THIS WEEK: Valpo at Catamount Clash V Tournament in Cullowhee, N.C. (vs. High Point, Friday 9:00 a.m., vs. Kennesaw State, Friday at 3:30 p.m. & at Western Carolina, Saturday at 8:00 a.m.).
ON THE AIR: The entire Catamount Clash V Tournament will be carried live on 95.1 FM and at www.valpo.edu/athletics. The Source 95's Eric Brooks and Miles Janssen voice call the action live from Cullowhee, N.C.
CATAMOUNT CLASH V TOURNAMENT: In the four previous Catamount Clash Tournaments, the hosts from Western Carolina have won three times. If they are to do it again this year they will have to get through a tough field that includes the three-time Mid-Con Champion Crusaders, Kent State, High Point and Kennesaw State. Live stats and updates of all tournament matches will be available all weekend at www.catamountsports.com.
VALPO LAST WEEK: The Crusaders stumbled at the Cyclone Classic in Ames, Iowa, falling 3-0 to host Iowa State Friday night before dropping another 3-0 decision Saturday morning to South Dakota State. After a short bus trip down the road to Des Moines, however, the Crusaders got things straightened out Saturday night, dropping Drake 3-0 in their own gym. Brittany Marks had a monster night for Valpo, setting a three-game single-match school record with 30 digs against the Bulldogs.
SCOUTING HIGH POINT: A member of the Big South Conference, the Panthers enter this weekend's action in need of a few wins before moving into conference play. High Point is only 1-8, and has lost five straight matches including four in a row at the Nike-Portland Invitational last weekend. The Panthers picked up their lone win of the season September 1 against North Carolina A&T and are led by junior Jamie Kaufman who has 95 kills this year.
SCOUTING KENNESAW STATE: The Owls are the newest collegiate volleyball program in the nation, only nine matches in to their first season of competition. Kennesaw has already earned the first win in program history, doing that in their last match, a 3-0 win over Providence at the Chesapeake Challenge in Baltimore. Jenny Black, a freshman from Mishawaka (Ind.) High School, is Kennesaw's offensive leader with a 2.03 kills/game average.
SCOUTING WESTERN CAROLINA: The tournament's hosts, Western Carolina is also off to a very rough start this season. The Catamounts are only 2-10 on the young year after dropping their first five matches of the season. The team was starting to show signs of improvement last weekend, however, beating Air Force in four before suffering a tough five-game loss to Central Arkansas at Morehead State's Comfort Inn Invitational. Senior hitter Heather Koontz is having a big start to the season, already with 126 kills and a 2.93/game average. Koontz was named to the Southern Conference Honor Roll in 2005.
CRUSADERS ¬?KILL' COMPETITION: Through 10 matches this season, the Crusaders have already racked up 548 kills and 14.81 kill/game average, the highest in the Mid-Con. The Brown and Gold have been getting great balance across the board offensively, with four different hitters totalling at least 92 kills and three averaging more than 3.00 kills/game, amd four different players have led the team in kills during a single match this year, Angie Porch√©, Allison Sears, Nicole Schulz and senior Jessie Fox. Fox is closing in on the all-time top 10 list with 800 career kills, but she ranks only fourth on the team right now in that category. Porch√©, a freshman, is leading the group and is trying to become the first Crusader rookie since Lauren Struss in 1992 to lead the Brown and Gold in kills over a full season.
THAT NASTY ¬?R' WORD: Despite losing five starters, including some of Valpo's best ever players, off last season's 27-8 team the Crusaders aren't rebuilding. Juniors Sara Hughes and Nicole Schulz have emerged from near obscurity in their first two years to become major parts of this year's team, and a talented crop of sophomores and freshman have the Crusaders back in contention for a fourth-straight Mid-Con Regular Season and Tournament Championship.
ALL-TOURNEY TIME: Four different Crusaders started the year with some hardware, placing on the Chicagoland Classic All-Tournament Team. Jessie Fox, the MVP, was joined by Brittany Marks, Angie Porch√© and Allison Sears. Fox and Marks earned Mid-Con Offensive and Defensive Player of the Week honors, respectively, for their performances and Marks made another All-Tournament team one week later when she did so at the Shamrock Invitational.
PRESEASON PICKS: Despite winning the last three Mid-Con Regular Season and Tournament championships, Valpo was picked to finish second in the league this season behind Oral Roberts. The reloading Crusaders return only one starter (and their libero) from last season, and preseason number one Oral Roberts returns nearly everyone from a season ago, including Player of the Year Ori Zuzic.
QUICKLY: Valpo has never played any of this weekend's opponents.
FRESHMAN ON FIRE: Angie Porch√©, who finished her outstanding prep career by being named the Northwest Indiana Times Player of the Year in 2005 is quickly becoming Valpo's best offensive threat, only ten matches into her career. Porch√© ranks third in the Mid-Con in kills/game and leads the Crusaders in kills, kills/game, attacks and aces. The rookie has also showed off her ability defensively this year with 14 blocks, using her superior athleticism to get over the net despite standing only 5'9." Porch√© has also been remarkably consistent this year, picking up double-digit kills in nine of ten matches, with the only miss coming against #6 Santa Clara when she led the team with seven kills, one of five times this season Porch√© has led the team in kills.
RE¬?MARKS'ABLE: One of only two returning Crusader starters, libero Brittany Marks is one of the most experienced Valpo players despite being only a sophomore. And last Saturday at Drake, Marks etched her name into the Crusader record book with a jaw-dropping 30-dig night in Valpo's 3-0 win. Marks broke Karen Kulick's school record for digs in a three-game match, set in 1990, by one, erasing one of the oldest marks in the Valpo record book. The sophomore is also putting together a phenomenal season overall, averaging 5.24 digs/game, second in the conference. Seven times in ten matches Marks has dug at least 18 balls, including four matches with at least 24 digs.
OUT OF NOWHERE: The breakout star of 2006, Nicole Schulz is quietly having a great year after two full seasons of mop-up duty from the bench. The junior's been at her best by keeping the ball in the court, making only 39 errors on 264 attacks this season, and hitting a team-high .284, the third best mark in the conference, and while it is still early, that number would rank in the top 10 in school history for a single-season. The Wisconsin native hasn't limited herself to offense either, sitting second on the team currently with 36 blocks (four solos), and averaging an even 1.00 blocks/game this season.
SEARS STOCK SOARING: Sophomore middle Allison Sears is fully healthy after a knee injury suffered in high school limited her a season ago, and she's been impressive both offensively and defensively for the Brown and Gold. A highly-touted prep athlete, Sears is second on the team in kills (118) and leads the Crusaders with 39 blocks. Sears, who went to high school with Brittany Marks in Elkhart, Ind., had only 31 kills and five blocks last year.
BLOCK IT LIKE A FOX: A two-time All-Conference honoree and a full-time starter each of the last two seasons, senior Jessie Fox is easily the most experienced Crusader. Trying to become the first player in school history to win four conference titles and go to four NCAA Tournaments, Fox is on pace to make some pretty significant history of her own. If she continues at her current pace, she should easily join 2005 senior Lauren Moulton as the only two players in school history with 400 blocks and 1,000 kills. Entering this weekend's action, Fox has an even 800 kills in her career and 337 blocks.
THE FORGOTTEN FRESHMAN: Lost in the shadow of Angie Porch√©'s monster freshman season is the fact that rookie Val Bollenbacher has looked very impressive lately. For the first time in her career, Bollenbacher played all three games of Saturday's match against Drake, and she was a big part of the offense with a career-high 15 attacks. The Bremen, Ind. native started her career with a bang, picking up three kills on four attacks in a four-game win at UIC August 25, and had a career-best four kills against #6 Santa Clara.
HUGHES MAKES HISTORY: In her first year as the primary Valpo setter, junior Sara Hughes has already made some big noise. Back on September 2, Hughes had 69 assists in the Crusaders' five-game win over Idaho at the Shamrock Invitational. The 69 assists were the fifth highest total in a five-game match ever, and one of three times this season Hughes has had at least 50 helpers.