Valparaiso (0-0, 0-0 MVC)
at UIC (0-0, 0-0 Horizon)
Game No. 1 – Wednesday, Nov. 7 – 7 p.m. CT
UIC Pavilion (8,000) – Chicago, Ill.
Next Up in Valpo Basketball: The Valparaiso University women’s basketball team will usher in a new era on Wednesday night in the Windy City as Valpo will play its first game with Mary Evans in the position of head coach. In fact, it will be Evans’ first game as a head coach at any level, but she brings with her an impressive resume that includes 15 years as a successful Division-I assistant. After months of hard work in the gym and anticipation, opening night will arrive on Wednesday as Valpo looks to begin the 2018-2019 season on a high note.
Last Time Out: This will mark the first game against outside competition other than a closed scrimmage. This year, the Valpo women’s basketball program will play its exhibition game in late December prior to the start of conference play.
Following Valpo: Wednesday’s game will be televised regionally on NBC Sports Chicago+ with Joe Brand and Chris Bleck describing the action. NBCSCH+ can be found on 742 on ATT (1742 HD), 109 or 102 on Comcast Xfinity (201 or 285 HD), 665-1 on Direct TV and 454 or 412 on Dish. The game will also be on ESPN+ for non-local viewers as the ESPN+ broadcast is subject to a local blackout in the Chicago TV market. In addition, Wednesday’s game can be heard on 95.1 FM Valparaiso (WVUR) with Ben Ariano (play-by-play) and Brandon Vickrey (color commentary) on the call. Live updates will be provided by @ValpoWBB on Twitter and links to live video, audio and stats can be found on ValpoAthletics.com.
Head Coach Mary Evans: Mary Evans is in her first year as the head coach of the Valparaiso University women’s basketball program in 2018-2019. Evans, who spent the last five seasons as an assistant coach at Ohio University, became the eighth head coach in program history on April 13, 2018. She brought 15 years of Division I experience with her to Valpo. During her time on Ohio’s staff under head coach Bob Boldon, Evans helped the Bobcats to three seasons of 22 wins or more, three postseason appearances and three Top 75 RPI finishes. The 2014-15 team established a school record with 27 wins, a 21-win improvement from two years earlier and an 18-win improvement from the previous season. The Bobcats won the 2014-15 MAC regular season and tournament titles and reached the NCAA Tournament. Evans has also coached at Youngstown State, Georgia Southern, South Carolina Aiken and Seton Hall.
Series Notes: This marks the resumption of a tightly-contested, longtime matchup after a one-year hiatus. Valpo and UIC have been facing off since 1980 with UIC owning a narrow 24-23 edge in the all-time set. Valpo and UIC shared conference affiliation during Valpo’s 10-year tenure in the Horizon League. The most recent matchup was the final regular season game in 2016-2017, when Valpo topped UIC 72-63. Current UIC senior Taylor Toney, then a sophomore, led the Flames past Valpo 74-60 on Jan. 28, 2017 by matching her previous career high by the midway point of the third quarter and shattering it by the 3:44 mark of the third. She finished with 25 points, which was at the time a career watermark but has since been surpassed when she scored 26 at Fort Wayne last year.
Champions in Classroom: The Valpo women’s basketball team has developed a tradition of having players thrive academically. The 2017-2018 season saw Valpo have 11 players finish the spring semester with a GPA of 3.0 or better. Two players were named MVC Scholar-Athletes of the Week during the season and two were recognized as part of either the MVC Scholar-Athlete team or MVC Scholar-Athlete honorable mention. The 2018-2019 team has players with the following majors: biology, biomedical engineering, communications, public relations, marketing, healthcare leadership, health sciences, exercise science, psychology, finance, elementary education, business management and secondary/physical education.
Champions in Community: The program also has a commitment to serving the community. During their time on campus, players have visited elementary school students and wrote letters back and forth to encourage and promote healthy lifestyles as pen pals. In addition, Valpo women’s basketball players assembled over 1,000 informational packages for runners and spectators at the Chicago Marathon as part of the team’s annual Pack-a-thon. Athletes on the team engaged the greater Valparaiso community by volunteering and organizing supervision of the Valparaiso Popcorn Fest’s Little Kernel Puff Run. Valpo players ran with children to the finish line of the event and helped set up the race. Valparaiso was the hometown of Orville Redenbacher’s popcorn company. Numerous Valpo players have also volunteered their time at the Valpo Boys & Girls Club.
What’s Back: Valpo returns nine of its top 10 scorers from a year ago, but the one departure was significant as leading scorer Dani Franklin graduated after finishing in the Top 10 in Valpo history in 13 statistical categories. Franklin, an all-conference first team selection as a senior, finished second in program history in career scoring with 1,721 points and fifth in rebounding with 713. In all, Valpo returns 12 letter winners and four starters from last season.
Inside the Flames
- Valpo won’t be the only team debuting a new head coach on Wednesday night, as UIC is under the direction of first-year coach Tasha Pointer, who is also in her first collegiate head coaching job.
- Pointer was hired on April 3, 2018 after spending the 2017-18 season as an assistant at Northwestern. She has also coached at St. John’s, where she helped guide the Red Storm to the Big East tournament title and an NCAA berth in 2016. Pointer spent eight years as an assistant at Rutgers, where she was part of six NCAA Tournament teams and made an Elite Eight appearance.
- Valpo is the first of four Missouri Valley Conference teams on UIC’s schedule this season. UIC will also play vs. Loyola (Nov. 17), at Evansville (Dec. 5) and at Indiana State (Dec. 8).
- The Flames, who went 8-22 overall and 1-17 in conference a year ago, return 11 letter winners and three starters. They were picked to finish 10th in the Horizon League preseason poll.
- Seniors Brittany Byrd and Taylor Toney were selected to the Preseason All-Horizon League second team. Senior guard Catera Etheridge started 28 games last season.
- Byrd led the team in scoring at 14.8 points per game last season with Toney not far behind at 13.7.
- UIC sophomore Kiarra Thompson may be a familiar face to fans of girls basketball in Northwest Indiana as she played at Merrillville High School, where she was a four-year starter and helped the Pirates to four sectional titles.
- Shortly after Valpo’s new coaching staff was assembled, the group sat down to discuss a program hashtag. Despite being new to Valpo, the staff members were well educated on the University’s history and tradition. That’s how #RingTheBell was born.
- Head Coach Mary Evans: “Ringing the bell here at Valpo is something you do when you graduate, so the concept speaks to our goal of being successful both on the court and in the classroom. We want to be one of the best programs in our conference and continue to have great success academically and in our personal lives. My message to our players is that whatever they do in life, it’s important to put in the time and effort to be very good at it. That’s what #RingTheBell has become to us.”
- Senior Allison Schofield: “I love the idea by our coaching staff and think it’s a tremendous concept. Ringing the bell is synonymous with Valparaiso University as a whole and has been for quite some time. This allows us to become closely associated with something that is University wide rather than separating ourselves as women’s basketball. To me, #RingTheBell means victory and finishing the close games that we’ve struggled to finish in the past.”
- Senior Meredith Hamlet: “To me, #RingTheBell is about winning games. That’s our goal. We have confidence that we can win the games on our schedule and we have a fair shot to beat every team we play. The team that works the hardest is going to win.”
- Redshirt Sophomore Addison Stoller: “#RingTheBell gives us a consistent message and establishes a trend that we want to continue. As a program, we want to be consistent in everything we do, from our messaging to our play on the court. We’ve seen our coaches get excited about ringing the bell and that’s allowed us to dedicate ourselves to it as well.”
A Look Back at 2017-18
- Valpo won a league tournament game for the sixth time in the last seven years by topping Loyola in the first round of Hoops in the Heartland before falling to eventual conference champion Drake in the second round.
- The program finished with 13 wins, the team’s highest win total since 2008-09, when it won 16 games. The team also equaled its highest conference win total since 2009-10 and had the most road wins in a single season since the 2011-2012 campaign.
- Valpo finished with the second-best free-throw percentage in program history at 76.0 and had its highest scoring average (65.1) since 2007-2008 (66.3).
- Senior Dani Franklin closed out her noteworthy career and was named to the 2017-18 All-MVC First Team and Scholar-Athlete First Team following the season. She finished second in program history in career points.
On the court…
- Enters her senior season already ranking 18th in program history in career points with 949. She is 51 points away from reaching the 1,000-point milestone. In addition, Hamlet enters her senior season 22 points away from Agnieszka Kulaga (2005-2009, 971) for 17th in program history and 29 away from Cheryl Wilbrandt (1989-1993) for 16th.
- Enters her senior season seventh in program history in career 3-point field goals made with 153. She needs 18 to join a tie for fifth that includes Sarah Lenschow (1996-2000) and Aimee Litka (2005-2009), both of whom finished with 171.
- Set the school record for made 3-pointers by a freshman in a single season in 2015-16 with 69, a mark that ranked fifth overall in program history.
- Named to the 2015-16 Horizon League All-Freshman Team and received 2017-18 MVC Scholar-Athlete Honorable Mention.
- Has enjoyed numerous notable single-game performances, including reaching 29 points on three occasions – Dec. 15, 2017 vs. IU Northwest, Jan. 14, 2017 at Youngstown State and Dec. 30, 2015 at Northern Kentucky. Perhaps her most memorable game, however, was Feb. 11 of last season at Loyola, when she exploded for 19 points in the fourth quarter to help Valpo to a comeback victory after being held scoreless for the first three quarters.
- Comes from a Valpo family as the third of three sisters to play women’s basketball at Valpo. Oldest sister Elizabeth graduate transferred to Valpo for the 2013-2014 season after starting her career at Oakland. Middle sister Annemarie also went from Oakland to Valpo for the 2013-14 season but sat out that year due to transfer rules. Annemarie played the 2014-15 and 2015-16 seasons, the second of which was Meredith’s freshman year.
- The Valpo legacy within the family goes beyond the sister trio as both of her sisters have married former Valpo athletes. Elizabeth is married to former Valpo men’s basketball player Bobby Capobianco, who closed out his collegiate career with the 2013-14 season. This past summer, Annemarie married Jake Hanson, who played baseball at Valpo as recently as 2017.
- Serves as the co-President of Valpo’s Fellowship of Christian Athletes and is a member of the Public Relations Society of America (PRSSA) on campus.
- Traveled to Ethiopia this past summer as part of Athletes in Action, a 10-day trip that sends a team of collegiate women’s basketball players from across the country to compete and train alongside Ethiopian university and professional teams. Athletes in Action is a faith-based group and the goal of the trip was to teach people about the glory of God. The players did missionary work, played against the Ethiopian national team, visited schools, attended church and shared their testimony during the 10-day stay in Africa.
- Majoring in public relations with minors in sports management and professional writing.
On the court…
- Notched a career-high 15 points and led the team in scoring in the final game of the 2016-17 season, a Horizon League Tournament matchup with Green Bay. She went 4-for-4 from 3-point range in that contest.
- Has appeared in 62 games over her first three seasons.
- Majoring in biology with a minor in business.
- Expected to graduate in December 2018 and is applying to start her Master of Business Administration in January 2019.
- Has garnered experience in her field by doing job shadows for pharmaceutical and medical device sale companies during her time on campus. She shadowed with Eli Lilly two summers ago and Stryker this past summer.
On the court…
- Has returned to the court after suffering a season-ending injury in the second game of the 2017-2018 season.
- Enters this season already 17th in program history in career assists with 237. Needs one more to tie Jeanette Gray (1999-2003) for 16th and nine more to match her former teammate Lexi Miller (2012-2016) for 15th.
- Had 134 assists during the 2016-2017 season, the seventh-most in a single season in program history.
- Has twice knocked down five 3-pointers in a single game, doing so on Nov. 28, 2015 vs. Northern Colorado and March 10, 2016 vs. Detroit.
- Member of Student-Athlete Advisory Committee
- Older sister Nicole played basketball at the University of Wisconsin-Stout and younger sister Danielle is a sophomore on the basketball team at Concordia University, St. Paul.
- Is majoring in marketing with minors in business analytics and communication.
On the court…
- Has been named the team’s Sixth Player of the Year each of the last two seasons.
- Appeared in all 31 games last season.
- Ranked second on the team in free-throw percentage last year at .863 and is first among returnees.
- Averaged 8.0 points per game last season, third on the team and second among returnees.
- Father Ross played football and basketball at Indiana University. He played for the Hoosiers during the 1993-1994 season, a team that was under the direction of coach Bob Knight.
- In high school, was a four-time all-conference performer in three different sports – basketball, volleyball and track and field.
- Participated in a spring tournament with the Valpo volleyball team during her freshman year when the volleyball squad was plagued by injuries and did not have enough healthy bodies to compete.
- Is on track to finish her undergraduate degree in just three years and graduate in May. Plans to remain at Valpo to play her senior season and pursue a master’s degree.
- Majoring in communications with a journalism concentration and sport management minor. Is interning in Valpo’s sports information department and has aspirations of a career in sports media or athletic communications.
On the court…
- Is Valpo’s leading returning rebounder for 2018-19 at 4.5 per game.
- Ranked fourth in The Valley in blocks per game as a junior at 1.3 per contest.
- Led the team in points (11) and rebounds (7) in the final game of the season on March 9 in an MVC quarterfinal against Drake. Matched her career high in scoring in that game, and both 11-point outputs have come in conference tournament contests.
- Father Scott Morrison is a former Valparaiso men’s basketball player and played under Homer Drew from 1990-1992.
- Is majoring in finance with a minor in business analytics.
- Volunteers for an organization called CAAEL, which participates in events held for special education and at-risk students around Illinois.
On the court…
- Hit a buzzer-beater from nearly half court to send the Feb. 16, 2018 game against Southern Illinois to overtime. That shot was No. 9 on the next morning’s SportsCenter Top 10.
- Shattered a program-record that had stood since 1992 in her first career start by dishing out 16 assists on Dec. 15, 2017 against IU Northwest. She became the 10th player in Missouri Valley Conference history to reach 16 assists, a mark that ranks tied for sixth in the conference’s prestigious history. She also became the second player in the nation with a 16+ assist game that season.
- Loves to buy sneakers and has over 50 pairs.
- Enjoys adrenaline rush activities such as bungee jumping, free falls and parasailing.
- Uncle Kevin “Coach K” Lee is the founder of Quality Control Music, which has produced artists such as Migos, Lil Yatchy and Cardi B.
- Younger brother Donyell Meredith II is a freshman on the IU South Bend men’s basketball team.
- Majoring in healthcare leadership.
On the court…
- Is back this season after being limited to five games in 2016-17 and 17 games in 2017-18 due to injuries.
- Received the team’s Hardest Worker Award each of the last two seasons.
- Is involved in several organizations on campus including Fellowship of Christian Athletes, Kinesiology Club and FMS research team.
- Had an internship this past summer at a gym called Elite Sport and Fitness in Gibson City, Ill.
- Has helped with her parents’ business, Illiana Insulation, a foam and coating insulation business in Cissna Park, Ill.
- Older sister Samantha played volleyball at Trinity International University and is currently an executive assistant in athletics at UMKC, where she oversees office management, student-athlete scholarships and the distribution of sponsorships and trade.
- Father Sam participated in rugby at Purdue and mother Sue played a year of basketball at Biola University in California.
- Younger sister Olivia is attending cosmetology school and younger brother Penn is a junior in high school and is into football and basketball.
- Enjoys water sports and the outdoors. Family goes camping and boating frequently over the summer. Will ski, slalom, surf and tube and also loves hiking, four wheeling and other outdoor activities.
- Made it to state in volleyball as a junior and senior in high school.
- Growing up, her favorite sport was soccer. She played travel soccer in junior high, but stopped because her high school didn’t offer soccer.
- Majoring in exercise science with plans of getting a master’s in athletic training. Minoring in human biology.
On the court…
- Played in two games in 2016-17 before missing the remainder of the season with an injury, but returned to the court to play in 28 games in 2017-18.
- Shattered her previous career high in rebounding prior to halftime and had nine boards (eight in the first half) to lead the team on Jan. 21, 2018 at Southern Illinois.
- Is involved in Fellowship of Christian Athletes (FCS), Student-Athlete Advisory Committee (SAAC) and Bioengineering Club.
- Majoring in biomedical engineering with a minor in Spanish.
- In a human movement research lab.
- Interned with her knee surgeon this past summer, shadowing ACL surgeries and seeing patients in the office.
- Attended the annual American Society of Biomechanics Meeting this past summer and presented research.
- Volunteers at dog shelters.
- Her mother played volleyball at Youngstown State and her aunt did so at Cleveland State. Profitt, her mother and her aunt have all played in the Horizon League at one point in their careers.
- Brother is a junior in high school and plays varsity football and basketball. He broke the school’s single-season record for receiving touchdowns this fall.
On the court…
- Appeared in 22 games and made 30 starts as a true freshman.
- Ranked fourth in The Valley in assists per game at 3.2 and second in assist to turnover ratio at 1.6 in 2017-18.
- Beyond basketball…
- Was originally a Northwest Indiana local and started her prep career with two seasons at LaPorte before moving to South Bend and playing her final two seasons at Saint Joseph, where she led her team to the 2016-17 Indiana Class 3A state title.
- Is a rare Valpo basketball player to participate in Greek Life on campus as a Chi Omega.
- Member of Student-Athlete Advisory Committee.
- Majoring in business management.
On the court…
- Joined Konieczny as the team’s co-Newcomers of the Year last season.
- Appeared in 31 games and made 29 starts as a freshman.
- Tied for 11th in the Missouri Valley Conference with 1.6 offensive rebounds per game and led the team in field goal percentage at .476.
- Became the first Valpo player since 2008 with a double-double in the season opener by scoring 13 points and grabbing 13 boards in her collegiate debut on Nov. 16, 2017.
- Enjoys drawing and is currently taking a drawing class.
- Is in Valpo’s elementary education program.
On the court…
- Played in 30 games as a true freshman at Valpo.
- Scored a career-high 13 points on Jan. 26, 2018 vs. Evansville.
- Brother Wally played basketball in the NBL of Canada in 2016-17 and made the all-rookie team.
- Brother Ellwood was a captain of the basketball team and a track athlete at Valley City State University, N.D.
- Brother Henry is a Detroit Pistons forward and former Marquette standout.
- One of the most competitive sports in Ella’s home area of Northern Wisconsin is curling. Her mother is a P.E. teacher and taught curling.
On the court…
- Played in 14 games as a freshman in 2017-18 while battling injuries.
- Had a season-high seven points and went 3-for-3 shooting on Dec. 15, 2017 vs. IU Northwest.
- Mother Jennie ran track at Akron and father Tom ran track at Bowling Green. Brother Trent is currently a student at Akron.
- Majoring in health sciences with a minor in health care leadership.
- Was a straight “A” student from kindergarten through her senior year of high school.
On the court…
- Sat out her first season on campus as a redshirt.
- Helped Herscher High School finish with a 25-2 record in her senior season.
- Played for Example Sports AAU under the direction of coach Barry Bradford, the father of Valpo men’s basketball player Micah Bradford.
- Majoring in biology with a minor in chemistry.
- Planning to go to veterinary school after finishing at Valpo with hopes of becoming a large animal vet.
- Lives on a farm.
On the court…
- Was a four-year letter winner and a captain as a junior and senior at Hortonville High School.
- Led Hortonville to its first state tournament final four appearances in 30 years as a junior and senior.
- Won regional titles all four years of high school.
- Fab Five (Preseason Top 5 Players for Northeast Wisconsin) as a sophomore, junior and senior. All-Area First-Team selection all four years, WBCA D2 All-State First Team as a junior and senior and honorable mention as a sophomore, Associated Press Third Team All-State as a senior and honorable mention as a junior, McDonald’s All-American nominee.
- Finished as her school’s all-time leader in points, assists, steals and 3-pointers (boys and girls).
- Involved in the Fellowship of Christian Athletes on campus.
- Majoring in business marketing with a minor in sports management.
- Is close friends and former AAU teammates with two other Missouri Valley Conference freshmen – Drake’s Maggie Negaard and Illinois State’s Ally Gietzel.
On the court…
- Four-year letter winner in high school.
- Averaged 12.5 points, 4.5 assists, 3.9 rebounds and 3.5 steals as a senior.
- Led her team to a state runner-up finish in 2018. Helped Montini Catholic to a 33-2 overall record as the Broncos finished in third place in the 2017 IHSA 4A state tournament.
- Team also finished third in the 3A state tournament in 2015.
- Majoring in exercise science.
On the court…
- Started her college career at Denver, where she shot 44 percent from 3-point range and averaged 6.4 points per game in 2017-2018.
- Has to sit out this season due to transfer rules.
- Poured in 34 points on Dec. 3, 2017, helping Denver to an 80-73 victory over Northern Arizona. The 34-point output ranked tied for fourth in program history and was the highest single-game total by a Pioneer in 17 years.
- Was prep and AAU teammates with Valpo’s Caitlin Morrison.
- Majoring in psychology.
- Father played football at Grand Valley State.
- Was able to share a season of varsity basketball with her sisters Carly and Catie when she was a freshman in high school.