Last year, the Valparaiso bowling program went on a run that few thought possible for a program in its first season of competition, ending the season ranked #10 in the country. With seven of their top eight bowlers back for the 2010-2011 campaign, the expectations have been raised for the Crusaders this season and the goal is simple: be one of the eight teams invited to the 2011 NCAA Bowling Championships.
Shon Washington is in his first season as head coach of the Crusaders, but is no stranger to the program, as he spent the 2009-2010 season as an assistant coach under Stephen Anthony. Washington brings plenty of experience with him on the lanes, as he was the head women’s bowling coach at Calumet College for four seasons, leading the Crimson Wave to a #14 ranking nationally at the end of the 2007-2008 season. He also served eight years as the head girl’s bowling coach at Lake Central H.S., guiding the Lady Indians to three state titles.
Washington has plenty of returnees at his disposal, as Valpo’s top-three bowlers and seven of its top-eight bowlers from a season ago return for the 2010-2011 season. The group helped the Crusaders to a 68-46 record in its first season of competition, as well as five top-five tournament finishes.
Leading the Crusaders, who were ranked 11th in the nation in the NTCA preseason poll released earlier this week, into the 2010-2011 campaign is junior Natalie Cortese. Cortese was named a Brunswick/NTCA Second Team All-American last year, posting a team-high average of 195.5 over 52 traditional games. She registered 22 games over 200, including a season-best 290 game at the Greater Ozark Invitational on Oct. 24. Cortese would go on to earn Tournament MVP honors at the Greater Ozark Invite, averaging a 224.8, and later went on to earn Tournament Co-MVP accolades at the Kutztown Invitational in late January, where she averaged a 220.7.
Brunswick All-Academic Third Team honoree Amanda Cortese also enters her junior season in 2010-2011 after averaging a 186.0 over 49 games a season ago. Fellow junior Krystyna Johnson finished last year with the Crusaders’ third-best average, posting a 183.0 over 48 games. Johnson rolled 17 games of 200 or better as a sophomore, while Cortese tallied 14 such games.
Redshirt sophomore Ashley Busiel was also a regular on the lanes for the Crusaders in their inaugural season, ending the year with a 174.1 average over 40 games, including five 200+ efforts. Junior Jessica Guertin posted a 172.3 average over 28 games for Valpo a year ago, rolling three games of 200 or better. Sophomores Lisa Janasik and Morgan Sharp also return for the 2010-2011 season after gaining valuable experience in their rookie years.
Washington also has a good number of talented newcomers to turn to as well, as six new faces join the seven returnees this year. Sophomore Katie Shumaker joins the Crusaders after spending her freshman year at Maryland Eastern Shore, while Alyssa Alvarez, Kaity Galka, Jill Larson, Nicole Sanhamel and Charlotte Schiepe comprise the quintet of freshmen that round out the Valpo roster.
As they did last season, the Crusaders will challenge themselves with a schedule in 2010-2011 that pits them against the nation’s upper echelon of programs week in and week out. Valpo hosts the second annual Crusader Classic this year at Stardust Bowl II in Merrillville Nov. 12-14, while six of the Crusaders’ other seven regular-season tournaments are at teams ranked within the preseason top-10. The end goal is to earn one of the eight berths, all of which are at-large selections, into the 2011 NCAA Bowling Championships, scheduled for April 14-16 in Detroit, Mich.