The Horizon League released its annual preseason tennis polls with the men's team slated to finish in 7th place, and the women's team in 8th.
While the rest of the conference predicts a less than flattering spring for the Crusaders, men's head coach Jim Daugherty believes his team can feed off the grim prognostications.
"The players and the coaching staff embrace the challenge. Being a very young team we are not surprised of the voting turnout, but that just motivates us that much more. This is a determined group of players that will likely surprise some teams," Daugherty remarked.
The Crusaders welcome six newcomers to a team that graduated five players last season. The squad finished 8-14 and 7th in the Horizon League last season.
Expected to be at the top of the Valpo depth chart is captain and fifth-year senior Chris Baum. The last standing player of the North Carolina transplants, Baum will provide experience and tutelage to a raw roster. Junior Eric Honert represents additional maturity to the young 2012-13 team.
The Green Bay Phoenix were chosen unanimously with six first-place votes. Coaches are not allowed to vote for their own teams. The reigning champions return five players to a predominantly international roster.
The Valparaiso women's tennis team was voted to finish in 8th place after a 4-17 campaign last season.
Junior Kristin Zakiewicz was named captain of head coach Traci Young's maturing team. A roster comprised of five sophomores and two juniors, the Crusaders expect to take steps forward from the 2011-12 season.
Perennial powerhouse UIC garnered all votes for the number one spot. The results come as no surprise to women's tennis fans. Having not dropped a conference match since Bill Clinton's first term in office (going back to the Mid-Continent Conference), a seasoned Flames roster should keep head coach Shannon Tully's perfect 110-0 Horizon League record in check.
The women's team opens their season on the road Sunday, January 20th in Kalamazoo, Michigan against Dayton.
Meanwhile, the men's team starts up Monday, January 21st at the Courts of NWI versus Western Illinois.