A young Valparaiso University men’s tennis team is set to take the court the 2008 fall campaign. Head coach Jim Daugherty returns four players from last year’s squad, but has just one junior and one senior to lead the way. In his 24th season at the helm of the Brown and Gold, he will look for the fall results to help settle on a lineup this spring void of three regulars from a year ago.
Senior Alex Lau will lead the Crusaders at the top of the lineup. A year ago, Lau won a team-high 12 singles matches for Valpo, splitting time at the number one and number two spots in the order. He also won a team-leading 11 doubles contests on the season and the Crusaders will look to his leadership this fall. Lau enters his senior season with 43 singles victories.
Junior Tom Litscher will need to step up in the order to help the Brown and Gold obtain success. Playing fourth singles a year ago, Litscher won six singles contests, ending the season with two straight victories. Litscher teamed with Lau at number two doubles where the duo combined for 10 wins.
A trio of sophomores have a year’s experience now and will be called upon to make more of an impact this year. Kyle Stump finished second on the team in wins as a rookie with 11, including a 9-9 mark at sixth singles. Stump had the team’s best record in Horizon League action, going 4-2. He also played third doubles for a majority of the year, winning nine contests with Dan Brunette, who graduated at the end of the year.
Phidias Fortune got a taste of collegiate tennis a year ago as well. Fortune went 4-4 in singles play, seeing action during two dual matches as well as playing in fall tournaments. He also played in several doubles matches throughout the year.
Daugherty has three newcomers to the squad this season that he hopes can step in and contribute right away. Kevin DeHerrera went 60-18 during his high school career combined in singles and doubles and was a four-time Jefferson County League champion for Chatfield High School in Littleton, Colo. Adam Whitmer was a Second Team All-State player in singles as a senior for Westview High School in Shipshewana, Ind. He posted a 90-12 prep singles record, including a 19-1 mark as a senior. Carlton Lyons also joins the program this fall. He did not play tennis last season while attending Valpo, but has four years of eligibility remaining after arriving from Clay High School in South Bend, Ind.
While Daugherty has a youthful team for the upcoming season, he has scheduled three different tournaments for the fall in order to allow everyone a chance to play and position themselves for a set lineup come spring. The fall campaign will open September 19-21 at the Bradley Invitational before the Crusaders will host the Valpo Fall Classic September 26-27. The final full team event is the Ball State Fall Invitational to be held in Muncie, Ind. October 3-5. A select few players will wrap up fall play at the ITA Regional Championships in mid-October.
The fall season will be a good time for the Crusaders to showcase their abilities to Coach Daugherty in an effort to earn a spot in the lineup during the spring campaign. Challenging tournaments lie ahead, but the young Valpo squad should be up to the challenge.