As an experienced Valparaiso University men’s tennis team takes the court for the 2011 spring season, the Crusaders are focused upon moving up the Horizon League standings with the goal of qualifying for the conference tournament after missing out on the championships one year ago.
Head coach Jim Daugherty, now in his 26th season at the helm of the Brown and Gold, has a great deal of talent returning after a young Crusader team went 5-13 overall and 2-5 in the Horizon League, tying for the sixth in the conference.
Fifth-year senior Jose Gaspar transferred to Valpo prior to last season from the University of New Orleans, and was able to step onto the court as a Crusader for the first time this past fall. Expected to play at the top of the Brown and Gold’s lineup this spring, Gaspar posted a 5-5 record, including three wins against fellow Horizon League foes.
Chris Baum will join Gaspar near the top of the Crusader lineup, and the duo should make up Valpo’s top doubles team. The two played together in four matches during the fall, winning twice, while advancing to the semifinals of the Dayton/Wright State Invitational. Last year, in his first season with the Crusaders, Baum worked his way up the lineup, playing from number five singles up through the top spot.
The only four-year senior on the Brown and Gold’s roster, Kyle Stump, returns for his senior season as well. With 30 singles wins and 27 doubles victories during his career at Valpo, he enters the 2011 spring season as the team’s active leader in both categories. During his Valpo career, Stump has played all over the lineup, mainly playing in the top two positions one year ago. He finished the fall tournament season with six singles wins, one shy of the team lead.
Siddarth Mehta nearly doubled his win total from all of 2009-2010 during the fall season, leading the Crusaders with seven victories after winning just four matches all of last year. He capped the fall season by winning his flight in the Dayton/Wright State Invitational, and posted four wins against conference foes during the first half of the year.
Juniors Kevin DeHerrera and Adam Whitmer both have won more than 20 matches in their Crusader career as well, and look to add to the victory total this spring. DeHerrera led Valpo with 11 singles wins in 2009-2010 and added six more triumphs this past fall. He enters the campaign with 27 total victories, while also adding 22 doubles wins during his career. Whitmer, who played at the top of the order last season, led Valpo in doubles play this past fall with five wins in seven matches.
Redshirt juniors Michael Woodson and Carlton Lyons also return to the lineup to add depth for the Crusaders. Woodson won his first four collegiate singles matches this past fall, and matched his total doubles victories for his career after winning three times as well. Lyons also had a successful fall season, winning six times in singles action after posting just three career wins in his first two years with the Brown and gold. He won three of his four completed matches at the Valpo Fall Invitational, and led in a fourth when rain halted action.
The lone freshman on this year’s roster, Eric Honert, got a great deal of collegiate experience in his first fall campaign. He posted a 5-4 singles record, with two of his four defeats coming in a tie-break for the third set. He concluded the fall season with four straight doubles wins as well, and will look to carry the momentum along into the spring.
Valpo’s schedule this spring includes 10 home matches, including five indoors before the annual spring trip. Valpo opens the year Jan. 28 at Western Michigan before hosting IUPUI, Bradley, Toledo, Grace, and Eastern Illinois in five of its next six contests. The Crusaders also have road dates at Ball State and Michigan State before the journey to Florida, where the Brown and Gold will play five times. The Horizon League slate opens March 19 against Green Bay and wraps up April 17 at Wright State. The top six teams in the conference will then qualify for the league tournament to be held April 22-24.
With nearly everyone back from one year ago, plus the addition of Gaspar and Honert to the lineup, the Crusaders are poised to make a run up the always competitive Horizon League standings. As the excitement for the season builds, it will not be long before Valparaiso takes to the courts to heat up the spring season.