An experienced Valparaiso University women’s swim team takes to the water for the 2009-2010 season looking to move up the Horizon League ladder after a seventh place finish one year ago. Head coach Howard Hunte returns 12 letterwinners from last year’s squad, which set seven new school records during the course of the season. Six seniors are back to lead the way this year as Valpo looks to rewrite the record book even more. In addition, Hunte has added four freshmen to the roster for the upcoming campaign, and they will look to make an immediate impact with the program as well.
A wealth of seniors on the roster will give the Crusaders plenty of leadership heading into the new season. Rachel Majercik is the school record-holder in the 100 butterfly and ranks among the top-10 all-time in the 200 event. She also is the team’s top returning sprint freestyler, ranking in the top-three all-time in both the 50 and 100 free. Majercik’s name is on the record board for all five relay events as well, including helping set the 200 free and 400 medley marks in 2008-2009.
Karen Berg ranks among the top backstrokers in school history, and looks to climb the all-time list even further in her final season with the Brown and Gold. She enters her senior season with the fifth best 100 time in school history while ranking sixth in the 200-yard event.
Kristy Shew ranks among the top all-time at Valparaiso in the middle distance freestyle events. She is third all-time in the 1,000 free and fourth in the 500 free. She also is among the top-10 in the 200 freestyle, and will look to continue to climb further on the all-time charts in her final campaign.
Jenny Nam also returns for her final season with the Brown and Gold, competing in the backstroke as well as the individual medleys. She posted a career-best time in both the 100 back and 200 IM as a junior, as well as the 100 butterfly.
Katie Rader begins her final season in fly and free events for the Crusaders, providing a great deal of depth for the team. She continued to improve throughout last season, posting career best marks at the Horizon League Championships in both the fly and distance free.
Amy Young also is back for one more year at Valpo. She just missed cracking the career top-10 list in the 100 breaststroke, and will look to lower her times again this year in both breast events.
Five juniors, combined with the six seniors, give Valpo a host of experience in the pool. Amy Andracki set both the 100 and 200 breaststroke marks during her freshman season, and again led the team in those events as a sophomore. She also is on to the top-10 list for the Brown and Gold in the 200 individual medley, giving the Crusaders a great deal of versatility. She was a member of the 400 medley relay that set a new school mark in 2008-2009 as well.
Shaunna Dangremond was also on the record-setting 400 medley relay last year, as well as the 200 free relay that set a new school mark. Individually she posted the second fastest 200 backstroke time in school history while turning in the third best 100 back effort ever. At the conference championships she shattered the 200 IM school record by more than two seconds, and will look to break the back records this year. She will have to do so during the spring semester though, as she will miss the fall slate while studying abroad.
Three freestylers also return for their junior year with the Brown and Gold. Stephanie Ferschl moved on to the all-time lists in the middle and long distance events for Valpo a year ago, and ranks third all-time in the mile. She also posted the fifth fastest 1,000 time in school history while ranking ninth in the 500 free.
Alecia Penninga competed in the sprint and middle distance free events up to 500 yards, turning in her career bests as the season wound down, giving her momentum heading into the new season. Laura Rickey is also back for her junior year at Valpo. She ranked among the team’s top-five in the sprint freestyle events, and was a member of the school’s top 400 and 800 free relays a year ago.
Just one sophomore is listed on the roster for the Brown and Gold in 2009-2010, Rachel Snyder. As a rookie she competed in all of the sprint freestyle events, adding depth in the lineup for the Crusaders. She continually improved throughout the year, posting her best marks at the conference meet, and will look to lower her times even further this year.
Hunte has brought in four freshmen to help bolster the roster this season. Justine Barnes arrives as a butterfly and freestyler who finished 15th in the state of Michigan in the 100 butterfly for Adams High School. Sarah Robertson also competes in the fly as well as individual medley. She was a conference champion for Crawfordsville High School in Indiana as well as a state qualifier in the relays.
Erin Owen joins the program as a breaststroker in addition to competing in free events, and helped her club team to a second place finish in the state of Minnesota at the short course championships in 2007. She helped set a new club record in the long course 200 medley for the Rochester Orcas Swim Club. Jess Dranchak will look to make an impact in freestyle events this season after helping set the Portage High School 400 freestyle record during her prep career.
The 2009-2010 season begins on October 9 for the Brown and Gold as the Crusaders compete at the Dennis Stark Relays hosted by Notre Dame before heading to the Indiana Intercollegiates hosted by Purdue the next day. The home opener is set for October 24 with a dual meet against Wright State at the Athletics-Recreation Center pool.
Valpo will also compete at both the Calvin and Ball State Invitationals in addition to several other dual meets throughout the season, and host Western Illinois on February 6 in the final regular season meet of the year prior to the Horizon League Championships in Chicago, Ill. on February 24-27.
With a talented squad of upperclass swimmers, Valparaiso is poised for another successful season in 2009-2010, with the goal of moving up the Horizon League standings. With the numerous school records that were set a year ago, there is no reason not to believe more will be set this coming year.