Through their first fall season in the Missouri Valley Conference (MVC), Valparaiso has seen its teams find success in adapting as men’s soccer (7-5-1, 3-2) and women’s soccer (8-7, 2-2) sit in third place in their respective standings, while women’s volleyball (11-10, 3-5) sits in seventh in the standings.
The jump from the Horizon League to the MVC has caused some problems for Valparaiso coaches, according to Valparaiso’s Assistant Director of Athletics Aaron Leavitt.
“Across the board it’s been a step up in competition for all our sports, our athletes are having to take that next step on the field and our coaches now have to go out and recruit at a higher level while still coaching teams that were formulated and put together for Horizon League competition,” Leavitt said.
This increased competition was seriously considered as the MVC looked to replace American Athletic Conference-bound Wichita State. MVC Commissioner Doug Elgin said conference officials were looking for a school that could come in immediately and replace Wichita State while retaining most of the talent and competitiveness the Shockers took with them.
“Valpo’s had a good start to their time here in the valley so far, they’ve provided a lot of talent and helped the conference replace Wichita State in a great way and this is no easy task as joining a new conference, with new opponents and all sorts of unfamiliarity is one of the hardest things a team can go through, so we’ve been really pleased so far,” Elgin said.
Valparaiso University accepted an invitation to join the MVC to replace Wichita State University May 25.
Loyola hasn’t had much success against Valparaiso so far going 0-3 against the Crusaders in three sports. The women’s volleyball team lost their first matchup 3-1 while the men’s and women’s soccer teams both lost 2-1.
The process for selecting Valparaiso was one of many scenarios and possibilities that the MVC had to navigate to find the right replacement. This included possibly changing the conference to 12 teams or just finding a simple replacement with consideration for other Midwestern schools such as University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, Murray State University and the University of Nebraska-Omaha before the conference decided on Valparaiso.
“We were attracted to Valpariso because of many reasons including strong national brand, great academics and athletics, a great geographical fit and finally a championship pedigree in many sports including men’s basketball,” Elgin said.
Elgin outlined three reasons that forecast Valparaiso’s impact on the MVC for current and future seasons. The university will compete in all 16 sports the MVC sponsors.
This includes a men’s basketball team that has seen success in the Horizon League, as it has made two NCAA tournaments in the past six seasons and won five Horizon League titles in that time period. This was highlighted by five 20-win seasons and forward Alec Peters getting drafted by the Phoenix Suns in the 2017 NBA Draft. Elgin said this shows the impact a team such as Valparaiso has on the conference.
“I have very high hopes for [Valparaiso] and I think in terms of tradition and talent they bring a lot to our conference, I think they’ll realize there aren’t dominant teams in every sport and there is a bit of parity in our conference, and I’m confident they’ll find their niche and be a great addition to our conference,” Elgin said.
Leavitt said Valparaiso now looks to find stability and continuity after its move from the Horizon League to the new conference with fresh opponents and a new chance to find success in a different conference.
“We’re excited as an athletic program to be in the Valley,” Leavitt said. “It’s pretty much the most prestigious mid-major out there and we were excited to get the invitation and have really enjoyed our first few months so far and continue to look toward success in the MVC.”