Valparaiso University Sports Update, December 9, 2016

VU-Valpo-Softball-Announces-2017-ScheduleValpo Softball Announces 2017 Schedule
Valparaiso University softball head coach Kate Stake announced today the Crusaders’ 2017 schedule as they embark on the defense of last season’s Horizon League Championship, including 15 home games at the Valpo Softball Complex.

The Crusaders open the 2017 campaign on the third weekend of February, making the trip to Greensboro, N.C. for the Aggie Invitational, where they will face UMBC, Howard and Appalachian State in addition to a pair of games against host North Carolina A&T. After a weekend without competition, spring break action begins with a tournament at Lipscomb Mar. 3-5, with two games versus Stony Brook and one against Eastern Illinois as well as the one against the Bison.

In between tournaments, Valpo will make a stop at perennial power Alabama on Mar. 8, facing a Crimson Tide squad which won 51 games and advanced to the WCWS a season ago – its third consecutive WCWS appearance. Play continues for the Crusaders in Oxford, Ala. at the Choccolocco Invitational Mar. 10-12, where they will face Belmont, SE Missouri State, Tennessee State, Eastern Illinois and Alabama State. The spring break swing concludes at Iowa’s Hawkeye Invitational Mar. 17-18, with two games versus South Dakota State and one against Creighton before finishing up with the host Hawkeyes.

Once back in the Midwest, Valpo continues non-league action at Loyola Mar. 22. Outside of league play, the Crusaders are slated to host IUPUI for a single game (Mar. 29) and Central Michigan for a doubleheader (Apr. 18), while also traveling for a twinbill at Northern Illinois (Apr. 26).

The Horizon League slate opens for Valpo at Northern Kentucky Mar. 24-25, as the league schedule features one three-game series against each of the other eight league squads. The Crusaders are scheduled to also go on the road to Green Bay, Cleveland State and Detroit Mercy, while welcoming Youngstown State, UIC and Oakland to Valparaiso. The regular season concludes May 5-6 as the Crusaders host Wright State at the Valpo Softball Complex.

The Horizon League Championship is scheduled for May 10-13, at the bracket’s highest seed which meets the league’s facility requirements. The winner of the league tournament earns the league’s automatic bid to the 2017 NCAA Tournament. Last season, Valpo reeled off four consecutive wins at the Horizon League Championship to earn its third tournament title in a five-year span.

Madrid, Lawrence Receive NSCAA All-Region Recognition
Valparaiso University men’s soccer players Isaiah Madrid (Albuquerque, N.M. / Eldorado [Florida Gulf Coast]) and Omar Lawrence (Kingston, Jamaica / Excelsior) received high honors on Thursday as the National Soccer Coaches Association of America published all-region teams.

Madrid was named to the All-Great Lakes First Team, while Lawrence landed on the Second Team.

Both players are repeat NSCAA All-Region honorees, as both were named to the All-Region Third Team as juniors. Lawrence is a three-time honoree after also notching Third Team accolades following his sophomore campaign.

Madrid and Lawrence made important contributions to a Valpo team that finished the year 10-5-4 and tied program records for the most wins and fewest losses in a season. Lawrence rounded out his Crusader career as a key cog in a stout defense that allowed just 18 goals and notched seven shutouts.

Madrid finished the year with 10 goals and 25 points. He was the sixth Valpo player to score double-figure goals in a single season and first to reach 25 points in the last 25 years. He finished his illustrious career with 15 goals and 37 points in just two seasons.

Madrid becomes the second Valpo player named to the All-Great Lakes Region First Team, joining Kyle Zobeck (2011). In addition to hauling in all-region recognition, Madrid and Lawrence both achieved places on the all-Horizon League First Team this year.

Crusaders Finish Fifth at Tulane
The #24 Valparaiso University bowling team finished out the Allstate Sugar Bowl Collegiate Invitational in Kenner, La. on Sunday, winning two of its three matches in bracket play to close the tournament in fifth place.

How It Happened

  • Valpo opened bracket play, contested in the best-of-seven baker format, versus Alabama State. The Crusaders had to rally from down two games to one, but did so in style, posting a 200 in game four to even the match and then recording back-to-back games of 221 to take down Alabama State, 4-2.
  • The opposite would happen to the Crusaders in their second match on Sunday, taking on #RV Jackson State. Valpo jumped out to a quick 2-0 lead, but the Tigers claimed wins in each of the next four games to send the Crusaders to a 4-2 defeat.
  • A rematch with Alabama State for fifth place was on the docket to close the tournament, and Valpo enjoyed a strong finish to the weekend. The Crusaders posted scores of 191 or better in all five games, including a 227 in game three and a 221 in the clincher of a 4-1 victory.
  • Valpo’s 206.4 average over the five games in its final match was the seventh-best team average in a best-of-seven baker match in program history.

Next Up
The Crusaders (29-19) will break for the holidays after finishing in the top half of the tournament fields and posting winning records in three of four tournaments this fall. The season continues for Valpo at the Mid-Winter Invitational from Jonesboro, Ark., starting on Friday, Jan. 13.

Donchetz, Schofield Post Career Bests in Loss to No. 1 Notre Dame
The Valparaiso University women’s basketball team fell to No. 1 Notre Dame 114-54 on Sunday afternoon at the Purcell Pavilion. The Crusaders were led in scoring by junior Dani Franklin (Cedar Rapids, Iowa / George Washington), who accumulated 18 points. Other bright spots included sophomore Allison Schofield (McCordsville, Ind. / Heritage Christina) and junior Georgi Donchetz (Savage, Minn / Burnsville), both of whom turned in career highs in scoring.

How It Happened

  • The Crusaders held the Fighting Irish scoreless for the first 1:40 of the game, marking the longest any team has kept Notre Dame off the scoreboard to start a game this season.
  • Once the nation’s top team broke through, the points kept coming. They embarked on a 26-0 run to start the game.
  • Franklin converted a basket with 3:16 left in the first quarter for Valpo’s first score of the game.
  • Schofield followed with a 3-pointer on the next Crusader possession to make it a 5-0 run for the Crusaders.
  • Valpo made 11 first-quarter turnovers and allowed six offensive rebounds, permitting the Fighting Irish to establish a 34-7 lead after one stanza.
  • Donchetz completed a three-point play with 8:31 remaining in the first half to boost Valpo’s team point total to double figures.
  • Schofield swished in her second 3-pointer of the game with 2:34 remaining in the second quarter.
  • Franklin knocked down a triple 27 seconds into the third quarter to enter double figures. That started a 5-0 Valpo spurt capped by a Schofield jumper.
  • The Fighting Irish passed the 100-point mark with 8:23 remaining in the fourth on a layup by Jackie Young.
  • Donchetz made a fast-break layup with 1:24 remaining in the fourth to enter double figures for the first time in her Valpo career.

Inside the Game

  • A day after notching her first points of the season, Schofield made it back-to-back days with successful triples. She connected twice from distance in the first half, and set a career high in scoring with eight points. Schofield’s previous career best was five points reached on two separate occasions, most recently Jan. 14, 2016 against Green Bay.
  • Donchetz established a new career high with 10 points, besting her previous mark of nine, reached most recently on Saturday against Eastern Illinois.
  • Sunday was the first time this season the Crusaders had a lower field goal percentage than their opponent.
  • Franklin led the Crusaders in scoring for the seventh time in eight games this season. She has reached double figures seven times and 10 of her last 11 dating back to last year.
  • Meredith Hamlet (McBain, Mich. / McBain) made her 38th consecutive start. She has started every game since coming to the Crusaders as a freshman a year ago.

Thoughts from Head Coach Tracey Dorow
“Early, they applied a lot of pressure and really attacked us. In the second half, I thought we did a better job. Coach (Muffet) McGraw is very classy, and handled the whole game with a lot of class. Our kids maintained their composure and battled back.”

On the start: “We didn’t have a very good showing early. Nothing went our way early, and it kind of snowballed on us. The size and speed of the Notre Dame players was intimidating, until we started to settle in.”

On Notre Dame: “These are young women that are setting the bar right now. UConn has set the bar for years, and it’s nice to see someone else setting the bar, especially someone in state. This game should help us as we prepare for future opponents.”

Next Up
The Crusaders (4-4) will return to the court on Saturday at 1:30 p.m. against Grace at the Athletics-Recreation Center. The game can be seen on ESPN3, WatchESPN and the ESPN app and heard on 95.1 FM Valparaiso. Links to live video, audio and stats will be available on

Crusaders Close Out Calvin Invite Saturday
The Valparaiso University men’s and women’s swimming teams finished competition at the Calvin College Winter Invitational Saturday, with the men ending the three-day event in fifth place and the women placing seventh. Two Crusader swimmers earned top-five finishes, as senior Emily Trimpe (New Palestine, Ind./New Palestine) hit the wall at 2:25.34 in the 200-yard breaststroke for a fifth-place finish and junior Max Penn (Columbus, Ohio/St. Charles Prep) swam his way to a fourth-place finish in the 200-yard backstroke (1:52.40).

How It Happened

  • Along with Penn’s stellar performance in the 200-yard backstroke, he nearly clipped his school record in the event, missing it by just over a second.
  • Freshman Peyton Stambeck (Bartlesville, Okla./Bartlesville) had a top-ten finish in the 100-yard freestyle. The speedster hit the wall in 46.72 seconds for a seventh-place effort, fourth-best on the all-time top-10 list for Valpo.
  • Sophomore Dylan Kirar (Arvada, Colo./Ralston Valley) received the third individual top-ten mark of the day for the Crusaders. Swimming in the 500-yard freestyle, he hustled to a ninth-place spot at 4:43.02, landing in fourth position in school history in the event.
  • The relay team of sophomore Mac Sogandares (Reston, Va./South Lakes), freshman Harrison Jenny (New Albany, Ohio/New Albany), Kirar and Stambeck worked together for a ninth-place result in the 400-freestyle relay (3:12.44).
  • On the women’s side, Trimpe’s fifth-place finish was the top individual finish of the meet for the Valpo women and was less than two seconds off of her PR in the event.
  • Senior Rachel Law (Wayne, Pa./Villa Maria Academy) had the other top-ten performance on the day for Valpo. In the 500-freestyle race, she hit the wall at 5:11.57 for a ninth-place finish, moving into seventh place in program history in the event.
  • In the 400-freestyle relay event, freshman Paige Wright (Surprise, Ariz./Paradise Honor), freshman Erica Martins (Hartland, Wis./Lake County Lutheran), junior Amanda Jenny (New Albany, Ohio/New Albany) and Trimpe earned a tenth-place finish (3:39.64).

Next Up
The Crusaders take a break from competition over the holidays and resume their schedule on Saturday, Jan. 21 at Lewis University in Romeoville, Ill. First race begins at 1 p.m.

Bowling Continues Action From Tulane Saturday
The #24 Valparaiso University bowling team continued action at the Allstate Sugar Bowl Collegiate Invitational on Saturday from Kenner, La., finishing the day in fifth place.

How It Happened

  • Valpo opened the day, contested in the traditional team format, against Louisiana Tech by earning an easy 978-873 victory – led by a 214 game from freshman Rebecca Lohse (Chesterton, Ind./Chesterton).
  • Despite an effort of 221 from senior Alyssa Meade (Chesterfield, Mich./L’Anse Creuse North), the Crusaders fell in their second match to #5 Stephen F. Austin, 1024-849.
  • Valpo posted a team score of 952 facing a bye in its third match of the day, led by a 206 game by fifth-year senior Olivia Wirtz (Battle Creek, Mich./Harper Creek [Vanderbilt]).
  • Wirtz led the Crusaders in their next match as well, rolling a 223 as Valpo took down Southern by a 938-910 final.
  • The Crusaders earned a victory against the program just ahead of themselves in the national rankings, defeating #23 UAB 963-885 in their penultimate match of the day. Lohse paced Valpo with a 220 game, while senior Savannah Carr (Buckeye, Ariz./Youngker) recorded a 205.
  • For the fifth time in their six matches on the day, the Crusaders averaged better than 187 as a team. It would not be enough in the finale, however, as despite games of 222 from Carr and 214 from senior Marianna Guerrieri (Aurora, Ill./Waubonsie Valley), Valpo dropped a 1081-945 final to #6 Vanderbilt.
  • Valpo finished the day with a pin count of 10,542 through 11 matches over the first two days of competition, good for fifth place and just 120 pins back of fourth-place Jackson State.

Next Up
The Crusaders (27-18) open best-of-seven baker bracket play on Sunday at 8:30 a.m. against Alabama State. The day features three bracket matches, as Valpo can finish as high as third place.

Franklin Pours in 33 to Propel Crusaders Past Panthers
The Valparaiso University women’s basketball team fended off Eastern Illinois 73-68 on Saturday at the Athletics-Recreation Center. Junior Dani Franklin (Cedar Rapids, Iowa / George Washington) continued to light it up, accumulating 33 points to pave the way to the win. The Crusaders improve to 4-3, matching their best record through seven games since 1991-92.

How It Happened

  • The Crusaders leaped out to a 20-5 lead thanks to an 18-0 run capped by a Franklin 3-pointer with 9:05 to go in the second quarter. Franklin had 12 of her team’s first 20 points and 10 of the 18 points during the run.
  • The momentum shifted as Eastern Illinois scored the next 17 points to capture a 22-20 edge with 4:57 to go in the second quarter. Carmen Tallez knocked in a 3 to give the Panthers their first lead since the game’s early stages.
  • The Crusaders scored the final five points of the first half as Georgi Donchetz (Savage, Minn. / Burnsville) sank a 3 and Hannah Schaub (Brooklyn Park, Minn. / Park Center) hit a jumper. Valpo took a 32-26 lead into the locker room.
  • Valpo dominated the third quarter, outscoring Eastern Illinois 27-15. The Crusaders opened up an 18-point cushion with 1:38 to go in the third.
  • The seesaw affair took another turn when Eastern Illinois outscored Valpo 27-14 in the final period, but the Crusaders held on to notch the victory.

Inside the Game

  • Franklin became just the third player in program history to have at least two career games with 33 points or more, joining Debbie Bolen and Tabitha Gerardot.
  • She finished one point shy of her career-high 34, set in this year’s season opener against Stetson.
  • Franklin matched a career best with 12 made field goals, going 12-of-20 from the floor. She went 6-of-7 at the free-throw line, with the lone miss just her second misfire at the stripe this season.
  • Franklin now owns the top two individual single-game scoring performances in the Horizon League this year.
  • This marks the latest into the season the Crusaders have held a winning record since 2008-2009.
  • The Crusaders won the battle on the boards 35-23 and hauled in 12 offensive rebounds against Eastern Illinois’ 15 defensive caroms. Valpo outscored Eastern Illinois in second chance points 18-6.
  • Donchetz equaled a career high, scoring nine points for the second straight game. She also converted on two 3-pointers, a career best. Those marked her first made 3s of the season.
  • Schaub matched a career watermark with nine assists, a total she most recently hit on Nov. 25 against Liberty.
  • Freshman Caitlin Morrison (Glenview, Ill. / Glenbrook South) tied a career high with nine points and set a career best with eight rebounds.

Thoughts from Head Coach Tracey Dorow

  • “Basketball is a game of spurts. As much as we don’t want to let the other team have as big of spurts like they did today, they earned it. I thought Eastern Illinois executed some things well in the second quarter. We turned the ball over during that stretch and that really hurt us. We did bounce back. We finished solid and earned the win.”
  • On rebounding battle: “It’s been a big focus for us. I’m really proud of them for that. Especially on the defensive end, we did a much better job. It seemed liked everybody was involved and actively pursuing the ball.”
  • On getting Amber Lindfors back after one-game absence: “She didn’t play as many minutes as normal, but she definitely made a difference. She played 20, which is more than I anticipated. The ankle sprain was a pretty bad one, and we definitely missed her in the last game. It’s nice to have her presence out there; eight rebounds is a big deal. We’re happy to have her back.”
  • On Schaub: “Her teammates are putting the ball in the hole, and she’s finding players in position to score, not just passing the ball to pass it.”
  • On Hales and Morrison: “We expect a lot of good things out of them. They’re both major contributors to what we’re trying to do.”
  • On playing No. 1 Notre Dame on Sunday: “It’s cool because Green Bay just went over there a couple weeks ago and only lost to them by four. That says a lot about our league and where we can be. You’ve got to put the ball in the hole, and Green Bay went (48 percent) from 3. That’s not Green Bay’s typical game, but they knew their chance to win was going to be hitting shots. We can’t give Notre Dame easy points. To me, this is the level that they signed up to play. They signed up to play NCAA Division-I basketball, so why not play the No. 1 team in the country?”

Next Up
The Crusaders (4-3) face the ultimate challenge on Sunday as they hit the road to clash with No. 1 Notre Dame (7-0). It will be the first time in program history Valpo plays the nation’s top team. The game can be seen on ESPN3 and heard on 95.1 FM Valparaiso with Jordan Morandini, David Horak and Renee’ Turpa. Links to live video, audio and stats are available on

Valpo Track and Field Opens Season Friday
Three Valparaiso University track and field athletes posted marks among the Crusaders’ all-time best as the men’s and women’s track and field teams opened their indoor season Friday afternoon at Notre Dame’s Blue & Gold Invitational.

How It Happened

  • In her first career race as a Crusader, Kayla Horne cracked Valpo’s all-time best in the 400m dash, running to a seventh-place finish with a time of 59.73 seconds – fourth-fastest in program history.
  • Chidimma Ozodi improved upon her fourth-best mark all-time at Valpo in the long jump with a leap of 17’6”, good for seventh place.
  • Anne Mou, competing in her first meet at Valpo, earned a sixth-place showing in the triple jump (33’6 ½”) and a ninth-place finish in the long jump (16’0 ½”)
  • Nellie Bonham just missed cracking the Crusaders’ all-time top-five in the shot put with a toss of 40’4 ¼” to finish in seventh position.
  • On the men’s side, Montell Hall was the runner-up in the triple jump with a leap of 45’1”, moving into fourth place in Valpo history in the event. Nicholas Ricks placed fourth in the same event and fell just short of the top-five in program history with a mark of 44’11 ½”.
  • Andrew Guzek had a pair of top-six efforts on Friday, earning third place in the weight throw (58’6 ½”) and sixth place in the shot put (48’8 ¼”).
  • Alexander Watson cleared 14’5 ¼” in the pole vault to finish in fourth place in that event.
  • The effort on the track for the Crusader men was led by Benjamin Sekuloski, who crossed the line in 22.75 seconds in the 200m dash – good for seventh place.

Next Up
The Crusaders return to competition after a break for the holidays at Grand Valley State for the Bob Eubanks Open on Jan. 13.

School Record Falls In Swimming’s Second Day at Calvin
The Valparaiso University men’s and women’s swimming teams competed on day two at the Calvin College Winter Invitational on Friday, with the men sitting in sixth place and the women in seventh place after 38 events. The Crusaders’ highlight of the day was freshman Paige Wright (Surprise, Ariz./Paradise Honor) breaking the school’s 24-year old 100-yard backstroke record with a time of 58.58.

How It Happened

  • Almost breaking the 400-yard individual medley school record, sophomore Dylan Kirar (Arvada, Colo./Ralston Valley) swam an impressive 4:08.87 to land in second on the all-time ranks and received a fifth-place finish on day two.
  • Freshman Brendon Johnson (Northbrook, Ill./Glenbrook North) finished close behind Kirar in the same event, recording a seventh-place finish after moving into sixth in Valpo history in the prelims with a time of 4:11.97.
  • Junior Max Penn (Columbus, Ohio/St. Charles Prep) just missed breaking his own school record in the 100-yard backstroke with a solid time of 51.07 to garner a sixth-place result.
  • Freshman Dylan Ogle (Simpsonville, S.C./Mauldin) had two stellar performances on the day, both coming in the 200-yard butterfly. In the morning session, Ogle swam a 1:52.49, just missing the school record by 49-hundredths of a second, and in the evening, he hit the wall at 1:55.12 to capture seventh.
  • Two Crusader men cracked Valpo’s all-time top-10 in the 200 free. Sophomore Mac Sogandares (Reston, Va./South Lakes) placed seventh all-time in the event with a time of 1:44.64 in the prelims, and then in the evening, freshman Peyton Stambeck (Bartlesville, Okla./Bartlesville) moved into 10th place in the event in program history with a time of 1:45.23, good for 10th place at the meet.
  • Stambeck also entered the Valpo annals in the 50 free, swimming a time of 21.67 in the prelims to move into eighth on the Crusaders’ all-time chart in the event, while junior Grant Girten (Blue Ash, Ohio/Sycamore) moved up to seventh spot in Valpo history in the 100 back with a time of 52.96 Friday morning.
  • For the women, Wright trimmed two seconds off her preliminary time to earn the school record in the 100-yard backstroke with her time of 58.58 seconds, breaking the mark of 58.71 seconds set by Paige Hassinger in 1992 by 13-hundredths of a second. Wright finished in ninth place overall on Friday.
  • Freshman Tara Lawson (Mundelein, Ill./Mundelein) moved into fifth in Valpo history in the same event with a finishing time of 59.48 seconds.
  • Freshman Erica Martins (Hartland, Wis./Lake County Lutheran) also cracked a top-10 in Friday, as her time of 2:15.53 in the 200 butterfly was 10th-best in Crusader history.
  • The 200-yard freestyle relay team of Martins, senior Emily Trimpe (New Palestine, Ind./New Palestine), junior Amanda Jenny (New Albany, Ohio/New Albany) and Wright placed ninth with a time of 1:40.12.
  • Trimpe nearly surpassed her fifth-place spot on the all-time chart in the 100-yard breaststroke. The Crusader veteran earned tenth place on Friday with a time of 1:07.42.

Next Up
Valpo is back in action tomorrow, Saturday, Dec. 3 for day three at the Calvin Invite. First race begins at 9 a.m. CT and live stats can be found on

Crusaders Open Up Action at Tulane Friday
Capped by one of the best matches in program history, the #24 Valparaiso University bowling team opened the Allstate Sugar Bowl Collegiate Invitational in Kenner, La. on Friday, finishing the day in fourth place.

How It Happened

  • Valpo opened the tournament Friday against Grambling and rolled to an easy win, earning a 911-730 victory in the day’s first match – contested in the five-game baker format.
  • The Crusaders then earned their closest win in program history in a five-game baker match, taking down #25 Texas Southern by a mere four pins, 902-898.
  • Valpo suffered its lone loss in its next match, falling to #16 Tulane 1039-987, but bounced back with a 998-941 victory over Alabama State.
  • The Crusaders closed out action on Friday with the competition’s highest-scoring match of the day, easily taking down #RV Jackson State, 1119-999. The 223.8 average per game in the baker match was the second-best in program history over a five-game baker contest and the best output in a match with an opponent. Over all baker matches, it was Valpo’s fourth-highest per-game scoring match in program history.
  • Valpo closed the day in fourth place in the 11-team field, just 79 pins shy of third-place Vanderbilt.

Thoughts From Head Coach Shon Washington
“It is only day one of three, but for the first time this season, the team as a whole found success on the lanes. Our execution matched our effort, resulting in the highest day one total thus far. I am most pleased with our ability today to apply some lane play concepts that have been a focus at practice. Tomorrow is a new day, but hopefully we can bring some of today with us.”

Next Up
The Crusaders (24-16) continue action from Tulane on Saturday with six traditional team matches, beginning at 8:30 a.m.

Haas Selected to Lead Valpo Women’s Golf Program
Valparaiso University Director of Athletics Mark LaBarbera has announced the hiring of Jonathan Haas as the head coach of the Crusader women’s golf program.

Haas previously served as the head girls and boys golf coach at Crown Point High School in Crown Point, Ind. He began coaching Crown Point’s girls program in 2010 and enjoyed seven successful seasons, including sectional championships in 2010 and 2011. He also guided the Bulldogs to the IHSAA State Finals in 2014, the program’s first state appearance in 23 years.

Haas added boys head coaching duties at Crown Point in 2012 and led the Bulldogs to a string of four consecutive sectional titles from 2013-2016. He was named the Post-Tribune newspaper’s Boys Golf Coach of the Year in both 2013 and 2015. In addition, Haas received the Indiana High School Golf Coaches Association Distinguished Service Award this year.

“We’re excited to have an individual with the demonstrated success of Coach Haas joining the Valpo Athletics family,” LaBarbera said. “His accomplishments with the golf programs at Crown Point High School and his connections to the Indiana golf community will be a great asset to our team. The enthusiasm he demonstrated in our conversations indicates he will be a great addition to our department.”

Haas said his goal is to elevate the program to the top of the Horizon League as quickly as possible by recruiting quality student-athletes.

“Valparaiso University is a tremendous academic and athletic institution,” he said. “When I started talking to people about the job, everyone raved about it. It’s a tremendous place and you can’t say enough good things about it.”

Haas’ connections across the state stem from his role as the All-State Chair for the Indiana High School Golf Coaches Association.

“I’ve got inroads to coaches of all the top programs in the state,” he said. “Developing those relationships with the head coaches and programs will serve as a great recruiting tool.”

Haas’ diverse coaching background also includes varsity head coaching stints with Hammond girls basketball (2006-2007), Hebron girls basketball (2004-2006), Hammond cross country (2006-2008), Hebron cross country (2005-2006), Calumet cross country (2003-2004) and Hammond softball (2006-2008). He has also served as an assistant coach in basketball, volleyball and track and field.

Haas, who becomes the third head coach in program history, teaches math for Crown Point Community Schools and is in his 17th year as an educator. He graduated from Plymouth State College in Plymouth, N.H. in 2000 with a degree in childhood studies.

“I really appreciate the Crown Point community for helping me develop as a coach,” Haas said. “They’ve helped put me in a position where I have the opportunity to lead a fantastic Division-I program.”

Swimming Kicks Off Calvin Winter Invite Thursday
The Valparaiso University men’s and women’s swimming teams competed on day one at the Calvin College Winter Invitational in Grand Rapids, Mich., as the Crusader men finished the day in fourth place and the women in sixth place. The Crusaders had two relay teams and two individual swimmers enter the all-time top-ten lists with their Thursday performances.

How It Happened

  • For the men, sophomore Robert Bretl (Wauwatosa, Wis./Marquette University H.S.) improved upon his fifth-best time in program history in the 1,650 freestyle race with a time of 16:45.66. Bretl surpassed his previous time by six seconds to finish the event in seventh place.
  • The 800-yard freestyle relay team of sophomore Dylan Kirar (Arvada, Colo./Ralston Valley), sophomore Mac Sogandares (Reston, Va./South Lakes), senior Arman Salim (Angola, Ind./Fremont) and freshman Peyton Stambeck (Bartlesville, Okla./Bartlesville) swam a 7:01.12 for a season-best time and seventh-place finish at the Invite, which earns the squad the third-place slot on Valpo’s all-time list.
  • On the women’s side, senior Rachel Law (Wayne, Pa./Villa Maria Academy) moves up on the all-time list for the Crusaders into fifth position after swimming a 17:58.68 in the 1,650-yard freestyle race. Finishing in sixth today, Law improves on her season-best time by nearly 40 seconds and surpassed her previous career best by five seconds.
  • Freshman Paige Wright (Surprise, Ariz./Paradise Honor), junior Amanda Jenny (New Albany, Ohio/New Albany), senior Emily Trimpe (New Palestine, Ind./New Palestine) and Law earned sixth place in the 800-yard freestyle relay (7:56.32), placing the team in eighth on the top-ten list all-time at Valpo.

Next Up
The Crusaders resume action tomorrow, Friday, Dec. 2 at Calvin. The first event is slated to start at 9 a.m. CT. Links to live results can be found on

Valpo Announces Three Additions for 2018 Baseball Season
The Valparaiso University baseball team has inked three players to National Letters of Intent for the 2018 season.

Head coach Brian Schmack and his staff will welcome junior college transfer Blake Billinger (Los Gato, Calif. / Mountain West [Mission College]) and true freshmen Zach Orn (Royville, Ind. / Eastside) and Andy Samuelson (LaPorte, Ind. / LaPorte) to the program next year.

“I want to thank (recruiting coordinator) Ben (Wolgamot) and (assistant coach) Nic (Mishler) for their work finding these individuals,” Schmack said. “It takes a lot of time and effort to find the right players, and those two did an outstanding job.”

Billinger, a 6-foot-4 first baseman and outfielder, is coming off a stellar spring campaign at Mission College is Santa Clara, Calif. As a freshman, he hit .347, slugged .533 and posted a .420 on-base percentage while also launching six home runs, driving in 42 runs and striking out just 14 times in 181 plate appearances.

“Losing (Nate) Palace at first base after this year, he’s a guy who can come in and play right away,” Schmack said. “He’s going to be a power guy right out of the shoot, and that’s big for us. We’re excited to have him.”

Billinger was a unanimous first-team all-conference selection while also achieving first-team all-region, first-team all-state and third-team all-American status. Mission College, coached by former Chicago Cubs and Pittsburgh Pirates infielder Bobby Hill, won a conference title and reached the JUCO final eight in Northern California.

During the summer season, Billinger’s offensive production beefed to an even more gaudy level. He hit .570 and slugged 1.147 while posting a .610 on-base percentage, launching 14 home runs and striking out just once in every 15 at-bats for the Glenwood Geckos of the Mountain West Collegiate League.

“We saw Billinger at a showcase in Northern California,” Wolgamot said. “The ball came off the bat with a different sound. He can drive balls to the middle of the field.”

Billinger, who was the ranked the No. 12 first baseman in California out of high school, said the decision to further his career and education at Valpo was an easy one.

“I felt a really good connection with the coaches when I first met them,” he said. “They seem like coaches I really want to play for and do well. They want you to succeed. I had a really good visit. Everything worked out well and it made sense for me to be there next year.”

Billinger said an improved mental approach to hitting helped him take his game to the next level.

“I try to cause damage every time I go to the plate,” he said. “People should expect that I’m going to give a full effort and play with a lot of passion. I love the game. You’ll see a smile on my face because I enjoy playing baseball.”

Orn is coming off a strong junior season at Eastside High School during which he batted .354 to earn a place on the all-conference team. He returned to the diamond after sitting out his sophomore season due to transferring high schools.

Orn, an honor roll student, plans to study law with a minor in athletic management.

“When I went down to visit this summer, I really liked the place and the campus,” he said. “I liked the feel of Valparaiso. It felt like home; it’s a place I’m willing to be for four years. Valpo has a great academic program. The baseball program is really good; I really like the facilities.”

The current high school senior wants to use this year to get bigger, stronger and faster before beginning his collegiate tenure.

“I’m a really hard worker,” he said. “I have a vision of what I’m going to do, and I’m going to do it. I’m going to try to be the best player I can be at Valpo. I want to make an impact my freshman year, and I think I can do that with the hard work I’m going to put in.”

Orn, whose mentality is compared favorably to current Valpo infielder Chase Dawson, goes to the same high school that produced former Valpo relief pitcher Bryce Yoder.

Wolgamot described Orn as a player who stands out every time he plays.

“At the end of the day, he really wants to be here, which is great,” Schmack said. “That’s what we want out of all of our guys. He’s a guy who’s flexible as far as position. He can play middle infield, he’s a scrappy left-handed hitter. He’s the dirtiest guy on the field after the game.”

Samuelson, a left-handed pitcher, earned all-Duneland Athletic Conference accolades last spring in addition to being recognized on the Herald-Argus all-area team and receiving Post-Tribune all-area honorable mention.

“Academically, Valpo’s a great school,” Samuelson said. “I like the baseball program. It’s close to home, so that’s great too. It will be a lot easier to keep in touch with family and friends and see them often.”

Samuelson, a senior at LaPorte, continues a string of talented Northwest Indiana locals who have elected to continue their collegiate careers at Valpo. The current Valpo team features Andrean grad Chase Dawson, Lake Central product Zack Turnbough and Schererville native Scott Kapers.

Samuelson, a two-sport athlete, also plays basketball for the Slicers.

“He has a really good curveball, one of the best ones I saw this summer,” Schmack said. “As a freshman, he can come in and contribute right away out of the bullpen. He’s got a chance to pitch right away, which is good. We only have two or three left-handed pitchers per year, so he’ll be valuable immediately.”