The 2014 men's tennis schedule was released Wednesday morning.
The Crusaders will open their spring season in just ten days with a doubleheader versus Indiana Wesleyan and Olivet Nazarene at the Courts of NWI at 11:00 am and 3:30 pm, respectively.
The 26-match slate, which features Big Ten powerhouses Purdue and Northwestern, represents one of the more ambitious ones in head coach Jim Daugherty's 27-year tenure. An at-large bid, Northwestern (22-10 in 2013) advanced to the second round of the NCAA Tournament a year ago after dispatching Wake Forest in the opening round.
"We're very fortunate to have a balanced schedule. It's a good mix of mid-major schools and elite Division I tennis programs," Daugherty said.
The calendar will present the young Crusaders with ample challenges. In addition to the Boilermakers and Wildcats, the Brown and Gold will square off versus DePaul and Notre Dame in the non-conference portion of the schedule. The Fighting Irish are the reigning Big East Champions coming off a 19-8 year.
Daugherty believes his club will be up to the test. "We feel we can be competitive in all of our matches," he remarked.
Five of the Crusaders' first six matches will be home contests. After the opening day doubleheader, Valpo will head to Butler prior to hosting Marian, Grace, and Dayton.
The Crusaders will play host to South Dakota State on Sunday, Feb. 16th before taking to the road for over a month. Six neutral site tilts decorate Valpo's spring trip. Niagara, Robert Morris, St. Cloud, Monmouth, Creighton, and Quinnipiac all have dates with the Crusaders in Orlando.
Horizon League play will kick off Saturday, Mar. 22nd as UIC comes to town. The Flames were picked to finish one slot below Valpo in the preseason coaches' poll. The Crusaders will travel to Chicago to take on DePaul the following day before entertaining the Wright State Raiders on Saturday, Mar. 29th at the Courts of NWI.
April greets the Crusaders with five straight road matches including back-to-back tilts versus Green Bay and Detroit. The final weekend of the regular season sees Youngstown State and Cleveland State make the trip to Northwest Indiana on the 18th and 19th, respectively.
The Horizon League Tournament will be held April 25th-27th in Ann Arbor, Michigan. The top six teams will reach the tournament, with the top two seeds receiving byes into the semifinals.