A young Valparaiso University women’s tennis team is set to take the courts for the 2012 season looking to surprise the Horizon League.
Head coach Traci Young begins her fourth season at the helm of the Brown and Gold, and third full campaign, and has a roster loaded with underclass talent. Five freshmen and two sophomores make up the majority of the nine-member team, as the Crusaders look to improve upon their finish in 2011.
Stephanie York is the lone senior on the 2012 roster and will be relied upon heavily to show upperclass leadership. York has played mainly fourth singles the last two seasons and looks to climb up the lineup this year. She is Valpo’s active leader in both singles and doubles victories, and looks to add to her total in her final year as a Crusader.
The returning junior on this year’s roster is Brittany O’Reilly. She is coming off of her best fall season since arriving at Valpo and earned the Horizon League’s Herb Foster Sportsmanship Award one year ago. Over the last two years she has played at the top of the Crusader lineup.
Sophomore Kristin Zakiewicz led the Crusaders in victories as a rookie while slowing moving up the Valpo order. By season’s end, Zakiewicz was playing third singles for the Brown and Gold and will look to add to her win total in 2012. Aubree Zdanovec is the only other sophomore on this year’s roster. Zdanovec joined the Crusader roster in January of last year and played sixth singles most of the season.
Freshmen Megan Barthels and Kaitlyn Hamel look to contend for spots at the top of the Valpo lineup as the spring season unfolds. Barthels was a three-time All-Conference selection at Catholic Central High School in Grand Rapids, Mich. while Hamel was named her conference’s Most Valuable Player as a junior.
Michele Fredlake and Lauren Kammerer will both vie for spots in the Crusader order when the season opens as well. Fredlake picked up her first collegiate win playing fourth singles during the fall while Kammerer is a local product out of Valparaiso High School. Valpo’s final freshman, Angelina Goheen, will miss the start of the spring season with an injury, but looks to return before the year’s end.
The Crusaders will open the season on Friday (Feb. 3) with a pair of matches in Fort Wayne, Ind. against IPFW and Wittenberg. Valpo then returns home for three of its next four contests, playing indoors at Homewood-Flossmoor against Kalamazoo, Bradley, and Western Illinois.
The eight-match Horizon League schedule begins on Feb. 24 at Milwaukee before the Crusaders travel to California for a pair of matches over spring break.
The outdoor home opener is slated for March 24 against Butler with the home finale coming April 15 against Cleveland State. The regular season closes April 21 at UIC before the league’s top six teams convene in Indianapolis April 27-29 for the Horizon League Championships.
The success of Valpo’s 2012 season will largely depend on how quickly the abundance of freshmen are able to adjust to collegiate tennis. If it happens quickly the Crusaders could be poised spring some upsets this year.