#11 Valparaiso closed out play at the Crusader Classic at Stardust Bowl II in Merrillville Sunday morning, finishing in third place. Junior Natalie Cortese (Hoffman Estates, Ill./Hoffman Estates [Central Missouri]) was named Tournament MVP after finishing with the tournament's highest average.
Valpo opened action Sunday as the top overall seed thanks to a 6-3 record through the first two days of the tournament. The Crusaders began bracket play, contested in best-of-seven baker format, against second-seeded #3 Nebraska, with the winner earning a bye into the championship match. But despite strong efforts in the first three games, rolling games of 203, 192 and 209, the Crusaders were edged by the Huskers in each of the three games, and Nebraska completed the sweep in game four.
The Crusaders still had an opportunity to earn a berth in the championship match in their second match of the day against #17 Minnesota State-Mankato, and it looked good for them through three games. Valpo jumped out to a 3-0 lead with wins of 232-186, 216-186 and 224-159 to move within one game of the championship. But the Crusaders couldn't break 184 in any of the final four games and Mankato stormed back, winning the last four games to claim a 4-3 victory.
The loss dropped Valpo into the third-place match against #14 UW-Whitewater, and it looked like the Crusaders would close the day 0-3 after dropping the first three games. But the Crusaders earned narrow wins by counts of 210-204, 185-184 and 197-190 in games four, five and six, respectively, to set up one game for third place. Valpo cruised to the win in the finale, 215-177, to finish the tournament in third place.
“I'm very happy with the way the ladies responded during their third round match against Whitewater after not bowling at our highest level during the first two rounds,” said Crusader head coach Shon Washington. “Our first match against Nebraska was closer than the 4-0 match-play record. We bowled well, just not well enough to beat such a talented team. The ladies could have easily surrendered to defeat after losing a 3-0 lead against Mankato and then falling behind 3-0 to Whitewater. I'm proud of this team and they way they fought back to win the last match and secure a third-place finish. I feel good about the progress we are making as a team, and the rest of the season will belong to Valpo!”
Nebraska took the team title, defeating Mankato in the championship match. Whitewater took fourth place, while Arkansas State, Elmhurst and Adrian rounded out the final standings.
Cortese earned Tournament MVP accolades after averaging a 213.6 over the traditional matches in Saturday's action. The MVP honor was the third of Cortese's career. Freshman Nicole Sanhamel (Vernon Hills, Ill./Vernon Hills) joined Cortese on the All-Tournament Team, posting a 204.3 average in Saturday's matches. Arkansas State's Emily Troutman and Laura Pulver and Mankato's Hali Clark rounded out the All-Tournament Team.
Valparaiso (14-11) heads to the Hawk Classic next weekend, hosted by Maryland Eastern Shore in Millsboro, Del. The three-day tournament begins Friday, Nov. 19 at 10 a.m. CST.