Coming off an appearance in the championship match at the Horizon League Women’s Soccer Championship last season, confidence is high for the Valparaiso Crusaders as the Brown and Gold head into the 2010 season. Head coach John Marovich returns for his third season at the helm of the Crusaders, and returns 13 letterwinners, including eight starters, from last year’s team. Despite all of the returnees, this year’s squad is a youthful one, with just one true senior on the team. In addition, Marovich has added seven freshmen to the roster.
Sarah Melhorn is the only player heading into her final year of eligibility for the Brown and Gold in 2010. A captain for the upcoming season, Melhorn has started 38 consecutive matches dating back to the start of her sophomore season, helping to lead the Crusader defense. Over the last two years, Valpo has recorded 18 shutouts, with Melhorn playing a vital role on the Crusader backline.
In addition to Melhorn, Sammy Olson and Casey Pedersen are both set to begin their fourth seasons of collegiate soccer. Both have utilized redshirt seasons due to injury though, and have two years of eligibility remaining. Olson, like Melhorn, has been a mainstay on defense for Valpo, having started 35 matches the last two seasons on the backline. Pedersen has yet to appear in a Crusader uniform after transferring from Binghamton University prior to last season, having missed last year with an injury. A midfielder, she registered nine points, including five assists, in two years for the Bearcats.
Defender Tracy Roos also has been penciled into the defense for the Crusaders on a daily basis since her arrival on campus. A member of the Horizon League All-Newcomer Team as a freshman, she has started every match of her career with the Brown and Gold. Last season, she played a major role in the team’s eight shutouts.
Midfielders Brooke Henderson and Laura Romberg have played key roles in distributing the ball from the defensive third of the field to the attacking third. Henderson scored her first two collegiate goals a year ago, while taking 42 shot attempts, while Romberg appeared in every match as more of a defensive midfielder.
Forwards Mikki Nuccio and Becky Clever have both provided depth to the frontline during their first two seasons at Valpo. Nuccio has appeared in 35 matched, and has registered six career points while Clever has found the back of the net once in each of her first two collegiate campaigns.
Valpo’s sophomore class is coming off of a stellar rookie campaign, and will be called upon even more in year two to help contribute to the Crusaders’ success.
Luisa Desario and Rachel Hoaglin were both named All-Horizon League selections in their freshman season along with being named to the league’s All-Newcomer Team. Desario, a First Team pick, scored six goals and had 15 points for the Crusaders, including a pair of match-winning goals. She had her first collegiate multi-goal match early in the season, scoring twice against Ball State. Hoaglin, a Second Team selection, led Valpo in scoring with seven goals and five assists as a freshman, ranking among the top-10 all-time in each category on the single season charts. She too had a pair of match-winners while also registering two three-point matches.
Janine Lytle and Trisha Wladecki also started a majority of the matches for the Crusaders during their first collegiate season. Lytle had a pair of assists playing mainly out of the midfield while Wladecki had a goal and two helpers at forward. Catherine Terrell came off of the bench and appeared in each contest a year ago to help up top, scoring her first collegiate goal against Indiana State.
Rachel DeFrank is the only returning goalkeeper on this year’s roster for the Crusaders. She got a brief taste of collegiate soccer in her collegiate debut against Milwaukee, not allowing a goal in nearly 15 minutes of action. She will look to contend for more playing time this season.
Seven new faces join the squad heading into 2010, with each looking to make their own mark on the Crusader program. How they perform will play an important role in the outcome of the season for Valpo.
Kristin Manski will battle DeFrank for the goalkeeping duties after earning All-State honors in Illinois as a high school senior. She helped lead Saint Charles North High School to a 23-1-2 record during her final prep season.
On defense, Marta Luna and Katie Gratzianna will both look to crack the lineup. Luna arrives from Pamplona, Spain, where she was a member of the Spanish U-19 Team the last two years after playing for the national U-17 teams in 2007 and 2008. Gratizianna led York High School in Illinois to a pair of West Suburban Conference titles as well as a regional championship.
Tara Ellis and Amanda Ulin will compete for time both in the midfield as well as on defense. Ellis was a Second Team All-State selection in Indiana as a senior as well as a four-time All-Duneland Conference pick. A Portage, Ind. native, she is the only Northwest Indiana player on this year’s roster. Ulin was a First Team All-State selection in Iowa while helping lead Solon High School to three WaMaC Conference titles. She set the school’s single season record with 26 goals, and led her team to an 18-2 record as a senior.
Lauren Gagnon earned All-State accolades in Michigan during her high school career. She, along with Hailey Chmela, will look for playing time in the midfield as a freshman. Chmela also is able to play up top, and is a two-time All-North Suburban Conference pick out of Lake Zurich High School in Illinois.
Valpo’s schedule is yet another challenging one for the Brown and Gold, but with eight home matches the Crusaders will bring plenty of excitement to campus. The regular season opens on Aug. 21 with a trip to Kansas City, Mo. to battle UMKC before returning on Aug. 27 for the home opener under the lights of Brown Field on Aug. 27 against Eastern Illinois. Valpo will also play a night match against Eastern Michigan on Sept. 10 while playing the other home matches at Eastgate Field, the team’s home since 1993.
A stretch featuring seven out of eight matches on the road opens with a contest at Vanderbilt in mid-September, and includes the Horizon League opener at Detroit on Sept. 26 as well. Valpo will finish the regular season with three straight home contests in late October, including a Senior Day tilt against Youngstown State on Oct. 24.
With so much youth on this year’s team and a challenging schedule, an exciting season of Crusader soccer is in store yet again. Valpo has been picked third in the preseason Horizon League poll, but will have its eyes on trying to claim its first title since joining the league in 2007.