Tamra Braun (Savage, Minn./Prior Lake H.S.) and Betsy Rietema (Grand Rapids, Mich./Christian H.S.) were each named to the Mid-Continent Conference preseason all-conference team and Valparaiso was picked to finish third in the Mid-Con according to balloting of the league's head coaches, sports information directors, and selected media outlets.
Braun was named to the Mid-Con's Preseason First Team after earning First Team All-Conference honors at the end of last season. The junior averaged 10.1 points and 7.4 rebounds per game last season for the Brown and Gold, while posting five double-doubles. She also ranked 23rd in the nation in blocked shots, averaging 2.4 per contest. The 6'5" center has 98 career rejections, tie for second on Valpo's all-time list.
Braun is joined on the First Team by Oakland's Anne Hafeli, Jayme Wilson, and Nicole Piggott along with Elisha Turek of Oral Roberts and Zane Teilane of Western Illinois. Teilane was also named the Mid-Con's Preseason Player of the Year.
Rietema was selected to the Mid-Con's Preseason Second Team after averaging 10.2 points and 4.3 rebounds per game last year. The junior finished tenth in the conference in free throw percentage last season, shooting 73.9% from the charity stripe. The 6'1" forward went 13-of-14 from the line at IUPUI last year, marking the fifth best free throw shooting night in school history.
Rietma joins Tina Hill of Chicago State, IUPUI's Brooke McAfee and Kia Hayes, and Liz Obrecht of UMKC on the league's Second Team.
As a team, the Crusaders were tabbed to finish third in the league for the 2005-2006 season behind Western Illinois and Oral Roberts. Valpo received one first place vote out of the 25 ballots that were cast. Oakland was picked to finish right behind the Crusaders followed by UMKC and Chicago State. Southern Utah was selected to finish seventh while IUPUI and Centenary round out the poll.
Last season, Valpo finished 18-10 overall and 12-4 in the Mid-Con, despite numerous injuries throughout the year. Head coach Keith Freeman's squad finished in a tie for second place in the league's standing and returns seven letterwinners, including three starters, from last year's squad. The Brown and Gold have finished in the top two in the conference each of the last four seasons.
Valpo will open the preseason on November 5 at home with a 5 p.m. contest against Grand Valley State. The regular season begins November 18 against Northern Iowa at 7:05 p.m. at the ARC.
2005-2006 Mid-Continent Conference Preseason Poll
Team - Points
1. Western Illinois (11) - 290
2. Oral Roberts (7) - 280
3. Valparaiso (1) - 267
4. Oakland (5) - 261
5. UMKC (1) - 180
6. Chicago State - 157
7. Southern Utah - 119
8. IUPUI - 91
9. Centenary - 47
(First place votes in parentheses)