After a disappointing 2003 season in which Valparaiso University failed to qualify for the Mid-Continent Conference Tournament for the first time since 2000, the Crusaders will look to reverse their fortunes as the 2004 campaign begins.
Head coach Stephen Anthony returns 12 letterwinners, including eight starters from the 2003 team which finished 3-11-3 overall and 1-2-3 in Mid-Con play earning a fifth place finish.
Offensively, Valpo will look to put the ball in the net more than they managed last season. All 15 goals from last year were scored by players returning this year, giving Anthony a reason to believe that the offense will find the back of the goal more often.
Up front, sophomore Jen Bartels tied for the team lead with four tallies a year ago, and will look to pace the Brown and Gold's offense along with a pair of seniors. Lindsay Holley set a new school single-season assist record last year with six, and finished with eight points for Valpo. Fellow senior Amy Miller also found the goal last year coming off of the bench, and will look to help add fire power to the Crusaders' offense.
Lorna Torrez returns after battling an injury for most of 2003 to add support up top for the Brown and Gold as well. Torrez scored once while starting the first six matches of the season before missing the remainder of the year.
Four newcomers will also vie for time at forward. Brittany Derksen, Courtney Rahrig, Jennifer Wegehaupt, and Britta Zewers will all look to make a difference in the Valpo lineup.
Senior Kelly Faulkner will look to anchor the Valpo midfield along with junior Allison Swanson. Faulkner has come off the bench for Valpo over the first few years of her career, while Swanson has been a mainstay in the starting lineup.
Lauren Cooper, who missed last season with an injury, will also compete for time in the midfield along with freshman Sonney Ziegahn.
Valpo's backline also consists of a talented group of individuals. Liberty Ziegahn and Emily King were both Second Team All Mid-Continent Conference selections in 2003, and will look to spearhead the defense. Ziegahn and King, who moves from her midfield position last season where she scored four goals and tallied ten points, both started every match last season for the Crusaders.
Junior Ashley Shaneyfelt also will transition to the back for the Brown and Gold after dishing out three assists for the Crusaders, while Amanda Meyer adds another weapon for Valpo on defense after scoring three goals a year ago.
Kristi Dixon came off the bench for Valpo as a sophomore last season to add depth to the lineup, and will look to make an additional impact for the Brown and Gold this year. Freshman Karie Sahly also joins the squad in 2004 and will fulfill various roles on the field for the Crusaders this year.
In goal, Danielle Guerra returns for Valpo after posting a 1.68 goals against average and a pair of shutouts during her sophomore campaign. The junior made nine starts in 2003, and will look for the starting assignment this year. Guerra will battle Erin Murray for the job, though, as the freshman will look to make her own impact for the Brown and Gold.
The 2004 schedule will be a challenging one for Valparaiso, as the Crusaders open with four of their first five matches on the road. The campaign begins on August 27 with the Brown and Gold traveling to Illinois State. Two days later, Valpo will return to Eastgate Field for its 2004 home opener against Loyola (Ill.).
The Crusaders open Mid-Continent Conference action at home on September 19 when the Jaguars of IUPUI visit Eastgate. Mid-Con foes Southern Utah and Oral Roberts will also visit Valparaiso this season, with the latter battling the Brown and Gold at Thomas Jefferson Middle School Field on October 28 in the final Mid-Con match of the year.
In addition to hosting non-conference foes Cleveland State and North Dakota State at Eastgate Field, Valpo will entertain Central Michigan on October 30 for Senior Day and the final regular season match of the year.
The difficult schedule will challenge the Crusaders throughout the 2004 season, but should help Valpo return to the Mid-Continent Conference Tournament held in Rochester, Mich. during the first weekend in November.
The Crusaders return a great deal of talent from last year's squad, including all of their top goal scorers. When the freshman mesh with the upperclassmen, Valpo will look to once again rise toward the top of the Mid-Con standings and provide yet another exciting season of Crusader soccer action at Eastgate Field.