Valparaiso softball head coach Kate Stake announced today the Crusaders’ schedule for the upcoming 2015 spring season, a slate which includes 17 games over 11 home dates at the Valparaiso University Softball Field.
“What I like about our schedule early on is that we are facing teams multiple times in a weekend which, of course, is what we'll be doing during the conference season,” said Stake. “Instead of playing five teams in a weekend, we'll play three or four, which will give us opportunities to figure out how to beat a team twice, how to rebound and find a new angle to beat a team if we drop the first one, and how different personnel are effective against the same team.”
The 2015 schedule opens up for the Crusaders with a challenging field at the Mercer Invitational in Macon, Ga. Feb. 6-8. Beyond the host Bears, who won 39 games a season ago and advanced to the title game of the Atlantic Sun Tournament, Valpo will take on Jacksonville State – winners of the Ohio Valley regular season title and 40 games last year – and IPFW, which earned 40 wins and advanced to the Summit League championship game in 2014. The Crusaders will face each team once before bracket play to close the opening weekend.
Two weekends later (Feb. 20-22), Valpo travels to Birmingham, Ala. for the Samford Invitational, taking on the host Bulldogs – winners of 38 games last season – twice, as well as Alabama State and Houston Baptist once apiece. The next weekend (Feb. 27-Mar. 1), the Crusaders continue early-season play at SEC foe Arkansas, facing 2014 NCAA Tournament participant UAB and Western Illinois in addition to the host Razorbacks. Like Valpo’s first tournament, the Crusaders will take on each team once apiece prior to bracket play to determine the tournament champion.
Valpo’s final early-season tournament sees the Crusaders head west to Fort Collins, Colo. on Mar 6-8 as part of the field for the Colorado State Classic. Valpo will take on Drake and Omaha, which won 33 games last year, twice apiece and play once against the host Rams, winners of 32 games last season.
“In our first four weekends there are games, on paper, that we should win and some that we should lose, and, again, I think it's important for our team to learn to approach games consistently, and not as underdogs one game and heavy favorites the next,” said Stake. “Hopefully the expectations on paper are able to stay in the periphery while we focus on ourselves.”
The Crusaders will welcome a trio of strong opponents to the Valparaiso University Softball Field in non-league action. The home opener is slated for Mar. 18 – a doubleheader against Eastern Illinois, which earned 38 wins in 2014. Central Michigan – a 34-win squad in 2014 - comes to Valpo for a twinbill on Mar. 24, while the Crusaders will face IPFW for at least a second time in a single game on Apr. 7.
Four non-league doubleheaders on the road are also sprinkled amidst the Crusaders’ Horizon League schedule. Valpo travels to Indianapolis to face IUPUI in a pair of games on Apr. 1, and one week later on Apr. 8 heads to Madison, Wis. to take on Big Ten opponent Wisconsin, which advanced to the NCAA Tournament last season and won 36 games, including a 15-7 mark in Big Ten action. The Crusaders will also play road non-league doubleheaders at Northern Illinois (Apr. 14) and Bowling Green (Apr. 29).
The Horizon League slate opens up at home for the Crusaders on Mar. 20-21, as Valpo hosts Green Bay – league regular season and tournament champions in 2014 – for a three-game set at the Valparaiso University Softball Field. The Crusaders will travel to face Oakland (Apr. 3-4), Cleveland State (Apr. 17-18) and Detroit (Apr. 24-25) in road league play, while hosting Wright State (Mar. 27-28), UIC (Apr. 10-11) and Youngstown State (May 1-2) in addition to the Phoenix. The Horizon League Championship is slated for May 6-9 on the field of the regular season champion, with the tournament champion earning the league’s automatic berth into the NCAA Tournament.
“I expect the Horizon League to be a dogfight, and I think that our schedule leading up to those weekends will prepare us well for the different styles of play and abilities we'll face during that crucial part of the season,” said Stake.
Valpo returns ten letterwinners, including three Horizon League postseason award recipients, from the 2014 squad which advanced to the league title game for a third straight year. The Crusaders also welcome nine freshmen to this year’s team.