As the 2010 spring season is set to begin for the Valparaiso University women’s tennis team, the Crusaders have a youthful roster void of any four-year players on this year’s squad. Head coach Traci Young begins her first full season at the helm of the Brown and Gold after taking over the Crusader program midway through last season.
Young saw four seniors graduate from last year’s squad, and enters 2010 with three freshmen and two sophomores among the eight players on this year’s roster. The young players will get an opportunity to make an immediate impact in the Valpo program as the Crusaders look to improve upon their 1-22 record from a year ago while looking to move up from ninth place in the Horizon League standings.
Christine Antrobus and Camill Burden are both seniors academically, but would have one more year of eligibility following this season after not playing during their freshman campaigns. Antrobus has moved among fourth, fifth, and sixth singles during the first two years of her career, posting six victories at number six singles since her arrival at Valpo. Mainly a singles specialist, she has played just 11 doubles contests throughout her career thus far. Antrobus missed this past fall’s slate of matches with an illness, but looks to return to the lineup this spring.
Burden has played in a limited role in her first two years with the Brown and Gold, playing just six matches last year in singles play. She earned her first collegiate victory against IPFW at the Mastodon Invitational a year ago. Burden has not appeared in a doubles match yet while at Valpo, and did not play during the fall season this year.
Jackie O’Reilly, a junior, is the only other upperclassman on the Crusader roster. Playing mainly doubles during her first two years with the Crusaders, she was a fixture in the third spot in the lineup. She also saw a little action in singles play, mainly at the fifth and sixth spots in the order. O’Reilly picked up a singles win this fall at the fifth spot in the order while also notching a doubles victory at the second spot.
Sophomore Katie Bilyeu played the highest in the singles lineup of any returning Crusader last year, playing anywhere from second to fifth in the Valpo order. She earned eight total wins between singles and doubles, and at times last year played at the top doubles spot in the order. This past fall Bilyeu played third singles for the Brown and Gold while also splitting time between number one and two doubles.
Stephanie York is the only other sophomore on this spring’s roster. Also making key contributions during her rookie season, York played anywhere from number three through six in the order, mainly competing in the fourth and fifth spots. She combined to win five doubles matches as a rookie while posting a pair of singles triumphs this past fall in the fourth spot.
A trio of freshmen will look to make an immediate impact for the Crusaders in 2010, with two gaining their first taste of collegiate tennis during the fall slate. Stephanie Krebs saw action in five singles contests for the Brown and Gold this fall, playing at number six, while also playing a pair of third doubles contests. A year ago she led Idaho Falls High School in Idaho Falls, Idaho to the district championship and an undefeated regular season.
Brittany O’Reilly stepped right into the Crusader lineup as a freshman this fall, playing at the top of the Valpo order in singles. The younger sister of Jackie, Brittany competed in all three doubles spots in her first fall season with the Brown and Gold. She was a two-time state qualifier in high school at Southwest High School in Green Bay, Wis., while posting a 30-3 record as a senior. She advanced to the state championships in singles as a senior after playing doubles and advancing to the state tournament during her sophomore campaign. She was a two-time All-Conference selection as a prep player as well.
Abby Wright rounds out the Valpo tennis roster this spring, arriving on campus in January after transferring from Florida Atlantic University, where she sat out the fall season. She played junior tennis at the Bollettieri Tennis Academy for six years and advanced to the round of 16 in several international junior events.
The Crusaders will open a challenging schedule on February 6 when the Brown and Gold heads to Kalamazoo, Mich. to battle the Broncos of Western Michigan. Valpo returns home a day later to face Bradley indoors before taking some time off before the annual spring trip. Valpo will play three matches while in Florida, beginning with a contest at Eckard on March 9. After facing North Dakota also in Florida, Valpo will open up the Horizon League slate against Green Bay on March 13.
Upon returning north, Valpo will head to Milwaukee for another conference battle before hosting Chicago State outdoors at the Valpo Tennis Complex. The Crusaders will play seven of their final eight matches at home, including five conference tilts and non-conference visits from Wayne State and IPFW. The season winds down at home on April 18 against Butler before the Horizon League Championships take place April 23-25.
With such a youthful squad, the future looks bright for Young’s program. The Crusaders will continue to improve throughout the spring, and will look to begin climbing up the ladder of the Horizon League by the time the second half of the season rolls around.