After three straight Mid-Continent Conference regular season titles and back-to-back league tournament championships, optimism is high for Valparaiso as the Crusaders head into their final season of play in the Mid-Con.
Led by new head coach Michelle Mahoney, the Crusaders return seven players from last year's squad which went 15-8 overall and a perfect 8-0 in conference action. Valpo enters the spring season with a 30-match regular season conference winning streak dating back to the 2003 campaign.
Senior Rachel Janssen leads the way for the Brown and Gold at the top of the lineup. The three-time All Mid-Continent Conference selection has been named to the league's First Team each of the past two seasons. In three years, Janssen has dropped just three conference matches total in both singles and doubles play and has 43 career singles wins to her credit.
Two other seniors will also be called upon to help lead the way for the Brown and Gold this spring. Kate Evangelist enters her senior season having never dropped a conference singles match in her first three seasons with the Crusaders. The First Team All Mid-Con pick last season has 18 league wins and 51 total singles victories in her carer. Evangelist played third and fourth singles most of the season last year. She also has notched 38 doubles victories, including a 13-1 career Mid-Con mark.
Whitney Chada was a Second Team All Mid-Con selection last season playing mainly third singles. In her four-year career Chada has posted 42 singles wins, including an 18-1 mark in league play. She has also won 43 doubles contests, going 15-2 against the Mid-Con.
Sophomore Kim Sajevic earned Second Team All Mid-Con honors last season as a rookie and looks to move up in the lineup this year. Sajevic went a perfect 5-0 at fifth and sixth singles for the Crusaders in the league and won 13 total singles matches in her freshman season.
Jenny Schwartz also saw a great deal of action as a freshman, posting a 4-0 league mark and a 9-4 record overall in singles play, mainly at the sixth spot. She opened her collegiate career last year winning the fifth flight at the DePauw Invitational.
Molly Keifer and Lindsey Gustafson each gained a year's experience last season and should be ready to help contribute for the Crusaders this spring. Keifer played six singles and four doubles contests in 2005-2006 while Gustafson saw action in just one singles and one doubles contest.
One lone freshman joins the roster this season as Valpo looks to continue to stay atop the Mid-Continent Conference. Julie Wingstrom made her collegiate debut in several events this fall, and will look to make the adjustment to collegiate tennis quickly in an attempt to break into the lineup.
Valpo's spring schedule is challenging, with the non-conference portion designed to help get the Crusaders ready for Mid-Con competition. The 2007 spring campaign kicks off on February 2 when Valpo heads to Butler. The Crusaders will also travel to Bradley during their opening weekend before hosting Eastern Illinois on February 11 at Homewood- Flossmoor Athletic Club to begin the home portion of the season.
The Crusaders also have a home contest against Ball State slated for indoors while hosting Detroit and Chicago State outdoors at the Valparaiso University Tennis Complex.
Valpo will head to Florida for spring break for four contests in addition to spring road tilts at Western Michigan and a three-day event at IPFW.
Mid-Con play begins April 5-7 with a cluster in Las Vegas, Nev. before the Brown and Gold travel to Oakland the following weekend for a conference cluster. This year's Mid-Continent Conference Tournament will take place April 20-21 at the Valparaiso University Tennis Complex.
With the Crusaders hosting this year's league tournament, hopes are high for the Brown and Gold to raise yet another trophy at year's end before making to the move to the Horizon League in July, 2007. With three outstanding seniors, a new coach, and youthful depth, the pieces are in place for the winning tradition of Valpo women's tennis to continue in 2007.