Men’s Soccer Finishes Regular Season at Brown Field
The Valparaiso University men’s soccer team concluded its regular season on Saturday afternoon against Missouri Valley Conference foe Bradley. The Crusaders (8-8-1, 3-5-0 MVC) fell to the Braves (10-7-2, 4-3-1) 1-0 at Brown Field. Before the match began, head coach Mike Avery honored the team’s three seniors: Ramone Howell (Portmore, Jamaica / Jamaica College), Jacob Keck (Topeka, Kan. / Hayden Catholic) and Tunji Osifeso (Laurel, Md. / Laurel [Campbell]).
How It Happened
- To begin the match, junior Rafael Mentzingen (Rio de Janeiro, Brazil / Bryan) took a shot and missed wide right in the first 10 seconds of play, the first quality chance for the Crusaders.
- In the 42nd minute, Jha’Lon Johnson took a cross from Austin Bell and headed it in from inside the box to put the visitors up 1-0.
- Mentzingen had another quick opportunity to score to start a half in the 46th minute he had a shot blocked near the goal.
- Valpo had four shots in the final four minutes of the match, but could not find the back of the goal.
- Redshirt-sophomore Nacho Miras (Ubeda, Spain / Nuestra Semora del Pilar) had another solid outing in goal for Valpo, notching four saves.
Inside the Match
- Osifeso saw his first action of the year, playing in eight minutes for the Crusaders. His career has been hampered by injury.
- Mentzingen rose to third place in the conference for shots taken on the season. His seven shot attempts on Saturday matched his season high in the category. He now has 51 tries, an average of three per contest. He is first on the team with 21 shots on goal.
- Miras now has 58 saves on the season, holding a .716 save percentage for Valpo.
- Sophomore Adan Garcia (Dallas, Texas / Episcopal School of Dallas) added to the team’s had one shot on goal to finish the regular season with 17.
- The teams were closely knit in shots for the match, but the Brown and Gold held the advantage 14-13.
- The Crusaders will finish somewhere between fifth and seventh in the regular season standings, pending the outcome of Saturday’s evening’s matches.
Thoughts from Head Coach Mike Avery
“It was a very good game today, exciting, and it certainly had a playoff feel. We haven’t had a chance to play Bradley in 10 years or so, and it was good to get a look at them up close. They are a good team, disciplined, and they follow their plan closely.”
“When a team is dangerous on long throw- ins, like Bradley is, it can sometimes set you back on your heels defending. Dealing with crosses hasn’t been our strength, and the good news is that we actually improved by dealing with so many balls in our box as the game went along. I think it will be very helpful to us next week.”
“I was most excited by our play in the second half. We matched their energy, created a number of dangerous goal scoring chances, and were literally inches away from finding the tying goal.”
“Dealing with all we’ve dealt with this year, and given how many players we graduated last year, and how new the team was coming into the season, finishing 8-8-1 on the regular season is decent. We know how close we are to cranking it up another level and tipping the scales in our favor. The details still tell the tale and new players sometimes need experiences – and often multiple experiences- to find the steel to win close games. It wouldn’t surprise me at all if this team went on a little run in the postseason.”
The Crusaders head into conference tournament play, as they travel to Peoria, Ill. for the MVC Tournament, which begins on Tuesday, Nov. 7. All seven Valley teams will compete in the event for an automatic spot in the NCAA Tournament.