VALPO THIS WEEK: FRIDAY, November 10 - 7:00 p.m. - Jacoby D. Dickens Center - Valpo at Chicago State
SATURDAY, November 11 - 6:00 p.m. - IUPUI Gymnasium - Valpo at IUPUI
ON THE AIR: Both matches will be carried live in their entireties on www.sportsjuice.com. Adam Amin and Maggie Foley will have the call of the Chicago State match, while Eric Brooks will join Amin for the IUPUI match.
THE MATCHUPS: The Crusaders enjoy an astounding 32-1 advantage all-time against Chicago State. Valpo dropped its first ever match against the Cougars in 1981, and then starting in 1985, have won 32 consecutive matches against the Second City squad, including a sweep earlier this season. Valpo's record against IUPUI is a lot closer, as the Crusaders are 14-12 all-time against the Jaguars, including a three-game victory earlier this year at the ARC. Four Crusaders reached double figures in kills in that victory, led by 12 from Allison Sears, while Brittany Marks tallied 21 digs.
VALPO LAST WEEK: The Crusaders moved into sole possession of second place in the Mid-Con standings last week with wins over UMKC and Western Illinois. Valpo swept the Kangaroos, led by 18 kills on just 30 attacks from Nicole Schulz. The Brown and Gold then took care of business on Senior Night, winning in four against the Westerwinds. Senior Jessie Fox led Valpo with 19 kills, while senior Alex Chism had nine digs.
SCOUTING CHICAGO STATE: The Cougars have struggled throughout the 2006 campaign, dropping all 30 of their matches to date while winning just six games in the 30 matches. Nine of their matches have been at the Jacoby D. Dickens Center, where most recently they were swept by Indiana State. Chicago State's offense has been subpar, as the Cougars are hitting just .029 as a team this year. Leading CSU on all sides of the ball is Jessica Khouri. Khouri paces the Cougars with 1.94 kills/game, 0.65 blocks/game, and a .099 hitting percentage. Katie Pommier has been the primary setter for Chicago State this year, averaging 6.55 assists/game, while Keaton Turner leads the team with 3.20 digs/game.
SCOUTING IUPUI: Despite sitting at just 11-18 overall, IUPUI has clinched a berth in the Mid-Con Championship with a 6-4 conference record entering this weekend's play. Devika Bellamy has been leading the Jaguars, taking care of setting duties half the time while playing as an outside hitter the other half of the time. As a result, she has recorded numerous triple-doubles this season, and ranks first on the team in assists (6.22/game) and hitting percentage (.254), second in kills (3.13/game) and digs (3.05/game), and third in blocks (0.47/game). Carol Newell leads the Jags with 3.29 kills/game, while Christy McConnell has seen the majority of playing time at libero this season for IUPUI, recording 3.97 digs/game.
MID-CON FIELD SET: With their win over UMKC last Friday, the Crusaders clinched a berth into the Mid-Con Championship, set to take place next weekend in Tulsa, Okla. Valpo's win over Western Illinois Saturday guaranteed the Brown and Gold at least the #3 seed in the tournament. Oral Roberts clinched the outright regular season crown and the #1 tournament seed last weekend, but the order of finish behind the Golden Eagles is still up in the air. Valparaiso holds tiebreakers over both Western Illinois and IUPUI, as well as the three-way tiebreaker if all three squads should tie in the standings, based on game winning percentage. If the Crusaders end up in a tie for second place, it would mark the sixth straight season Valpo has finished at least second in the standings.
20/20/20/20/20 VISION: Twenty wins. The number is one of those milestones that needs no explanation as to its significance. For the Valpo volleyball program, two more wins this year means a fifth consecutive season reaching the mark, all of them under current head coach Carin Avery. Prior to the start of the streak, the Crusaders had registered just five 20-win seasons in program history, with a three-season stretch from 1994-1996 being the best previous streak.
HOME SWEET HOME: Since Carin Avery took the helm of the Crusader program prior to the 2002 season, Valpo has been a juggernaut on its home court of the Athletics-Recreation Center. Avery's teams have recorded a 51-7 home record (.879) in her five seasons as head coach. Only two Mid-Con schools have beaten the Crusaders at home over that five-year stretch: IUPUI in five games in 2003, and Oral Roberts in five games earlier this season.
PRESEASON POLL: The Mid-Con's seven head coaches picked the Oral Roberts Golden Eagles to end Valpo's run at the top of the league this season, and so far they've been right on, as the Golden Eagles lead the league with a 9-0 record. In the preseason poll, Valpo checked in second with Western Illinois third, IUPUI fourth, Oakland fifth, UMKC sixth and Centenary seventh. The Westerwinds earned the one first place vote not given to the Golden Eagles in the league.
QUICKLY: Three more wins would make this year's senior class the winningest class in Crusader volleyball history.
SCINTILLATING SCHULZ STANDS OUT: Middle blocker Nicole Schulz was named the Mid-Con's Offensive Player of the Week last week after recording two standout matches against UMKC and Western Illinois, helping Valpo gain sole possession of second place in the league. Schulz led all players with 18 kills in the UMKC match, and also hit at an astounding .533 clip in that match. Against Western Illinois, Schulz once again picked up 18 kills and hit .361 while also registering four blocks. Her 18 kills in each match matched her career-high for a single match. Schulz ranks among the best in the league in kills (3.23/game, fifth), hitting percentage (.326, 3rd), and blocks (1.11/game, fourth), and is the only Mid-Con athlete to rank in the top-five in each of the three categories. Her hitting percentage would break the current Valpo single-season record held by Kelly Schoenhoft at .311, while she is also just 15 blocks shy of breaking into the single-season top-10 in that category.
FOX ROCKS THE CHARTS: Middle blocker Jessie Fox is one of the most decorated players in Crusader history. A two-time Second Team All-Conference honoree, she has received Offensive Player of the Week honors from the league twice. She was named tournament MVP at the Ball State Classic as a sophomore and again at the Chicagoland Classic earlier this season. She also received All-Tournament accolades at the Mid-Con Championship last season after setting a tournament record by registering 19 blocks over two matches. Fox ranks among Valpo's all-time top-10 in kills (1,018, 9th), blocks (397, 4th), and hitting percentage (.258, 4th), and has also recorded two of the top-five single season block totals in program history. She needs just three more blocks to become just the second player to reach 1,000 career kills and 400 career blocks while donning the Crusader uniform (Lauren Moulton).
HUGHES DISHES THE BALL: The value of a consistent setter to a successful volleyball offense is often overlooked. After losing two-time Mid-Con Setter of the Year Katie Bova to graduation after the 2005 campaign, Carin Avery turned to junior Sara Hughes to quarterback the Valpo offense entering the 2006 season. Hughes, who appeared in just 22 matches and registered just 169 assists in her first two seasons as a Crusader, has stepped right in without a hitch this year, recording 1,096 assists to this point in the season, just 56 assists shy of Valpo's single-season top-10 in the category. Hughes' average of 11.54 assists/game is good for second in the Mid-Con, and she holds the three highest single-match assist totals in the league this year, led by 78 helpers at Western Illinois. Hughes has shown she can contribute in other areas as well, as she has registered 66 kills this year while hitting .225 and is also recording almost two digs per game.
MARKS LEADS THE BACK LINE: Sophomore libero Brittany Marks continues to pick up the digs match after match for Valpo. Marks is working on a streak of 36 consecutive matches leading the Crusaders in digs. She is averaging 5.30 digs/game this year, third in the league, and is tied for third in the league with 0.41 service aces/game, the only person ranked in the top-four in both categories. Her 546 total digs on the season is the second-best single-season total in Valpo program history, trailing just Sara Silcox's 2004 mark of 602 digs. In addition, Marks has registered 42 aces on the season, just one shy of breaking into the Crusader single-season top-10 in that category.
PORCHÃ? IN THE FAST LANE: Freshman Angie PorchÃ© is taking aim at the Mid-Continent Conference Newcomer of the Year award with her performance this season. PorchÃ© leads the Crusaders and is second in the Mid-Con, averaging 3.67 kills/game. She also ranks just outside the league's top-10 in hitting percentage, swinging at a .238 clip.