For the second straight season the Valparaiso University women’s soccer team will experience a major change to the program prior to the start of the season. In 2007, that change was moving to the Horizon League. Now, as the 2008 season is set to kickoff, the Crusaders have seen a change at the helm of the program.
John Marovich takes over the head coaching duties of the Valpo program after serving as an assistant coach for the past six seasons. Marovich inherits a team which finished 10-9 overall in 2007 and placed fifth in its inaugural season in the Horizon League. Valpo returns 14 letterwinners, including six starters for the upcoming year.
Valpo has a talented trio of senior forwards to help lead the offense as the 2008 season opens. Kendall Brown is tied for third in school history with 18 career goals and 44 points and will look to continue to climb the all-time charts in her final year wearing the Brown and Gold.
Classmate Lori Johnson has found the back of the net 12 times throughout her career, sixth most in Valpo history. For Johnson, six of her tallies have resulted in match-winners for the Crusaders. Tiffany Giusti has come off of the bench for Valparaiso in each of the past two years to provide depth up top and will look to continue to make an impact in her final season.
Junior Sarah Jewell looks to rebound from an knee injury which prevented her from playing during a large portion of the 2007 season. She will look to return to her freshman form which saw her score 10 times during her rookie campaign.
Three newcomers have been added to the roster at forward and will look to make an impact on Crusader soccer. Senior transfer Erin Suckling arrives at Valpo after playing three seasons at Louisiana-Lafayette while freshmen Becky Clever and Brooke Henderson had stellar prep careers.
“Our attacking third has a great mix of experienced players who have scored consistently over their careers,” said Marovich. “They will be playing along side a young group of players that will bring continued energy to the game.”
Juniors Jessie White and Jackie Kondratko will lead the Valpo midfield. White, an offensive midfielder, scored three goals and dished out a pair of assists in each of her first two seasons with the Brown and Gold. Kondratko started half of the matches a year ago, and found the back of the net twice.
The Crusaders will also look to the return of a healthy Sammy Olson in the midfield. She made her collegiate debut last season and appeared in just two matches before suffering a season-ending knee injury.
Freshman Laura Romberg also will look to make an impact in her first season with Valpo after a stand out club career.
“This should be a battle ground in training every week because it is a deep group of players,” added Marovich. “These players have different personalities and contribute special qualities which will give the staff flexibility each week as we prepare for our challenging schedule in 2008.”
Valpo returns four seniors on defense, including Second Team All-Horizon League selection Jackie Thomas. The team captain, Thomas led the Crusaders with four goals in 2007, all match-winners, while also leading the backline which allowed just 19 goals on the season, the second fewest in school history. She helped Valpo set a new school mark with eight shutouts on the season as well.
Dana McGlone and Reva Van Aartsen also started nearly every match a year ago, and again will be counted on along the backline. McGlone ranks seventh on the school’s all-time assist list with eight career helpers.
Laura Murphy returns for her final season with the Crusaders and ranks among the top-10 all-time in assists. She will look to continue producing as she wraps up her career.
Sarah Melhorn and Courtney Gwinn each made their Crusader debuts last season on defense. Melhorn appeared in 19 contests, making seven starts, while Gwinn saw action in seven matches. Both will look to make an even bigger contribution in 2008.
A pair of freshmen defenders also will look to break into the lineup this season. Mikki Nuccio and Tracy Roos have played with successful club programs and will look to carry over the winning philosophy to Valpo.
“This group will be exciting to watch grow this season,” said Marovich. “Our defenders will be led by our senior captain Jackie Thomas, but she has some wonderful returnees in Sarah Melhorn, Reva Van Aartsen, and our keeper Mele Cabral, all of whom saw action last season. Look for freshman Tracy Roos to have an immediate impact in the back.”
Mele Cabral will be asked to shoulder the load between the posts for Valpo this season. A backup each of her first two seasons with the Brown and Gold, she has surrendered just two goals in her career and enters the season with a 0.40 goals against average. She notched two shutouts a year ago, and with an impressive .867 save percentage, has made numerous big stops thus far in her career.
With a nice blend of experienced returnees and talented newcomers, the 2008 season should be an exciting one at Eastgate Field. As Coach Marovich takes over the program, he will continue to look to take the Crusaders towards the top of the Horizon League standings.
A challenging non-conference schedule awaits the Brown and Gold in preparation for the Horizon League slate, beginning with the season opener at home on August 22. If the Crusaders can stay healthy and gel as a team, the excitement of Valparaiso University soccer should be in full force at Eastgate Field.