The Valparaiso University softball program announced today its schedule for the upcoming 2018 season as the Crusaders prepare for their first season of Missouri Valley Conference play.
Valpo will open the 2018 slate at a tournament hosted by Troy University in Troy, Ala. Feb. 9-11. The Crusaders will face SIUE, which won 41 games a season ago, and Tennessee State twice apiece in addition to one game against the host Trojans.
The Crusaders will spend the next weekend – Feb. 16-18 – at Charleston Southern University in Charleston, S.C. Two games against the host Buccaneers and Eastern Kentucky, as well as one contest against North Carolina Central, make up Valpo’s five-game slate at that tournament.
After a weekend away from competition, Valpo returns to the field March 3-4 at Grand Canyon University’s Lopes Up Classic in Phoenix, Ariz. The Crusaders will face off against UNLV twice and South Dakota and Princeton – Ivy League champions last season – once apiece. Following the tournament, the Crusaders will remain in Phoenix for a March 6 doubleheader against the Antelopes, who won the WAC regular season title last year.
Valpo will remain on the west coast for its final pre-conference tournament, heading to UC Davis for a tournament March 9-11. The Crusaders take on the host Aggies twice over the course of the weekend, as well as one game each against Nevada, Utah State and Northern Colorado.
"I’m happy we are able to play a couple tournaments in the early season out west,” said Crusader head coach Kate Stake. “It’s always nice to give players an opportunity to play near their homes, and this gives our Arizona and Southern California players that chance.”
Valpo opens the Missouri Valley Conference schedule – which includes three games apiece against each of the conference’s other nine teams – March 17-18 with a three-game series at Indiana State. The Crusaders will also play road series at Missouri State (March 24-25), Drake (April 14-15) and Illinois State (May 5-6).
The Crusaders host their first Valley series March 30-31 as they welcome Southern Illinois to the Valpo Softball Complex. UNI (April 7-8), Evansville (April 21-22) and Bradley (April 28-29) will also visit Valpo in its first season as a conference member. Meanwhile, the Crusaders’ three-game set against travel partner Loyola is split into a home doubleheader on April 28 and a single game at the Ramblers on April 24.
“We are looking forward to the challenge of facing a whole slate of new teams in The Valley,” said Stake. “I have a lot of respect for the level of play and the coaching in the conference.”
Interspersed throughout the Valley schedule are a few non-conference contests as well. Valpo will travel for a single game at IUPUI March 21 and a doubleheader at Central Michigan – MAC regular season champions last season – March 27. Meanwhile, the Crusaders will welcome Fort Wayne to Valpo for a single game on April 11 and Northern Illinois for a doubleheader on May 2.
The Missouri Valley Conference Tournament opens on Thursday, May 10 from Des Moines, Iowa, hosted by Drake. Eight teams qualify for the three-day event, which is a single-elimination bracket. The Valley tournament champion earns the conference’s automatic bid into the 2018 NCAA Tournament.