcast on ESPN3, which is available free of charge with a cable provider login. Links to live video and stats are posted on ValpoAthletics.com.
Table Talk: With two games remaining in the regular season, there are plenty of possibilities as to where Valpo will end up when it comes time for the Missouri Valley Conference Tournament. There’s little separation from the top of the table to the bottom, and Valpo could still end up anywhere in The Valley standings. Entering this week, Valpo has five points, leading a group of four one-win teams. Fourth-place Valpo is just two points behind the tie for second between Missouri State and Central Arkansas, while owning just a two-point lead over seventh-place Bradley in a conference where the top six teams reach the league tournament. Evansville and Drake, the two teams that Valpo has left on the schedule, both enter this week one point behind Valpo in the standings.
Unbeaten Streak: Valpo advanced its unbeaten streak to four with last week's 2-2 draw against Central Arkansas at Brown Field. Valpo is 2-0-2 during a four-game streak that marks the program's longest stretch without a loss since 2016, when Valpo went six straight without a setback from Sept. 24 to Oct. 11.
Shot Creation Continues: Valpo has not been outshot in the last seven games, a stretch that continued when the hosts outshot Central Arkansas 19-11 last week. After the Bears scored the equalizing goal in the 78th minute, Valpo took the final 11 shots of the game, but couldn't break through to snap the tie.
Garcia Breaks Through: After sharing the team lead with nine goals last season, a number that ranked in the Top 10 in program history for goals in a single season, junior Adan Garcia had been held without a goal until last week. He broke through with a goal and an assist against Central Arkansas, boosting his career point total to 27. The goal was the 10th of his collegiate tenure.
Scouting the Opponent: Evansville is statistically led by Ben Weber, who has three goals and one assist for a team-high seven points entering Wednesday’s match at Kentucky. Frederik Reimer has played 14 games in goal and owns a 1.91 GAA to go along with 57 saves. Adam Snow and Mathias Nors join Weber as Purple Aces with multiple goals this season. Evansville is coming off a 3-0 loss at Loyola, a team Valpo played to a scoreless draw earlier this season. After Saturday’s game, the Purple Aces will finish the regular season with a visit to Bradley on Nov. 3 at 7 p.m.
Series Notes: Valpo will make its first trip to Evansville as a member of the Missouri Valley Conference after prevailing 2-1 at Brown Field last season. Akeem Bradford (16th minute) and Rafael Mentzingen (38th minute) both scored to help Valpo bump its record to 2-3-1 against the Purple Aces. Before that, the two teams hadn’t faced off since Sept. 14, 2008, a 3-1 Purple Aces victory as part of the ProRehab Aces Soccer Classic.
National Honors: Lucca Lacerda scored three goals and had one assist over two matches in a four-day span including a brace to lift Valpo to a 2-0 Missouri Valley Conference victory at Bradley on Oct. 13. His seven-point week propelled the team to a perfect 2-0-0 fall break road trip and helped him garner College Soccer News National Player of the Week, Missouri Valley Conference Offensive Player of the Week and a spot on the College Soccer News National Team of the Week. Lacerda claimed the team lead in goals (4), points (9) and game-winning goals (2) after becoming the first Valpo player with a brace this season. He started his impressive week with a goal and an assist in a 2-1 midweek victory over Eastern Illinois. Lacerda joins Central Arkansas' Niklas Brodacki as the only MVC players with a brace in conference play this season.
Keeping It Clean: When goalkeeper Nacho Miras picked up his fourth shutout of the season on Oct. 13 at Bradley, he entered the Top 10 in program history for shutouts in a single season with four. With his fifth career shutout, Miras is now tied with Dan D'Angela (1985-1986) and Rich Naden (1988-1990) for seventh on the program's career list. It was the fifth shutout for the team this season, up from one last year. Valpo has permitted just one goal in three conference contests and has allowed one goal or fewer in nine of 13 games.
Multi-Goal Cushion: Winning on the road against a quality Bradley program was a tall task, but the guests were up to the challenge last week. Valpo not only left Peoria with three points, but did so with the Braves facing a two-goal deficit. It was Valpo's first win by multiple goals this season, a feat the team most recently accomplished on Oct. 30 of last year with a 3-1 triumph over Eastern Illinois. The last time the program won a conference game with a multi-goal cushion was on Oct. 29, 2016 against Northern Kentucky.
Coming From Behind: Valpo recorded its first come-from-behind victory of the season on Oct. 10 at Eastern Illinois. The team was previously 0-7-0 when opponents scored first, but it came from a goal down to register a 2-1 win over the Panthers.
Nil-Nil, Part 2: For the second time this season, Valpo played to a scoreless draw on Oct. 7, this time against Loyola. Valpo also played 110 minutes of scoreless soccer on Sept. 15 against Western Illinois. Before this season, Valpo hadn't played to a scoreless draw at Brown Field since Sept. 7, 2015 against Loyola. The last time Valpo had two 0-0 deadlocks at home in the same season was 2012.
Bonus Soccer: When Valpo and Loyola get together, odds are fans are going to get their money's worth. This year’s game marked the seventh time in the last eight meetings that the two teams have played extra time. It was also Valpo's fourth scoreless draw with the Ramblers since 2012.
Excelling Academically: For the 16th straight year, the Valpo men’s soccer team has been awarded with the United Soccer Coaches Team Academic Award, as announced on Oct. 4 by the organization. Valpo has the third-longest streak in the nation. The United Soccer Coaches Team Academic Award is bestowed upon soccer programs whose student-athletes have excelled in the classroom. The award is given annually, and in order to qualify a program must obtain a composite grade point average of 3.00 or better for the academic year.
Scholar-Athlete Spotlight: Valpo senior Rafael Mentzingen was recognized by the Missouri Valley Conference for his well-roundedness as part of the MVC Scholar-Athlete Spotlight presented by Enterprise Bank and Trust Company on Sept. 19. An economics major with a theology minor, Mentzingen boasts an impressive 3.87 grade point average. He has served the community through his work with the Detroit Fieldhouse, the #oneValpo diversity campaign, St. Baldrick’s, They Often Cry Outreach and the Valpo Parks Department. He is active on campus as a member of the Valpo Economics Club and the Valpo International Student Organization.
Brown with the Winner: Defender Alex Brown was part of a Valpo back line that limited Milwaukee to two shots on goal and helped shut out the Panthers on Sept. 7 in a 1-0 road win for Valpo. In addition, he scored the game-winning goal in the 90th minute, using a header goal for the only tally of the match by either side. Brown played 86 of the 90 minutes in the triumph and scored the second goal of his career, both match winners.
A Victorious Debut: Redshirt junior goalkeeper Dan Rosenfeld made his collegiate debut on Sept. 7 after three injury-plagued seasons. Rosenfeld made two saves in his first Valpo game, helping shut out a quality Milwaukee side in a 1-0 Valpo victory.
Making Moves: After having just one assist and no goals through his first two seasons, redshirt junior Michael Marchionna emerged as a key cog for Valpo in the early portion of the season. He was involved in the team’s first three goals, racking up one goal and two assists early in the season.
All-Tournament Team: A pair of Valpo student-athletes were recognized as part of the All-Tournament Team for their play at Wisconsin over Labor Day weekend. Rafael Mentzingen and Nacho Miras both added all-tournament accolades to their resumes. Miras permitted just one goal in each game against quality Big Ten competition, recording six saves for the tournament. Mentzingen racked up nine shots over the two matches, two on frame.
Opening in Style: A 1-0 overtime victory over IUPUI allowed Valpo to start its season with a win for the first time since 2011. Valpo was also opening up at home for the first time since the 2011 campaign. Although it had gone winless in the last six season openers before that match, Valpo had three draws - including one at Big Ten foe Michigan State - and two overtime defeats in addition to a one-goal loss at No. 14 Kentucky in 2015. Valpo has seen three straight season openers go to overtime and six of their last seven lid-lifters have required play beyond the regulation 90 minutes.
Dynamic Duo: Valpo placed two on the Preseason all-Missouri Valley Conference team – midfielder Rafael Mentzingen and forward Adan Garcia. The two players shared the team lead in goals last season with nine apiece, a number that ranks tied for seventh in program history for goals in a single season. Mentzingen and Garcia became the first pair of Valpo teammates to each score nine goals or more in a single season in program history. Both received significant postseason accolades as Mentzingen was named second-team all-region, first-team all-conference and MVC all-tournament team, while Garcia garnered third-team all-region and second-team all-conference.
A Glance at the Goalkeepers: Nacho Miras is a returning starter at goalkeeper, leading the way for a deep position that also includes Dan Rosenfeld and Alex Richt. Miras etched his name into the single-season program record book a year ago, posting a goals against average of 1.64 that ranked 10th in program history. He had seven saves in his first career start on Aug. 25 at Northwestern, the most saves by a Valpo keeper in a debut since 2001. His success continued with a career-high eight saves on Sept. 3 at DePaul, helping him earn MVP honors at the Chicago Classic, MVC Defensive Player of the Week recognition and a spot on the College Soccer News National Team of the Week.
Freshman Feat: Sophomore Jonas Engler made a good first impression as a rookie last year, becoming the first Valpo player with three goals as a freshman since 2014, when Stian Sandbekkhaug and Jordan James scored three apiece. Engler also had two assists to put his season point total at eight, the most by a Valpo freshman since Jordan Aidoud had 11 in 2012. Engler picked up All-MVC Honorable Mention a year ago.
Head Coach Mike Avery: In his 12th season at the helm of the Valpo men’s soccer program, Mike Avery owns a program-record 86 career victories. Under Avery's guidance, the team has 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 program to a new standard in his time as head coach, as a team that had enjoyed just one winning season in the 24 years prior to his arrival has finished above the .500 mark six times since his arrival. 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. He reached 77 victories in his 195th career match, while previous record holder Mis’ Mrak needed 288 matches to accumulate 76 wins.
Preseason Poll: Valpo was picked fifth in the Missouri Valley Conference preseason poll. Defending champion Missouri State is the favorite to win the league, followed by Loyola, Central Arkansas and Bradley.
A Look Back at 2017: The 2018 team is looking to build upon the school’s first season in the Missouri Valley Conference, which saw Valpo knock off a Top 25 opponent, place two individuals on the United Soccer Coaches all-region team, have three players receive all-conference recognition and help its head coach shatter the school record for career wins. Valpo finished the season with eight wins, tied for sixth in program history for wins in a single season. The team scored 30 goals, which also ranked tied for sixth in the program’s single-season record book. Valpo has scored 30+ goals in each of the last two seasons, just the second time in program history and the first since 1986 and 1987 that Valpo has racked up 30 goals or more in back-to-back seasons.
Road Warriors: Valpo had six road wins last season, the second consecutive year and the third time in program history the team has racked up six true road victories. The 2017 season is tied with 2016 and 1997 for the most true road wins in a single season in program history.
Flying Many Flags: Head coach Mike Avery and his staff have continued to pull from all over the world for players to comprise the men’s soccer squad. This year’s roster features players from 12 countries – Spain, Mexico, Jamaica, Colombia, France, Brazil, Japan, Canada, Germany, England, Italy and the United States.
#oneVALPO: The Valpo 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.
Working with TOCO: Valpo is once again raising funds for They Often Cry Outreach (TOCO) this year. Throughout the 2018 season, the team is working to raise money and awareness for TOCO’s work through sport with at risk children in the Caribbean and United States. This year’s TOCO benefit game was on Oct. 7 against Loyola at Brown Field.