A youthful, yet experienced roster awaits head coach Jim Daugherty as Valparaiso returns to the tennis courts to begin the 2010 spring season. The 25th year head coach returns five players from last spring’s lineup while adding three new faces, including one that garnered his first collegiate tennis experience during this past fall season. Despite the experience that returns for the Crusaders this upcoming season, Valpo has just one senior that will be taking to the courts this year.
The Crusaders are coming off of an 8-12 season overall last spring, including a 3-4 mark in Horizon League action to earn a share of fourth place in the conference standings. This year, with nearly everyone back from last year’s squad, plus the addition of three others, Valpo looks to climb even higher in the league ranks.
The lone senior competing for the Brown and Gold in 2010 is Tom Litscher, who played mainly second singles and number one doubles during his junior campaign. This fall he got his first taste at the top singles spot, while teaming in doubles play to post a .500 mark as well. Since his sophomore season, Litscher has won 21 doubles contests for the Brown and Gold, and his experience will be called upon this year to help lead the Crusaders.
Kyle Stump is the only Valpo player that is in his junior season athletically. He won 11 singles matches in both his freshmen and sophomore seasons for the Crusaders, while also entering the spring with 20 career doubles wins. Stump played mainly at the fifth spot last year, moving up from number six singles where he played during his rookie campaign. In doubles action, he split time between the second and third spots in the lineup.
Sophomore Adam Whitmer led the Crusaders in singles victories a year ago, his rookie season with the Brown and Gold. Whitmer posted a 16-11 singles mark, moving from the sixth spot where he started the year all the way up to number three singles by the end of the season. He also split time between number two and three doubles, and combined with this fall, enters the spring with 10 doubles triumphs.
Kevin DeHerrera also was thrust into the Valpo lineup last year during his rookie season, responding with 10 victories in both singles and doubles play. In singles action, DeHerrera competed in the third and fourth spots in the order while playing a combination of two and three doubles throughout the year. He also earned a pair of fall wins in both singles and doubles, giving him momentum heading into his second season with the Brown and Gold.
Carlton Lyons joined the program prior to last season, appearing in just one singles and two doubles matches during his first year with the Crusaders. This fall though, he got a more in depth taste of collegiate tennis, posting a team-leading three singles wins while also notching a pair of doubles triumphs.
Siddarth Mehta joined the Crusader program this fall after transferring from Purdue, and has three years of eligibility remaining. He earned a pair of singles wins in the fall, playing at the fifth spot in the Valpo lineup, while also teaming for a pair of doubles victories. Mehta played his prep tennis at South Bend Clay High School, where he was a teammate of Lyons.
Two transfers have arrived at Valpo prior to the start of this spring semester from North Carolina State, and both will be eligible to compete for the Crusaders immediately, as they did not play collegiately with the Wolfpack. Chris Baum played at Providence High School in Charlotte, N.C. where he led the Panthers to the 2007 state tennis championship as well as the finals in 2006. He has four years of eligibility remaining at Valpo. Michael Woodson joins the Crusaders with three years of eligibility. He was a two-time All-Triangle Independent Schools Athletic Conference selection for Ravnscroft School in Raleigh, N.C. where he was the team’s Most Valuable Player as a senior.
Senior Jose Gaspar also arrives at Valpo as a transfer from the University of New Orleans, but per NCAA rules he must sit out the 2009-2010 season. He will have one remaining year of eligibility for 2010-2011 and is able to practice with the team this year though.
As is typical with Daugherty’s teams, this year’s Crusader team will face yet another challenging schedule. The season begins January 16-17 at the Purdue Invitational, in which the Crusaders will face a pair of Big Ten foes in the host Boilermakers as well as preseason #3-ranked Ohio State.
The dual match season begins a week later, on January 22, as the Crusaders head to Ball State. Valpo will also face Dayton, Western Michigan, IUPUI, and Toledo before heading south to Florida for its annual spring trip. While in the Sunshine State, the Crusaders will battle Creighton, Boston University, Connecticut, Fairfield, and Monmouth.
Upon returning north, Valpo will begin Horizon League play on March 20 at Green Bay before heading to Detroit. The Crusaders then begin the home slate at the Valparaiso University Tennis Complex on April 2 hosting Youngstown State, the first of six straight home tilts. The regular season ends on April 18 at home against Butler before the Crusaders head to Indianapolis, Ind. for the Horizon League Tennis Championships slated for April 23-25.
Despite just one senior and one junior on its roster, the Crusaders are poised to move into the top half of the Horizon League standings. With the youthful makeup of this year’s squad, Valparaiso’s tennis program is set for yet another exciting season on the courts.