Mike Avery begins his fifth season at the helm of the Crusader men’s soccer program in 2011 after guiding Valpo to back-to-back winning seasons for the first time in program history.
Valpo won nine matches in 2010, surrendering just 16 goals (tied for the fewest in a single season in program history) and setting a new team record with eight clean sheets. Goalkeeper Ryan Schwarz closed his Crusader career as Valpo's all-time leader in shutouts and goals against average, while fellow goalkeeper Kyle Zobeck positioned himself to take over the top spot in GAA early in 2011. Avery tutored Adrian Ortiz last year as he earned Second Team All-Horizon League honors, while Guy Shabtay received All-Newcomer Team accolades.
Avery led the Valparaiso side to a school-record 10 wins in 2009, surpassing a 22-year-old record for wins in a single season. Along the way, the Crusaders finished in third place in the Horizon League regular season standings and advanced to the league championship semifinals. The Crusaders made their mark on the program’s record book last year as well, allowing just 21 goals, the third fewest allowed in a single year in program history, while scoring 28, the most by a Valpo squad in 11 years.
Individually, Ryan Schwarz set new single-season marks in goal for GAA (1.07) and shutouts (7) and was named Horizon League Goalkeeper of the Year for the second time in his career. Schwarz was also a First Team All-League honoree, while Avery also mentored three Second Team, one All-Newcomer and two All-Tournament selections.
Hired as just the team’s third all-time head coach on January 18, 2007, Avery has guided the Crusaders through four of their six best defensive seasons in program history in his first four seasons at the helm. The 2007 squad allowed just 28 goals in 18 matches, while the 2008 team gave up just 29 goals in 19 matches. Avery’s goalkeepers have set and re-set the single-season goals against average record three times as well, as Schwarz carried a 1.57 GAA in 2007 before Kyle Zobeck recorded a 1.47 GAA for the 2008 campaign.
Schwarz earned his first league Goalkeeper of the Year honor in 2007, while Avery guided three Second Team and two All-Newcomer selections as well in his first two years at Valpo. Oscar Lomeli went on after graduation to sign a professional contract in Mexico, while Andrew Stewart signed with a professional side in Scotland, the 22nd and 23rd players Avery has coached that has gone on to play professionally.
Avery has also created a resurgence of interest around the Crusader program. From running 1,000 miles in five months to raise money for the program as part of The Extra Mile campaign, to sending out regular updates to an extensive supporter e-mail list, Avery has helped generate a sense of ownership in the program among the fans. This has transferred into support at the home venue, as the Crusaders have enjoyed their four highest average home attendances in program history the last four years. He also has encouraged the players in the Crusader program to give back, most significantly teaming with Taj Weekes’ children’s charity, TOCO, and raising nearly $4,000 last fall to fight the diabetes crisis in St. Lucia.
Avery arrived at Valpo from the University of Louisville, where he was the top assistant under head coach Ken Lolla in 2006. While with the Cardinals, he helped the program to its first Big East Conference Tournament berth. He also served as the program’s recruiting coordinator.
Before heading to Louisville, Avery was an assistant for six seasons at the University of Notre Dame, where the Fighting Irish won a pair of Big East titles in 2003 and 2004. Notre Dame made five straight NCAA Tournament appearances, including two trips to the Sweet 16. Avery helped recruit and coach 11 All-America selections, four M.A. C. Hermann Trophy semifinalists, and the 2006 NCAA Division I Hermann Award winner, Joe Lapira.
Prior to his stint at Notre Dame, Avery spent three seasons as the director of soccer at Cal State University, San Bernardino. While there, he served as the head coach of both the men’s and women’s varsity teams. In his three years as men’s coach, Avery led the Coyotes through a successful rebuilding campaign.
Avery began his head coaching career at Bethel College [Ind.], where he guided the program for three seasons. He led the men’s team through a rebuilding process, finishing with a 43-20-6 record, including an 18-4-2 mark in 1996. He was named the Mid Central Conference Coach of the Year and NCCAA Regional Coach of the Year in both 1995 and 1996, and in his final season with the Pilots, 1996, he led the men to a #1 national ranking in the NCCAA poll as well as a #11 ranking in the NAIA poll, both firsts for the program. In addition, he guided the women’s squad in 1996, its inaugural season.
Avery played at Westmont College in Santa Barbara, Calif. from 1986-1989 where he was a two-time honorable mention All-American and four-time All-Conference and All-Far West selection while helping lead the Warriors to three NAIA national tournament appearances.
He received his degree in physical education in 1990 from Westmont and went on to play professionally both in the United States and abroad, enjoying stints with Real Santa Barbara, Askims IK (Sweden), and serving as a player-coach with the Indiana Invaders. Avery received his master’s degree in kinesiology from Midwestern State in 1994.
Avery and his wife, Valpo volleyball head coach Carin, currently reside in Valparaiso. They have one son, Alex, born in 2003.