Coming off of back-to-back Mid-Continent Conference regular season championships as well as their first Mid-Con Tournament title and trip to the NCAA Tournament, expectations are high for the Valparaiso Crusaders as the women's tennis team readies itself for the 2006 spring season.
Valpo, which finished 15-5 overall and a perfect 8-0 in Mid-Con action last season, is again the preseason choice to win the Mid-Con this year in the polling of the league's head coaches.
Head coach Tim Maluga's squad returns five players from last year's championship team that has not dropped a Mid-Con match in more than two years. Maluga, the Mid-Con Coach of the Year the past two seasons, has also brought in five freshman to help Valpo grow as he begins his seventh season at the helm.
The Crusaders return a pair of First Team All Mid-Con selections from last year in junior Rachel Janssen and senior Jill Dierberg. Janssen, who played number one singles all season, went 7-1 in Mid-Con play and won ten of her final 14 matches overall last season.
Dierberg, one of two seniors on Valpo's roster this season, was a perfect 8-0 in conference action last year, mainly playing in the third spot in the line-up. She has posted an 18-2 career conference mark heading into her final season as well as a 37-24 overall record.
Whitney Chada has gone a perfect 14-0 in Mid-Con action over her first two seasons with the Brown and Gold and looks to move up in the line-up heading into 2006 after playing fourth or fifth singles last year. With a 34-11 career mark heading into her junior season, Chada combined to go 20-4 in doubles play as well in 2005, mainly with fellow classmate Kate Evangelist.
Evangelist also has been perfect through two seasons of singles competition, playing fifth or six singles most of the year. She finished the season with a 20-3 mark overall, winning her last 12 matches, dropping just 11 games throughout the span.
Charmaine Stanislaw, Valpo's other senior, looks to continue to make an impact as well heading into her final season of competition. The ultimate role player, she has notched a 27-10 career mark in three seasons for the Brown and Gold, mostly playing in the fifth and sixth spot in the line-up.
Maluga has also brought in five talented freshmen that he expects will help improve the team as well as give the Crusaders a great deal of depth.
Jenny Schwartz went 4-1 in the fall in singles action, winning the fifth singles flight at the DePauw Invitational to open the year.
Molly Keifer and Kim Sajevic both won the only two contests they played this past fall, and they appear ready to compete at the collegiate level based upon their success.
Lindsey Gustafson and Lauren Kloostra also join the Valpo roster heading into 2006, and will look to continue the Crusader tradition of bringing home victories throughout dual-match competition.
Maluga has put together a challenging schedule for the Brown and Gold in preparation for Mid-Continent Conference play.
The Crusaders will open the season with four straight home matches indoors beginning on January 21 against Chicago at Matchpoint Tennis Club. Xavier (Ohio), Bradley, and Toledo all will pay visits to Northwest Indiana early in the season for non-conference tilts before Valpo heads west for its spring trip.
While in Las Vegas, Nev. over spring break, the Crusaders will battle four opponents, including conference foes Oakland and Southern Utah. San Jose State and Colorado State will give Valpo a taste of competition from another region of the country before conference play begins.
Valpo will travel to Centenary for its first conference cluster April 7-9 and will face four Mid-Con schools before having a week off. The final conference weekend will take place April 21-23 at Chicago State prior to the Brown and Gold hosting the Mid-Con Tournament at the new Valparaiso University Tennis Complex on campus April 28-29.
The Crusaders return lots of talent, and with the addition of several newcomers that will be called upon to make a difference, Valparaiso appears set to make a run at its third straight Mid-Continent Conference title. The only piece of the puzzle still missing is the execution on the courts, but with five upperclassmen to lead the way, the Crusaders should be making noise late in the spring.