Game #11: January 3, 2009, 1:35 p.m. CST
Youngstown State (2-9, 0-0 Horizon)
at Valparaiso (5-5, 0-0 Horizon)
Athletics-Recreation Center (5,000) - Valparaiso, Ind.
Coming Up in Crusader Hoops: Valparaiso returns to the Athletics-Recreation Center on Saturday afternoon to begin Horizon League play hosting Youngstown State. The Crusaders finished their rigorous pre-conference slate .500 after a 58-49 victory over North Florida on Tuesday evening in the Christmas City Classic.
On the Air: Saturday’s game against Youngstown State will be carried live on WVUR (95.1-FM, Valparaiso) and online at www.valpoathletics.com. Dave Schroeder and Adam Tein will call all the action live from the ARC. In addition, the game can be viewed live online as part of the Horizon League Network at horizonleaguenetwork.tv or through the link at valpoathletics.com.
Series Notes: Youngstown State leads the all-time series against the Crusaders 13-10, but Valpo won the last meeting between the two schools, 70-59 in Youngstown on March 1, 2008 to earn a split in the season series. The Crusaders are 8-3 all-time against the Penguins at the ARC but have won just one of the last three games played at home, including a 92-79 setback on January 31 of last season. Valpo has won two of the last three meetings overall between the two schools.
Wrapping Up North Florida: Despite shooting just 29.1% from the floor for the game, Valparaiso was able to defeat the Lady Ospreys 58-49 on Tuesday evening in Bethlehem, Pa. in the consolation game of the Christmas City Classic. The Crusader defense limited North Florida to just 28.3% shooting for the game, including a 22.9% mark in the second half to spearhead the victory. Aimee Litka led Valpo with 12 points while Leah Hochstetler added nine more. Kayla Mobley led North Florida with 10 points and 11 rebounds.
Scouting Youngstown State: The Penguins enter Horizon League action following a 69-61 loss at Toledo on Tuesday evening. Youngstown State defeated Akron just before Christmas to snap a five-game losing skid, but the Penguins are still looking for their first road win of the season after going 0-6 thus far. Tiara Scott leads the way for Youngstown State averaging 9.9 points per game. She is shooting 51.9% from the floor and 81.8% from the free throw line, both among the top-10 in the conference. Nikita LaFeur adds 8.9 points per game and leads the Horizon League with 9.0 boards per contest.
Valpo in Conference Openers: Valpo won its inaugural Horizon League opener last season, defeating Butler 77-69 at the ARC on January 5. Dating back to the Crusaders’ days in the Mid-Continent Conference, the Brown and Gold have won five straight conference openers, having last been defeated by Western Illinois in 2003.
Valpo and the RPI: Valparaiso’s challenging non-conference schedule has paid off in the RPI as the Crusaders enter Horizon League play with the 29th toughest schedule in the country to date according to collegerpi.com on January 2. Valpo’s RPI is 79 out of 341 schools with a 5-5 record and the Horizon League is ranked 11th as a conference out of 31 leagues.
Hochstetler Makes First Collegiate Start: Leah Hochstetler made the most of her first start in college on Tuesday evening against North Florida. The senior, playing in her 62nd career game, scored nine points, two off of her career high, while making three three-point field goals. The nine points were her first tallies of the season. Hochstetler also grabbed a rebound in 19 minutes of action. This was the first time this season Coach Keith Freeman had changed his lineup.
Sister Shines As Well: Leah’s twin sister Launa Hochstetler also had a solid game against the Lady Ospreys on Tuesday evening. Launa tied her career high with nine assists, and leads the Horizon League averaging 4.8 helpers game. In addition, Launa is eighth in the conference with a 1.3 assist-to-turnover ratio.
Varner Posts Back-to-Back Career Efforts: Ashley Varner had career tournament for the Crusaders off of the bench at the Christmas City Classic. The sophomore scored eight points, a career high, while making 3-of-4 from the floor against La Salle in the first round. She followed that up in the consolation game against North Florida with a career-best nine rebounds while also scoring seven points. Varner added an assist, a steal, and a blocked shot in the game as well.
Kenney Named to All-Tournament Team: Lauren Kenney was named to the All-Tournament Team at the Christmas City Classic after averaging 14.5 point and 10.5 rebounds per game. She shot 57.9% (11-of-19) from the floor and 77.8% (7-of-9) from the free throw line. Kenney had 22 points and 14 boards in the opener against La Salle.
Defense Wins Games: Valpo is 4-0 this season when allowing opponents to score 60 points or less. The Crusaders are holding opponents to just 37.0% shooting from the floor, a mark which leads the Horizon League. The Crusaders are also getting to the glass, outrebounding the opposition by 2.8 boards per night, second best in the conference.
Three Among League’s Top-10 Scorers: Valparaiso boasts three of the Horizon League’s top-10 scorers. Agnieszka Kulaga is third in the conference scoring 15.6 points per night while Aimee Litka ranks eighth pouring in 13.2 points per game. Lauren Kenney is 10th adding 12.8 points per contest for Valpo, which as a team is averaging 66.4 points per game.
Looking for First Day Win: The Crusaders have yet to win a game this season when tipping off before 5 p.m. Valpo is 5-2 playing at night but 0-3 when playing in the afternoon.
Kulaga Nearing Top-20 All-Time at Valpo in Scoring: Agnieszka Kulaga has the opportunity to move into the top-20 all-time at Valpo in scoring within the next couple of games. The senior guard has scored 793 career points (9.0 per game), and needs just 37 more to match Jill Otto’s (1985-1989) 20th place mark of 830 points.
First Win Ever Against a Ranked Foe: The victory against Purdue was the first ever for a Crusader squad against a team ranked in the top-25. Valpo has played three top-25 programs this season, going 1-2.
Big Crowds: Valpo played in front of more than 1,000 fans for seven straight games before the string ended against La Salle. The Crusaders drew their biggest home crowd in years against Notre Dame on December 13, with 2,046 fans in attendance and also had more than 1,300 against Purdue. Valpo ranks second in the Horizon League this season in home attendance averaging 1,403 fans per game at the ARC.
Freeman Earns Milestone Win: Head coach Keith Freeman’s victory against Florida State was the 375th of his career coaching women’s basketball. In his 21st season overall, his next milestone on tap is 250 victories at Valpo. He needs just two more wins to reach the Valpo mark, where he has been coaching the last 15 years.
Kenney Sets School Record for Free Throws: Lauren Kenney’s 13-for-13 free throw performance against Florida State in the championship is the best single game performance in school history. The junior bettered Lisa Diefenthaler’s 1994 mark of 12-for-12 set against Western Illinois. Debbie Bolen made all 11 of her tosses in 1991 while three others have gone 10-for-10 in a game.
More Solid Free Throw Shooting: As a team, Valpo went 35-of-42 from the line against Florida State, with the 35 makes ranking second all-time in school history. The 42 attempts were tied for fifth most ever in a game, while Lauren Kenney’s 13 makes in the game tie for fifth on the individual charts.
Hochstetler Among Top-10 Career Assist Leaders: Launa Hochstetler continues to climb Valpo’s career assist list. She had nine assists against North Florida, and currently moved past Lisa Winter (1998-2000) into eighth place all-time with 273 helpers for the Crusaders. Hochstetler is five assists shy of Suzie Hammel’s (2000-2004) seventh place total of 278 assists.
Kulaga Nearing Top-15 in Assists: Agnieszka Kulaga had nine assists against La Salle and now has 215 career assists to move into 16th place all-time wearing the Brown and Gold passing Lynda Kukla’s (1988-1992) total of 208. Next up on the assist charts for Kulaga is Stephanie Greer (1987-1991), who is 15th with 224 career helpers, nine more than the senior.
Litka Among Top-10 All-Time in Triples: Aimee Litka made two more three-pointers against North Florida to pass Kathryn Knoester (2000-2004) and move into eighth place mark in school history with 134 threes. The senior is six triples shy of Heidi Diefenthaler’s (1992-1996) seventh place total of 140 treys while wearing the Brown and Gold.
Smart Students as Well: Valpo has had two players named U.S. Army Scholar-Athletes of the Week by the Horizon League thus far this year. Agnieszka Kulaga earned the honor on December 19 while Launa Hochstetler captured the accolade one week later on December 26.
Kulaga Earns Two Honors: Agnieszka Kulaga was named the Horizon League’s Player of the Week as well as the Most Valuable Player at the Coors Rocky Mountain Invitational for her stellar play from November 25-29. The senior guard averaged 22 points per game and shot 58.3% for the week in three games while garnering her fourth career conference honor. She scored 20 points on 7-of-11 shooting from the floor in the first game of the tournament against Colorado State, then added 22 points, including an 11-of-12 performance from the free throw line, in the championship against Florida State.
Litka Also Named to All-Tournament Team: Aimee Litka also was named to the All-Tournament Team at the Coors Rocky Mountain Invitational. She averaged 17 points and five rebounds per game in the event, including a 20-point effort in the championship against Florida State.
Valpo Captures Division I Tournament Title For First Time: Valpo’s win at the Coors Rocky Mountain Invitational was the first tournament title for the Brown and Gold in the Division I era. The last time the Crusaders captured a tourney title was at the Lady Redmen Classic hosted by Carthage in the 1985-1986 season as Valpo downed Lakeland, Carthage, and Clarke.
Kulaga Earns Preseason Honors: Agnieszka Kulaga was named to the Preseason All-Horizon League Second Team after averaging 14.6 points and 5.2 rebounds per game last year for the Crusaders. She had a triple-double last season and earned Second Team All-League honors as a junior.
Valpo Tabbed Sixth in Horizon League: The Crusaders were picked to finish in sixth place this season in the Horizon League according to the conference’s preseason poll. Last year the Crusaders finished 14-16 overall and 9-9 in their inaugural league campaign to finish sixth. Green Bay was selected to win the Horizon League title for the 11th consecutive season.
Home Sweet Home: Valpo has had constant success at the ARC over the past seven years. Last season the Crusaders were 9-4 at home and are already 2-1 this year with wins over Bowling Green and Purdue. Since the beginning of the 2001-2002 campaign, Valpo has posted a 73-21 (.777) record at the ARC.
Valpo Adds Two for Next Year’s Class: Head coach Keith Freeman has signed two players to National Letters of Intent for the 2009-2010 season. Skyler Gick is a 5’7” guard from Otterbein, Ind. who averaged 15.1 points per game as a junior at Benton Central High School. Laura Richards is a 5’9” guard from Connersville, Ind and averaged 16.0 points an 5.2 rebounds per game a year ago at Connersville High School.