Valpo makes return trip to 'Dance'

Valparaiso has had a lot to celebrate this season, but now looking them in the face is the challenge of playing Kansas State in the NCAA Women's Basketball Tournament.

Winners of the Mid-Continent Tournament for the second straight year, and earning only the fourth 20-victory season in school history, the Crusaders were given a No. 15 seed in the Mideast Regional and will play the No. 2-seeded Wildcats on Sunday at 11 a.m. in Minneapolis.

"They don't have one person, but instead they have all the pieces of the puzzle," said Valpo coach Keith Freeman. "They are definitely one of the better teams in the country with a great deal of skill on the perimeter surrounding a great player (Nicole Ohlde) inside."

Valparaiso, a school of just 3,600 located in northern Indiana, qualified for the tournament winning the three-game Mid-Continent Tournament by a total of 14 points. Valpo opened with a 53-52 win over IUPUI, then topped UMKC, 66-54, and finally Oral Roberts for the title, 64-63.

"We've won five in a row and nine out of 10," said Freeman. "In the tournament, we played just well enough to win, but nothing more."

Of his team's style, Freeman said, "We're a Villanova-style team. We're very patient on offense. We want to control the tempo and use our defense to try to win games. Very few people have reached 70 on us."

In 31 games, only four times did Valpo's man-defense allow 70 points, and the team allowed just 58.5 for the total season.

The Crusaders struggle scoring as they shoot just .399 from the field and average 63 points per game.

Jenna Stangler is the team's top scorer at 10.7 points per game, while Suzie Hammel averages 9.7.

Freeman, however, says that point guard Katie Boone is the team MVP with her 6.5 scoring average and team-high 117 assists.

A total of eight players average at least 18 minutes of court time per game.

On a 15-player roster, Valpo has three freshmen and seven sophomores.

Valpo played in the 2003 NCAA Tournament as the No. 15 seed, and lost to Purdue, 66-51.

In 2002, the Crusaders played in the WNIT where they won two of three games.

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