With every program there are changes on the horizon heading into a new season, and the Valparaiso University Crusaders are no different. However, for the Brown and Gold entering the 2007 season, the biggest changes are not with the players or the coaching staff, but with their league affiliation.
As the season kicks off for Valpo, 18 letterwinners, including 10 starters, will return for the Crusaders as they begin play in their inaugural season as members of the Horizon League. Having lost just three letterwinners from last year’s 12-4-3 season which saw Valparaiso win its second straight Mid-Continent Conference regular season title, head coach Stephen Anthony and the Crusaders will now look to make a run to the top in their new league.
A three-year starter so far in her career, Erin Murray returns for her final season between the posts looking to increase her school record-setting accomplishments. A three-time All Mid-Continent Conference selection, including a First Team pick each of the last two seasons, Murray holds Valpo’s career goals against average at 1.20 as well as the school’s shutout mark with 14 clean sheets. Murray posted a 0.87 GAA in 2006, and will serve as a team co-captain for the second straight year.
Mele Cabral will back Murray up again in 2007, after seeing action in four matches during her rookie campaign. Her two starts between the posts resulted in Valpo victories, and she allowed just two goals in nearly 242 minutes of action.
Valpo returns three talented and experienced backliners. Two-time First Team All Mid-Con selection Jackie Thomas has started nearly every match of her career over the first two years, and added some offense to her game last year as well. The junior co-captain scored four times for the Crusaders to pace the defenders.
Senior co-captain Courtney Rahrig has been a mainstay on defense since she arrived at Valpo, starting all 60 matches during her career. A two-year captain, Rahrig helped the Crusader defense set a new school mark, allowing just 17 goals, one year ago.
Laura Murphy also provided some backline offense for Valpo in 2006, and will be a third anchor to the Crusader defense. Her six assists tied the Brown and Gold’s single season mark and she enters her junior year tied for seventh all-time in helpers.
Juniors Dana McGlone, who is seventh on the Crusaders’ career assist list with seven helpers in two years, and Reva Van Aartsen both move back to defense this year after playing in the midfield each of the last two seasons.
A trio of rookies will also be looking to break into the defense for the Crusaders in 2007. Courtney Gwinn sat out last year as a redshirt after suffering an ankle injury while freshman Sarah Melhorn will get her first taste of collegiate experience.
A host of players return in the midfield for the Crusaders this season. Fifth-year senior Lauren Cooper had her finest campaign with the Brown and Gold one year ago, earning Second Team All Mid-Con accolades while finding the back of the net three times.
Sophomore Jessie White was named to the Mid-Con’s All-Newcomer Team last year after posting eight points, including three goals.
Seniors Britta Zewers and Sonney Ziegahn both bring three years of experience to the field for the Brown and Gold, with each having made several spot starts during their careers. Sophomores Jackie Kondratko and Ani Michl, who moves to the midfield from a forward position last year, also saw a great deal of action in the as a rookie and will help the Crusader depth at that position.
Freshmen Sammy Olson, Kylie Revelle, and Lynnea Pappas will also try to break into the lineup during their rookie season with Valpo.
A trio of high octane scorers pace Valpo’s frontline, which set a school record with 40 goals in 2006. Mid-Con Newcomer of the Year and First Team selection Sarah Jewell scored 10 times as a rookie, finishing second in the league in scoring. Jewell had a pair of multi-goal matches during her freshman season, and already has cracked the top-10 on Valpo’s career scoring list after just one year.
Junior Kendall Brown has moved into fourth place on the Crusaders’ career scoring list with 15 goals over her first two seasons. Her goals have come at key times, as she has five match-winners already. Brown’s classmate Lori Johnson also is among the top-10 in Valpo history in scoring, having notched five goals last year after six in her rookie season. She too has a knack for finding victory, as her six match-winners are third in school laurels.
Senior Brittany Derksen has played in 57 matches in three seasons, and has scored seven times thus far. Tiffany Giusti’s first career goal was a match-winner, showing just how deep the Valpo offense can go.
Valparaiso will open the 2007 season with a three-match homestand at Eastgate Field beginning on August 31 against Murray State. A match at Purdue on September 12 highlights the non-conference slate, which also features instate foes IPFW, IUPUI, and Indiana State. The Crusaders will also head to California for a weekend to face Pacific and Saint Mary’s (Calif.).
The Crusaders will open up Horizon League play for the first time on September 30 with a home match against Butler. Detroit and Milwaukee will also make visits to Eastgate Field during the inaugural league loop. Green Bay will serve as the Crusaders’ Senior Day on October 14. Valpo will close the season on the road October 26 at Wright State before participating in the Horizon League Championships October 30-November 3.
While Valparaiso will not be defending its back-to-back Mid-Con regular season titles in 2007, the Crusaders will be looking to make a mark on their new conference. A wealth of experience returns from the championship squads, and, guided by six seniors, excitement is in the air for Valparaiso heading into 2007.