Valparaiso’s women’s tennis team takes to the court for the 2011 season with a small, but energetic group of players. Head coach Traci Young has four returnees, along with two freshman, on the roster for this season, and saw significant improvement in the team during the fall portion of the schedule.
Young, who begins her third season at the helm of the Brown and Gold, has just one senior on the roster for 2011 as the Crusaders look to improve upon last year’s ninth place finish in the Horizon League.
Jackie O’Reilly is the only four-year player on the Crusader roster this season. She’s tied among those on the active roster for most wins in her Valpo career, and has worked her way up the lineup since arriving on campus. This fall she split time between the second and third spots in the Crusader order.
Juniors Katie Bilyeu and Stephanie York both will be relied upon this spring to help as upperclassmen in the lineup. Bilyeu rebounded this fall after a tough 2009-2010 season, and led the Brown and Gold with five singles wins. York may be one of the top doubles players on the roster, entering the season with the most doubles wins of any player on the squad for her career.
Sophomore Brittany O’Reilly should hold down the top spot in the Valpo lineup this season after playing mainly second singles as a rookie. She went .500 in doubles action this fall as well, playing with freshman Kristin Zakiewicz.
Zakiewicz, who got her first taste of collegiate tennis this fall, should make an immediate impact in the Crusader lineup. A four-time All-Northern Lakes Conference selection out of high school, she won four singles matches to begin her rookie season, and played mainly in the middle of the Valpo order.
Aubree Zdanovec joined the Crusader roster late in the fall and will make her collegiate debut this spring. She was an All-Fox Valley Association selection and earned All-Area honors her last two seasons at Appleton East High School in Wisconsin.
The excitement of the new season begins on Feb. 5 as the Crusaders host Ball State at the Northwest Athletic Club in Michigan City. Valpo will then take to the road through the annual spring break trip with matches at Kalamazoo, Saint Joseph’s (Ind.) and Bradley. The Brown and Gold then heads to Puerto Rico for matches against Virginia Tech, Bryant and Connecticut over spring break.
The Crusaders will return home to open Horizon League action hosting Milwaukee on March 18, the first of five home matches after break. Green Bay, Detroit, UIC, and Indiana Wesleyan will all pay visits to Valparaiso. The regular season closes April 17 at Wright State, with the league’s top six teams qualifying for the Horizon League tournament in Indianapolis April 22-24.
Despite the small roster size, excitement is in the air for the Crusaders heading into 2011. When the first serve is struck, expect Valpo to battle hard for every stroke and compete in every match until the final point.