Bowling Green Best Western Invitational
Valpo vs. Duquesne - Friday, Sept. 14 - 3:30 p.m. CDT
Valpo vs. DePaul - Saturday, Sept. 15 - 9 a.m. CDT
Valpo at Bowling Green - Saturday, Sept. 15 - 6 p.m. CDT
The Matchups: Valparaiso travels to the last of its four early-season tournaments this weekend, heading to Bowling Green to take part in the Best Western Invitational. Valpo, which has won five of its last six matches, will face Duquesne for the first time in program history. The Crusaders will match up against DePaul for the 29th time, with the Blue Demons holding an 18-10 edge in the series, and against Bowling Green for the second time. The Falcons have won both previous matchups.
Last Meeting: The Crusaders dropped a tight five-game match to Bowling Green on Sept. 17, 2003, falling 30-23, 30-27, 21-30, 28-30, 15-12. Michelle Robinson led five Valpo players in double figures in kills with 16, while Lindsey Moore picked up a team-high 20 digs.
Valpo swept past DePaul in the middle match of the Chicagoland Classic on Aug. 26, 2006, 30-21, 30-21, 30-25. Angie Porché paced all players with 12 kills, while Jessie Fox recorded 11 kills on .435 hitting and five blocks.
Last Weekend: Valparaiso took second place in its own Popcorn Classic, recording a 2-1 record on the weekend. The Crusaders defeated Marshall and Western Michigan and fell to Indiana, which earned the tournament title. Angie Porché and Allison Sears earned All-Tournament Team honors for their performance throughout the tournament’s three matches.
On The Air: WVUR (95.1 FM - Valparaiso) will broadcast all three of Valpo’s matches this weekend from the Bowling Green Best Western Invitational. Valparaiso’s campus radio station is planning on broadcasting all 29 Crusader regular season volleyball matches this year, plus any matches as part of the Horizon League Championships. Most matches will be carried over the station’s airwaves and online at www.valpo.edu/athletics, while select matches may be carried on www.sportsjuice.com.
Good Start = Good Omen: After going 2-1 last weekend, Valparaiso holds a 6-2 record on the season. Under Carin Avery, a start that good has been a harbinger of big things to come for the Crusaders later in the season. Three of Avery’s five previous teams at Valpo have won at least six of their first eight matches: 2003 (8-0), 2004 (6-2) and 2005 (7-1). All three of those squads ended up playing in the NCAA Tournament and are the three winningest teams in Crusader history.
Change in the Blueprint?: Avery’s first few teams at Valpo were renowned for their defensive prowess, consisently ranking among the top teams in the nation and setting single-season school records in both digs and blocks. The 2006 squad looked like a different type of team, as the numbers in the defensive categories were down, but they set new school records for kills, assists and hitting percentage. So far this season, the trend seems to be the same, as the Crusaders lead the Horizon League in kills and assists and are second in hitting percentage.
Aces Wild: Through eight matches, Valpo looks like a different team from the service line than in the last few years. The Crusaders have already tallied 67 service aces this season, averaging 2.39/game and leading the league by 0.56/game. They have registered at least seven aces in six of their eight matches, including 16 in a sweep of St. Francis, matching the most in a three-game match in Valpo history. Perhaps the most improbable of the Valpo servers is Allison Sears. Sears, a middle blocker who served just 40 times total her first two seasons, leads the team with 14 aces through eight matches and is tied for second in the Horizon League with 0.50 aces/game.
Beating Mid-Majors: The Crusaders have taken care of business early on in the season against good teams from other mid-major leagues. Valpo is already 3-0 against teams from the Mid-American Conference, including a sweep of Western Michigan, which was picked to win the MAC West Division. The Brown and Gold also own wins over teams from the America East Conference, the Northeast Conference, and Conference USA.
Crusaders Tabbed Third: The Horizon League coaches have picked Valparaiso to finish third in its first season of play in the league. The Crusaders tallied 50 points and two first-place votes in the polling, in which a first-place vote is worth eight points. Milwaukee is the preseason favorite to win the championship, garnering 58 points and five first-place votes, followed by Cleveland State. UIC, Green Bay, Loyola, Wright State, Butler and Youngstown State round out the polling.
A Trio of Seniors: The 2007 Crusaders feature three seniors: setter Sara Hughes, outside hitter Tiffany Meikle and right side hitter Nicole Schulz. All three seniors were members of the team’s starting lineup last year and look to be again this year. This senior class has gone 79-25 in their first three years and have made two appearances in the NCAA Tournament.
Blasting Away: Sophomore outside hitter Angie Porché had a night to remember Saturday against Western Michigan. Porché put down 22 kills on .500 hitting in Valpo’s sweep of the Broncos, marking the second-most kills in a three-game match in Crusader history. She earned All-Tournament Team honors at the Popcorn Classic for her performance over the tournament’s three matches, tallying 54 kills on .319 hitting. Porché also did a great job in the back row on serve receive in the tournament, committing just one service reception error on 80 attempts. The sophomore currently ranks second in the Horizon League with 4.24 kills/game.
Force in the Middle: Junior middle blocker Allison Sears once again excelled last weekend for the Crusaders, earning All-Tournament honors at the Popcorn Classic. The junior posted 42 kills on .255 hitting over the three matches, including 19 terminations while swinging at a .308 clip in Valpo’s win over Marshall. Sears also registered 10 blocks on the weekend, and has now led the Crusaders in blocks in all eight of their matches this season. She has showcased her versatility so far this year, ranking among the league’s top-five in kills (4.00/game, 4th), aces (0.50/game, t-2nd) and blocks (1.14/game, 5th).
Libero Extraordinaire: After earning Horizon League Defensive Player of the Week honors on Sept. 4, junior libero Brittany Malicoat continued her fine play on the back row last weekend for Valpo. Just eight days after picking up her 1,000th career dig against Buffalo, Malicoat capped the Popcorn Classic by reaching 1,100 digs with her final dig against Western Michigan. The junior recorded 55 digs on the weekend and led all players in the category in all three matches. Malicoat has now paced Valpo in digs in 50 consecutive matches, has led all players 15 straight times and has reached double-figures in 26 straight contests.
Setting the Pace: Senior setter Sara Hughes recorded 119 assists over the three matches of the Popcorn Classic last weekend. Her best match occurred Saturday night in Valpo’s sweep of Western Michigan, as she handed out 48 assists while also picking up 10 digs for her second double-double of the season. Hughes, who currently ranks third in the league with 10.36 assists/game, is sixth on Valpo’s all-time chart with 1,847 career assists.