Official Athletic Site of the Valparaiso University Crusaders
Valpo Poised for Major Breakthrough in 2006

Thursday, September 07, 2006

For three straight seasons the Crusader women's cross country team has been building, finishing third at the conference championships each of the last three years. But now, with two of the Mid-Con's 10 fastest runners back and primed for bigger things, the Brown and Gold have their sights set higher; all the way to the top of the Mid-Continent Conference.

Head Coach Mike Straubel's 20th team could be his best, as the third place finishes the last three years are the best for any Crusader team in history. And he returns both the fastest 6K runner in school history and a senior with three straight All-Conference selections behind her.

Laura Rolf (Rochester, Mich./Lutheran Northwest) was named the Mid-Con Newcomer of the Year in 2005 and broke Valpo's 6K record twice as a freshman, first at the Mid-Con Championships where she ran a 22:08.5 and finished fourth in the deep field. Rolf then sped up even further at the NCAA Regional meet, finishing 25th in 22:04.3, and becoming only the second runner in school history to earn All-Great Lakes Regional honors (Collette Liss, who did it twice, is the other). A two-time state champion in high school, Rolf also earned First Team All-Conference honors as a freshman, only the fourth Crusader to be so honored, and can match Tami Long this year as the only two-time First Team All-Conference honoree in school history.

Of course, no Crusader has been on the All-Conference team more times than senior Danielle Nunnelly (Valparaiso, Ind./Valparaiso) who landed on the Second Team each of her first three seasons. Also a former Mid-Con Newcomer of the Year, Nunnelly held the 6K record before Rolf broke it last season, and earned a top-ten finish (9th) at the conference championships for the second straight year in 2005.

Valpo is not just a two-horse team, however, as the top four Crusader finishers at the NCAA Regional are also back, including senior Ashley Billstrom (Hales Corner, Wis./Whitnall). Billstrom picked up a pair of top-25 finishes in 2005, including 24th at the Mid-Con Championships when she covered the 6K in 23:47.9. Billstrom enjoyed a highly successful spring last season, winning the Mid-Con title and setting a school record in the 3,000m steeplechase for the track and field team.

Junior Rachael Button (Farmington Hills, Mich./Farmington) is also back for 2006, hoping to pick up where she left off in the 2005 season. Button finished 4th at the Crusader Invitational, 6th at the Evansville Invitational and 17th at the Mid-Con Championships, running her fastest 6K of the year, 23:11.2, at the league's premier event. The junior has eight top-20 finishes in her brief career, and was the team's co-MVP as a freshman.

Button's classmate, Renae Swift (Valparaiso, Ind./Valparaiso), is back for 2006 as well, looking to regain her strong form of two years ago after missing last season with an injury. Swift did run for the Crusader track and field team in 2006, however, competing in the 1,500, 5,000 and 10,000 meter runs.

While those four will be the core of the team in 2006, they still have plenty of help around them. Juniors Lisa Schroeck (Naperville, Ill./Benet Academy), who finished 33rd at the Mid-Con Championships, and Lauren McLaughlin (Shoreview, Minn./Mounds View), who ran a career-best 6K at the Crusader Invitational and Mid-Con Championships, are also back, along with Mary Barnes (Frankfort, Ind./Frankfort).

Straubel's crew will also welcome five newcomers, including senior Jennifer Plaskota (Naperville, Ill./Neuqua Valley) who has competed on the Crusader track and field team each of the last two seasons. Plaskota is joined by talented freshmen Alyssa Bradford (Mukwonago, Wis./Mukwonago), Rachel Howell (Dexter, Mich./Dexter), Emily Thompson (Sun Prairie, Wis./Sun Prairie) and Anna Yost (Girard, Kan./Girard).

The 2006 schedule kicks off at Sunset Hills Farm, Valpo's home course, on Friday, September 8 for the Crusader Invitational. The women's 4K will open the season at 5:00 p.m. with the men's 6K to follow at 5:45 p.m. The Crusaders will also run at Notre Dame, Indiana State, Evansville and Loyola (Chicago) before the 2006 Mid-Continent Conference Championships in Kansas City, Mo. on October 28. The Valpo season wraps two weeks later when the Brown and Gold run with some of the nations best at the NCAA Great Lakes Regional meet in Bowling Green, Ohio.
W Tennis Valpo 0 Chicago, Ill.
Apr 14 Chicago State 7
M Tennis Valpo 7 Homewood, Ill.
Apr 15 Chicago State 0
Baseball Valpo CCD
Apr 15 Toledo
M Track Cougar Invitational River Forest, Ill.
Apr 17 No Team Score
W Track Cougar Invitational River Forest, Ill.
Apr 17 No Team Score
Baseball Valpo 4 Milwaukee, Wis.
Apr 17 Milwaukee 0
M Tennis Youngstown State 1 Valpo Tennis Complex
Apr 18 Valpo 6
Baseball Valpo 0 Milwaukee, Wis.
Apr 18 Milwaukee 3
Softball Oakland 3 VU Softball Field
Apr 18 Valpo 11
W Tennis Youngstown State 7 Valpo Tennis Complex
Apr 18 Valpo 0
M Golf Wolfpack Spring Open Raleigh, N.C. (Lonnie Poole Golf Course)
Apr 19 CCD
M Track DePaul Invitational Chicago, Ill.
Apr 19 2nd/3 (191)
W Track DePaul Invitational Chicago, Ill.
Apr 19 3rd/5 (82)
W Tennis Cleveland State 7 Valpo Tennis Complex
Apr 19 Valpo 0
Softball Oakland 1 VU Softball Field
Apr 19 Valpo 2
Baseball Valpo 0 Milwaukee, Wis.
Apr 19 Milwaukee 5
Softball Oakland 4 8 inn.
Apr 19 Valpo 2
M Tennis Cleveland State 5 Valpo Tennis Complex
Apr 19 Valpo 2
M Golf Wolfpack Spring Open Raleigh, N.C. (Lonnie Poole Golf Course)
Apr 20 12th/15 (314)
Baseball Kalamazoo 3 Emory G. Bauer Field
Apr 21 Valpo 10
Baseball Ohio Northern 2 Emory G. Bauer Field
Apr 22 Valpo 1
Softball Valpo 3 Macomb, Ill.
Apr 22 Western Illinois 1
Softball Valpo 5 Macomb, Ill.
Apr 22 Western Illinois 4
Softball Valpo Notre Dame, Ind.
Apr 24, 5:00 p.m. #21/21 Notre Dame
W Track Miami (Ohio) Invitational Oxford, Ohio
Apr 25
M Track Miami (Ohio) Invitational Oxford, Ohio
Apr 25
M Golf Horizon League Championship Howey in the Hills, Fla. (Mission Inn Resort & Club)
Apr 25
W Golf Horizon League Championship Howey in the Hills, Fla. (Mission Inn Resort & Club)
Apr 25
M Tennis Valpo Ann Arbor, Mich.
Apr 25, 2:00 p.m. UIC
Baseball UIC Emory G. Bauer Field
Apr 25, 3:00 p.m. Valpo
M Tennis Valpo Ann Arbor, Mich.
Apr 26, 3:00 p.m. Horizon League Tournament
M Track Miami (Ohio) Invitational Oxford, Ohio
Apr 26
W Track Miami (Ohio) Invitational Oxford, Ohio
Apr 26
W Golf Horizon League Championship Howey in the Hills, Fla. (Mission Inn Resort & Club)
Apr 26
M Golf Horizon League Championship Howey in the Hills, Fla. (Mission Inn Resort & Club)
Apr 26
Baseball UIC Emory G. Bauer Field
Apr 26, 12:00 p.m. Valpo
Softball Valpo Dayton, Ohio
Apr 26, 12:00 p.m. Wright State
Softball Valpo Dayton, Ohio
Apr 26, 2:00 p.m. Wright State
M Tennis Valpo Ann Arbor, Mich.
Apr 27, 2:00 p.m. Horizon League Tournament
M Golf Horizon League Championship Howey in the Hills, Fla. (Mission Inn Resort & Club)
Apr 27
W Golf Horizon League Championship Howey in the Hills, Fla. (Mission Inn Resort & Club)
Apr 27
Softball Valpo Dayton, Ohio
Apr 27, 12:00 p.m. Wright State
Baseball UIC Emory G. Bauer Field
Apr 27, 12:00 p.m. Valpo
Baseball Western Michigan Emory G. Bauer Field
Apr 29, 3:00 p.m. Valpo
Softball IUPUI VU Softball Field
Apr 29, 3:00 p.m. Valpo
Softball IUPUI VU Softball Field
Apr 29, 5:00 p.m. Valpo
Baseball Chicago State Emory G. Bauer Field
Apr 30, 3:00 p.m. Valpo
Softball Valpo Bloomington, Ind.
Apr 30, 3:00 p.m. Indiana (resumption of suspended game)
Softball Valpo Bloomington, Ind.
Apr 30, 4:00 p.m. Indiana
W Track Horizon League Outdoor Championships Youngstown, Ohio
May 2
M Track Horizon League Outdoor Championships Youngstown, Ohio
May 2
Baseball Oakland Emory G. Bauer Field
May 2, 3:00 p.m. Valpo
M Track Horizon League Outdoor Championships Youngstown, Ohio
May 3
W Track Horizon League Outdoor Championships Youngstown, Ohio
May 3
Baseball Oakland Emory G. Bauer Field
May 3, 12:00 p.m. Valpo
Softball Valpo Green Bay, Wis.
May 3, 1:00 p.m. Green Bay
Softball Valpo Green Bay, Wis.
May 3, 3:00 p.m. Green Bay
W Track Horizon League Outdoor Championships Youngstown, Ohio
May 4
M Track Horizon League Outdoor Championships Youngstown, Ohio
May 4
Softball Valpo Green Bay, Wis.
May 4, 12:00 p.m. Green Bay
Baseball Oakland Emory G. Bauer Field
May 4, 12:00 p.m. Valpo