HILLARY SMITH: Creating a list of region's 2014 sports resolutions

2013-12-29T21:00:00Z 2013-12-29T21:02:16Z HILLARY SMITH: Creating a list of region's 2014 sports resolutionsHillary Smith Times Columnist nwitimes.com
December 29, 2013 9:00 pm  • 

As regionites sit down to assess their 2014 goals and hopes, many create a list of New Year's resolutions.

The resolutions of the area's sports teams and fans should be no different.

Here's what fans can only hope to be accomplished in the next 12 months:

Return of enthusiasm for Valparaiso University

How much you paid attention to the 2012-13 Crusaders' men's basketball team mattered less, but the excitement surrounding the team's roll into the NCAA tournament harkened back to the 1990s when Valparaiso was always a contender.

That's what the administration was looking for when Bryce Drew was brought on as coach, and the team delivered.

The electricity of the Horizon League Championship in Valparaiso was the palpable excitement of Hoosier Hysteria. The talent was there, the fans were there and the students across campus returned early from spring break to be there, too.

A Big Ten university it's not, but if fans — and the sports teams — at VU can keep the electricity there, the attention will remain.

Put a girls hoops team past the regional, again

After the drought was ended in 2010 as Merrillville and Griffith reached the girls basketball semistate, the streak as restarted and we're at three years again and counting without a local team past the regional.

The talent exists and the elimination of the Duneland Athletic Conference double round robin should help.

Which begs the question: Who could be next? LaPorte and Lake Central are ranked in the IBCA's Top 20. The area has three teams in the Sagarin Top 50 (all from the DAC).

Bishop Noll tried its hand at a run last year with a roster full of young players, and then beefed up their schedule this season. Morgan Township is showing that a healthy team is a productive team and that there's no stopping the Cherokees.

Which leads us to:

Keep the college coaches coming

When the talent appears so do the big college coaches. Though many top boys and girls hoops players have already picked their next step away from the area, they'll still be attracting eyes.

Those eyes will pinpoint other players and the region will spread its wings across the country. Three players in the NCAA men's basketball finals in 2013, 16 in the Division II and III football final fours.

There's talent here to be found, and when the talent can find its way through the postseason, it will be plucked up by any-sized colleges.

Follow the path set by volleyball success

The Bishop Noll Warriors broke through the semistate barrier and became the first Lake or Porter County team to reach the volleyball state finals. In the next year, they'll have the chance to prove whether or not it was an anomaly, like the 2010 girls basketball semistate.

In the meantime, the other volleyball teams in the area sick of hearing about it can work their way to the same end.

After the change in the volleyball postseason format, the region finally started picking up regional winners. But, they didn't reach past the former regional finals — or through the semistate semifinals. With the door busted open, the rest of the area has eight months to find another way through.

This column solely represents the writer's opinion. Reach her at hillary.smith@nwi.com.

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