It's a new era at the Athletics-Recreation Center tonight as Tracey Dorow takes the sidelines for her first game as the head coach of the Valparaiso women's basketball program.
Dorow was last spring after longtime coach Keith Freeman parted ways with Valparaiso. Dorow comes from Ferris State where she won 232 games over 14 seasons.
The Crusaders have a retooled roster this season featuring five newcomers. Charae Richardson has two years of eligibility after transferring from Vincennes last season. Richardson had to sit out last season following a strange decision from the NCAA (more on this in Thursday's paper). Four freshmen are on the roster this year including Fremd product Jessi Wiedemann. The six-foot guard is expected to make an immediate impact with the Crusaders along with Richardson.
Laura Richards and Gina Lange are back for their fourth seasons with the Crusaders while Latvian guard Ieva Jansone is also in her final year. Jansone underachieved last season after sitting out the first 11 games, but much is expected of the 5-foot-11 guard.
The star this season is junior forward Tabitha Gerardot. The Fort Wayne native averaged 13.0 points and 6.8 rebounds last season while shooting a team-best 44.8 percent from the field.
Across the court tonight will be a familiar face as Holy Cross is coached by former Valparaiso star Aimee (Litka) Niespodziany. The second-year coach graduated from Valparaiso in 2008 and helped lead the Crusaders to one of their biggest program wins over Purdue.
6:53 p.m. -- Starters: Valparaiso -- Laura Richards (Sr., G), Shaquira Scott (So., G), Charae Richardson (Jr., G), Gina Lange (Sr., F), Tabitha Gerardot (Jr., F); Holy Cross -- Lindsey Steffen (Jr., F), Megan Eve (Jr., G), Lauren Malinkwski (Sr., G), Kristin Nitka (Jr., G), Maggie Gondeck (So., F).
7:13 p.m. -- Valparaiso 7-6, 15:13 1H -- The Crusaders are clearly a quicker team this season with Scott, Richardson and Richards pushing the tempo, but they are still struggling to finish in the paint. Richardson, Gerardot and Lange have all missed easy shots on the interior. Adding to the shooting woes is the fact that the Crusaders have made just one of five free throws in the first 4:47 of the game. Scott has missed all three of her freebies.
7:21 p.m. -- Valparaiso 14-9, 11:43 -- Scott appears to be fully recovered from a torn ACL last season. The sophomore has four points and five rebounds in the first eight minutes and looks incredibly active on the defensive end of the floor. It's good to see her back on the court.
7:31 p.m. -- Valparaiso 28-14, 7:51 -- The Crusaders embarked on a 17-2 run to open up the game as Gerardot (eight points) and Scott (six points) have looked good tonight. Dorow's first recruit, Lexi Miller, checked in and immediately made an impact with a steal, two assists and a basket. One of the bigger wildcards on the team, Miller has looked good on the floor.
7:40 p.m. -- Valparaiso 37-18, 3:12 -- Ieva Jansone has scored three of the last four baskets for the Crusaders as the team is definitely moving at a faster pace than they've run in years. Carr, Richardson, Scott, Richards, Wiedemann and Miller have all taken turns pushing the ball up the floor and they are all doing it quickly.
7:47 p.m. -- Valparaiso 44, Holy Cross 22, halftime -- Jansone has 13 points to lead all scorers while Lexi Miller has four assists. The Crusaders have 24 points in the paint and eight fast break points. Impressive first half display by the Crusaders.
8:11 p.m. -- Valparaiso 58-28, 15:13 2H -- I wasn't around for the Debbie Bolen days when the Crusaders were scoring 100+ points at will, but I have to imagine that the offensive game plan was very similar to what we're seeing tonight. Everything has become transition and getting the ball up the floor as quickly as possible. It's exciting to say the least.
8:30 p.m. -- Valparaiso 79-39, 7:06 2H -- I know one has to consider the competition tonight, but this offensive output is unreal. I didn't see this coming. Crusaders about to break 80 points for the first time in a while.
8:40 p.m. -- Valparaiso 92-47, 2:35 2H -- The Crusaders are at 74 possessions right now. Have to wonder if this was a statement by the team to get people talking. They still aren't slowing down.
8:46 p.m. -- Valparaiso 98, Holy Cross 49, final.