A youthful Valparaiso University women’s tennis team will take to the courts in 2011-2012 as head coach Traci Young has five freshmen and two sophomores among her nine-member roster.
Young begins her fourth season at the helm of the Brown and Gold, and will look to the fall schedule as a way to get the newcomers acclimated to collegiate tennis prior to the spring championship season.
Stephanie York is the lone senior on the Crusader roster this year, and has the most career singles and doubles wins of any active player on Valpo’s roster. She has played as high as third singles throughout her career while also playing in all three doubles slots, and will be relied upon heavily for upperclass leadership. As a junior, she also shared the team lead for doubles wins.
Brittany O’Reilly represents this year’s junior class for Valpo. She has played number one and number two singles for the Brown and Gold the last two years so she has experience playing against some of the best in the collegiate game. She also played mostly third doubles last year, but has the versatility to play in any position depending on her partner.
Kristin Zakiewicz and Aubree Zdanovec both made their collegiate debuts for Valpo a year ago. Zakiewicz finished second on the squad in singles victories as a rookie, playing mostly at third in the Crusader lineup. Zdanovec joined the roster in the spring and held down sixth singles most of the season.
This year’s freshmen class will be relied upon heavily to make contributions early with so few upperclassmen on the roster. Megan Barthels arrives at Valpo from Catholic Central High School in Grand Rapids, Mich. where she was a three-time All-Conference selection. A two-time state qualifier, she posted led her team to a 25-4 record over her final two prep seasons.
Michele Fredlake led South Bend Saint Joseph’s High School to the state championship as a junior and knows what it is like to play in pressure situations. She was a three-time All-Conference pick and helped her team to a 75-9 mark during her high school career. Angelina Goheen helped Rosary High School in Illinois to three conference titles during her career. She also helped her school to their first sectional championship in history.
Kaitlyn Hamel was a two-time First Team All-Conference selection in Colorado and earned Jefferson County Most Valuable Player accolades as a junior. She helps round out the roster along with local product Lauren Kammerer. Kammerer is a Valparaiso High School alum who helped lead the Vikings to a regional crown twice.
Young has put together a fall schedule with a combination of dual matches and tournaments in it to help the Crusaders experience a variety of playing styles this season. The year opens Sept. 16-17 at the River Forest Tournament in Illinois before the Brown and Gold come home for a dual match against Saint Joseph’s (Ind.). The second annual alumni tournament will give the Crusaders a chance to welcome back former players during Homecoming weekend on Oct. 1. The final tournament of the year is at Ball State on Oct. 7-8 before Valpo wraps up the fall slate Oct. 17 with a dual match against Robert Morris (Ill.).
This fall will give Valpo the Crusaders a chance to play numerous matches before the spring season commences. With so many freshmen on the roster, it will be a great learning experience for all of the players. The year begins with the focus squarely on improving both individually and as a team. The excitement and optimism surrounding the team is just beginning to show and should be in full force by the time the championship schedule rolls around in January for the Crusaders.