Jeffrey Schorsch's victory last Saturday over Purdue's Ricky Medinilla meant so much more than just his 14th singles win of the season. The freshman's 7-6, 7-6 straight set defeat of the 93rd-ranked player in the nation represented the first ever over a ranked opponent by a Crusader during spring play.
The Perrysburg, Ohio native along with Dave Bacalla (Skokie, Ill./Niles North), Kyle Dunn (Fond du Lac, Wis./Fond du Lac), and Charlie Emhardt (Carmel, Ind./Carmel) comprised the 36th-ranked recruiting class in the country a year ago. In compiling a 50-16 (.758) singles record, the young foursome have done nearly everything possible to reinforce the highly-touted forecasts.
A team in search of its first trip to the Horizon League Championships since 2009, Valpo has crafted a 6-2 record thus far. A competitive 5-2 loss to #75 Purdue - that very easily could've finished 4-3 - was one of those two losses. The scores speak volumes to the quality up and down the Crusader lineup. In addition to Schorsch's straight set win at No. 1 singles, Emhardt came away victorious at No. 6 singles with a 6-4, 6-4 win over Lucas Dages. The Crusaders are a combined 27-5 at #1, #2, #5, #6 singles.
Schorsch and Co. have provided a shot in the arm to Jim Daugherty, the head coach in his 28th season at Valparaiso.
"These freshmen have, no doubt, increased the competitive level of our program but more importantly they have instilled a fearless, anything-is-possible mindset that has affected the entire team," Daugherty said.
Schorsch's 15-5 individual mark places him on the doorstep of Valpo's Top 10 for singles victories in a season. His next win will tie him with teammates Eric Honert (Arvada, Colo./Ralston Valley) and Michael Savaglio (Kenosha, Wis./Mary D. Bradford), Ben Dunham-Freer, Jeff Vrabel, and Adam Whitmer for seventh all-time with 16 victories. Bacalla is right on Schorsch's heels with 14 himself.
The most impressive fact about all this is that 18 matches still remain on the schedule. It's not a question of if, but rather, when.
"Jeffrey has improved on all aspects of his game but his physical strength is one area that has really stood out. It's allowed him to get more pop on his serve and hit greater topspin on his ground strokes. His ceiling is very high. He can still improve on all aspects of his game. His game strategy will evolve as he continues to get stronger. You see it happening with his net game as he continues to advance to the net more often," Daugherty said.
A geography major, Schorsch netted a 3.86 grade point average this past fall. Only Honert, Valpo's current all-time winningest singles player, scored better (3.915) on the men's tennis team.
"Jeffrey takes his academics very seriously. He understands the importance of balancing a first-class education while being the best tennis player during his four years here," Daugherty stated.
The toughest weekend on the schedule greets Valpo this Saturday and Sunday with road tilts at Western Michigan and #29 Northwestern. The Broncos (6-3) will face the Crusaders Saturday in the tail end of their three-match blitz beginning Friday that features Xavier and Iowa prior to the Brown and Gold. The Wildcats (8-3) have already handled four ranked teams including #24 Tulsa.
If Schorsch is going to enter the Valpo record books for the first time this weekend, the freshman will have earned it.
Western Michigan's Nadin Indre is 17-9 overall and 7-1 at the No. 1 singles slot. Indre handed Howard Scott, Green Bay's No. 1 singles player a straight-set loss last Friday in Kalamazoo. The match should provide Schorsch - and the rest of the Crusaders - with a proper litmus test for upcoming Horizon League play.
Raleigh Smith, Northwestern's #1 player, is No. 111 in the nation. The Wildcats are the most complete team on the Brown and Gold's slate.
With six matches on the team's spring trip to Florida, a strong likelihood exists that Schorsch enters Horizon League play with 20 or more wins. As Daugherty mentioned, the freshman's ceiling is sky high. Coaches around college tennis are starting to take notice. These young Crusaders are for real.