As the 2009 women’s soccer season is set to kickoff, the Valparaiso University Crusaders continue to look for the success on the field that has been building for the past five seasons. With five straight 10-win seasons following last year’s 10-6-3 campaign, the Brown and Gold looks to climb into the top half of the Horizon League standings this season. Head coach John Marovich begins his second season at the helm of the Crusaders, and returns 12 letterwinners, including eight starters, from last year’s squad. With the addition of eight newcomers, the Crusaders will be a blend of youth and experience heading into the 2009 season.
Senior goalkeeper Mele Cabral looks to lead the way for the Brown and Gold. In 2008, her first season as a starter, she played every minute between the posts for the Crusaders on her way to a school record 10 shutouts and as well as a school-best 0.71 goals against average. In her three seasons overall, her 12 shutouts rank second on Valpo’s all-time list. A team captain, she enters the season with a career 0.65 GAA.
Offensively, Sarah Jewell enters her final campaign with the Crusaders ranked sixth all-time at Valpo with 13 goals while her 31 career points are eighth on the all-time charts. She will be called upon to lead the front line as Valpo looks for production from the upperclassmen to score goals.
A pair of senior midfielders also return for their final season with the Brown and Gold. Jackie Kondratko was tied for the team lead with three goals in 2008, including a pair of match-winning tallies. She started 16 matches one year ago and was honored for her work both in the classroom and on the field, being named to the ESPN The Magazine Academic All-District V First Team. Jessie White begins her final year as a consistent presence in the Valpo lineup. Having started 52 of 57 matches during her career, she not only is a scoring threat with seven career goals, but distributes the ball out of the midfield, turning defense into offense with her six career assists.
The Crusaders have just two returning juniors in terms of eligibility on their roster this season. Sarah Melhorn was a mainstay on defense last year as a sophomore, starting 17 matches. She helped the Crusaders to the school-record 10 shutouts during the season. Courtney Gwinn, a redshirt junior, has battled back from injuries early in her career. Last season she was able to provide a spark off of the bench in 10 matches and will look to produce even more this year in both the midfield and at forward.
Valpo’s sophomore class is a talented one that saw a great deal of action during the 2008 season. Led by Horizon League All-Newcomer Team selection Tracy Roos, five of the six started at least one match a year ago. Roos started all 19 contests on defense, helping anchor the record-setting backline. She played every minute of 14 contests during her rookie campaign. Sammy Olson started 14 contests alongside Roos on the backline a year ago, after battling back from a knee injury in 2007 that saw her redshirt her freshman season. She played every minute on defense during the first nine contests of the year in 2008.
In the midfield, a pair of sophomores garnered a great deal of action during their freshman seasons. Brooke Henderson started 15 contests and played in all 19 as a rookie, helping the Crusaders transition from defense to offense. She, combined with Laura Romberg, helped stabilize the midfield. Romberg added a goal and an assist as a freshman, with her tally being a match-winner in the closing minutes against South Dakota. The midfield duo will look to once again provide stability for the Brown and Gold.
Up top, Mikki Nuccio and Becky Clever both return for their second season with the Brown and Gold. Nuccio scored a pair of goals, including a match-winner, as a freshman, while adding an assist. Coming off of the bench for most of the season, she and Clever provided energy on offense when they entered the match. Clever saw action in 10 matches as a freshman, and will look for even more time on the field this year.
Marovich has added eight newcomers to the roster this season, with the hopes that they will be able to contribute for the program from the beginning. Casey Pedersen transferred to Valpo from Binghamton University where she scored two goals and registered five assists in two seasons as a midfielder. A junior, she has two years of eligibility remaining with the Brown and Gold.
Seven freshmen will also be looking to make their mark with the Crusaders beginning this year. Goalkeeper Rachel DeFrank will back up Cabral to start the season after a stellar high school career which saw her post 26 career shutouts for Mason High School in Ohio. Marie Argo will look to contribute on the backline as well as in the midfield after leading her club team to the state semifinals in Ohio twice during her career. Rachel Hoaglin, a midfielder, was a two-time All-State selection in Minnesota and a finalist for Miss Soccer.
Luisa Desario, Janine Lytle, and Trisha Wladecki all can play in the midfield as well as up top for the Crusaders. Desario set her school’s single season record with 31 goals while dishing out 19 assists as a senior. Lytle was a three-time First Team All-Ohio Cardinal Conference selection at Wooster High School. Wladecki was also a three-time All-Conference selection and she racked up 31 assists and 93 total points during her prep career at Avon Lake High School in Ohio, ranking in the top-five all-time in both categories. Forward Catherine Terrell rounds out this year’s incoming class. Terrell was an Honorable Mention All-State selection in Michigan as a senior.
The 2009 season kicks off on August 21 at Morehead State before the Crusaders return home to Eastgate Field two days later to battle Michigan. A challenging non-conference schedule awaits Valpo in preparation for the Horizon League campaign. With a blend of experienced returnees and talented newcomers, another exciting season of Crusader soccer is right around the corner for Coach Marovich’s squad.