Crusaders Hit Road to NCAA Championship
Tuesday, April 10, 2012
Crusaders Hit Road to NCAA Championship
The Crusaders gather in the ARC Tuesday morning before their departure for the NCAA Championship. (Fred Villarruel)

Valparaiso (81-37)
Thursday, April 12-Saturday, April 14
at NCAA Bowling Championship - Wickliffe, Ohio

Next Up in Crusader Bowling: In its third season of intercollegiate competition, the Valparaiso bowling program makes its first trip to the NCAA Championship, as the Crusaders were one of eight squads selected to compete for the 2012 national title April 12-14 in Wickliffe, Ohio.

Previously: Valparaiso closed the regular season at the Music City Classic in Nashville, Tenn., hosted by Vanderbilt March 16-18, going 10-5 over the three-day tournament and finishing the event in eighth place.  Five of Valpo’s 15 matchups at the Music City Classic were against fellow NCAA Championship-bound teams, as the Crusaders went 2-3 in those contests.

Following the Crusaders: Live chats from every day of competition, featuring periodic scoring updates and on-site photos, will be available through, which will also provide comprehensive recaps at the end of each day.  In addition, all four rounds on Friday will have live video via, with links to be provided on the Valpo Athletics website.  Saturday’s championship final will be televised live at 7 p.m. CDT on ESPNU, with a re-airing on ESPN at 1:30 p.m. CDT on Sunday, April 15.

Head Coach Matt Nantais: Matt Nantais is in his first season as head coach of the Valparaiso bowling program in 2011-2012.  Nantais came to Valparaiso after most recently spending a season as an assistant coach for the women’s squad at Robert Morris [Ill.] University.  While there, Nantais helped guide the Lady Eagles as they reached the top spot in the nation in the United States Bowling Congress (USBC) Intercollegiate Team national poll.  Robert Morris went on to close the season with a fifth-place finish at the National USBC Team Championships, as well as a third-place showing at the NAIA Team Championships.

Program History: Valpo is in its third season of competition in 2011-2012, as the bowling program started competing in 2009-2010 after being created in February of 2009.  The Crusaders started their inaugural season ranked #20 in the NTCA Coaches Poll and have not fallen out of the top-20 at any point since.  The Crusaders’ first season ended with a 68-46 record and a #10 ranking nationally, while the 2010-2011 Valpo squad closed the year 52-48 and ranked #14 in the nation.

Tournament Titles: The Crusaders began this season ranked #18 nationally, but proved they would be a force to be reckoned with by winning their first two events of the year.  Valpo won its first 10 matches of the year and went 12-1 en route to winning the season-opening Greater Ozark Invitational, and then returned home to win their own Crusader Classic with a 10-2 mark.  The tournament wins were the first two official tournament titles in program history.  Valpo previously won the Warhawk Classic in its first season, but with only four teams competing at that event, it did not count as an official tournament title.

Ascending to the Top: With the pair of tournament victories to open the year already under their belt, the Crusaders went to the Hawk Classic for their third event and earned a third-place finish out of the 19 competing teams.  The trio of impressive early-season results were enough to vault Valpo all the way from #18 to #1 in the December NTCA poll, the first #1 ranking in any sport in Crusader athletics history.  It was also the biggest move from one poll to the next in the poll’s history.

Poll Thoughts: Once moving up to the top of the national poll, the Crusaders have remained within the top-six nationally the rest of the season.  Valpo was ranked third in the February poll before moving to #6 in the March poll, where it remained in the most recent poll entering the NCAA Championship.  Prior to this year, the Crusaders had never been ranked higher than tenth nationally.

National Championship Experience: While this is Valpo’s first trip to the national championship, five Crusaders have previous experience at the national championship with their first school before transferring to Valpo.  Amanda and Natalie Cortese helped Central Missouri to a national runner-up finish as freshmen in 2009, while Krystyna Johnson (Delaware State) and Jessica Guertin (Fairleigh Dickinson) were both part of squads which advanced to the national semifinals that same year.  Katie Shumaker was a member of the Maryland Eastern Shore team which competed in the 2010 NCAA Championship as well.

Tournament Format: The NCAA Championship begins on Thursday with a positioning round, as every team bowls against each of the other seven squads  in the traditional team format.  Thursday’s results determine seedings for Friday’s bracket action, which is double-elimination in the best-of-seven baker format.  Four sessions will be bowled on Friday, with an if-necessary session midday Saturday prior to the championship final on Saturday evening, also contested in the best-of-seven baker format.

Versus the Tournament Field: The Crusaders own a .500 record against the rest of the NCAA Championship field this year, going 21-21 versus the other seven teams.
Arkansas State - 5-5 this season; 8-15 overall
Central Missouri - 5-3 this season; 10-10 overall
Fairleigh Dickinson - 0-3 this season; 1-9 overall
Maryland Eastern Shore - 2-2 this season; 3-7 overall
Nebraska - 3-2 this season; 7-9 overall
Sacred Heart - 3-2 this season; 5-5 overall
Vanderbilt - 3-4 this season; 4-9 overall