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Valparaiso falls short in Missouri Valley Conference title match

Valparaiso falls short in Missouri Valley Conference title match

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CHICAGO — Keegan Maris and the rest of her Valparaiso soccer teammates walked off the field with their heads held high on Sunday afternoon.

While Valparaiso came up short in Sunday’s 1-0 loss to Loyola in the Missouri Valley Conference title game, Maris chose to take a broader view of the impact of the match.

“The result hurts, but I’m just incredibly proud of my teammates,” Maris said. “The seniors on this team are very proud of where we’re at now and the impact we’ve had on the program.”

Valparaiso was 2-15-1 in 2019 and hadn’t finished higher than fifth place in the first three years in the Valley. Playing behind a stout defense and excellent goalkeeper, Valpo fought its way to its first conference championship match since 2014.

“I look at where we were two years ago and we just played for a conference title,” Valparaiso coach John Marovich said. “You have to grow into moments and there was growth all over the park today.”

Valparaiso (5-4-5) went toe-to-toe with the three-time defending Valley champion Ramblers (8-1-1) before conceding a goal in the 35th minute. A Loyola shot went off the crossbar and landed in a scrum where Freya Glen emerged with a shot that scooted by Valpo keeper Nikki Coryell. It was all the insurance that the Ramblers needed.

“Give a lot of credit to Loyola,” Marovich said. “They had the experience. Once they got their goal, they were able to grind away the rest of the match.”

Maris, a First Team All-Conference selection, continued her strong defensive play as the back line kept Valparaiso within striking distance. The offense was never able to materialize and Valpo had just one true threat in the second half that resulted in a corner kick. Loyola was able to clear the ball and take control of the match.

While the Ramblers were able to bring 50 fans into the Loyola Soccer Park, Valparaiso’s fans were relegated to watching through a chain link fence due to COVID protocols. Among Valpo’s fans were a group of recent women’s soccer alums that were cheering throughout the match.

“The support was just incredible,” Maris said. “That’s our whole program right there. We’re a family.”

While Maris is set to begin her career in the medical field, Valparaiso will return the bulk of its production when the 2021 season begins in less than four months.

“This is a group that put themselves in a final, and that can’t be overlooked,” Marovich said. “This group set goals and winning at home was one of them. We got back to doing that. We finished third in the conference, higher than any Valpo team has in the Valley so f

ar. This hurts today, but they got here. This is a group of kids that didn’t take the easy road. Now we have to be looking forward. This is a process and it starts all over.”


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Paul Oren has been a correspondent reporter for The Times since 2005. A member of the United States Basketball Writers Association, Paul has spent more than 15 years covering Valparaiso basketball.

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