*Valparaiso at Youngstown State – Friday, Nov. 2 – 6 p.m. CDT
*Valparaiso at Cleveland State – Saturday, Nov. 3 – 3 p.m. CDT
The Matchups: Valparaiso kicks off its season-ending road trip this weekend with key Horizon League matches at Youngstown State and Cleveland State. The Crusaders, who are fighting to earn the third seed in the upcoming Horizon League Championships, are 10-5 all-time against the Penguins and 12-3 against the Vikings.
Last Meetings: Valparaiso fought back from a two games to one deficit to force a fifth game Oct. 3 at the ARC, but Youngstown State eventually prevailed 3-2 (30-22, 19-30, 30-11, 27-30, 15-12). Brittany Malicoat paced the back line with 39 digs, the most in a five-game match in Valpo history and the second-most in any match.
Valparaiso and Cleveland State were tied at one game apiece after two games, but the Vikings took the next two to earn the 3-1 (30-16, 21-30, 30-26, 30-25) victory over the Crusaders on Oct. 2 at the ARC. Angie Porché paced the Crusaders with 20 kills, while Tara Newton posted a then career-best 11 kills on .450 hitting. Newton also registered three service aces and a career-high seven digs.
Last Week: Valparaiso closed out the home campaign at the Athletics-Recreation Center with a split last weekend, falling to League leader Milwaukee in five games before sweeping Green Bay. Angie Porché led Valpo in kills in both matches, tallying 38 terminations over the two matches. Brittany Malicoat posted 57 digs on the weekend, while Katie Layman led Valpo at the net with 11 blocks.
On The Air: WVUR (95.1 FM - Valparaiso) will not broadcast either of this weekends’ matches over its airwaves. Valparaiso’s campus radio station is planning on broadcasting most of the 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.
Fighting for Position: The Crusaders enter the weekend deadlocked for third place in the Horizon League standings with Wright State. With Milwaukee poised to clinch the championship’s top seed, to win the third seed is valuable, as it will allow the team to avoid facing the Panthers, who will be hosting the championship, until a possible matchup in the championship match.
Offense at the Top: Valpo is one of the top teams in the Horizon League in the offensive categories. The Crusaders currently rank second in kills with 16.09/game, trailing only Milwaukee, pace League teams with 15.20 assists/game and sit a close third in hitting percentage at .216. Nationally, the Crusaders rank 21st in assists/game and 41st in kills/game.
Digging Deep: Valparaiso has enjoyed a distinct edge in digs over its opponents all season long. The Crusaders, while next to last in the Horizon League in the category, currently rank 89th nationally with 17.24 digs/game. Through 25 matches, the Crusaders have out-dug their opponents 24 times, with the only exception being the match at League foe Milwaukee. Valpo turned the tables on the Panthers in the digs category last Friday, however, tallying 98 digs to Milwaukee’s 91, as five different Crusaders reached double figures in the category.
Aces Come in Spades: With at least six matches remaining in 2007, this year’s Crusaders already rank eighth in a single season in Valpo history in service aces with 192. The 2007 squad is also poised to register the most aces of any Avery-led team, a mark currently held by the 2003 squad with 200 aces. Valpo leads the HL and ranks 41st nationally with 2.02 aces/game and currently boasts the top two individuals in the League in the category.
Avery Approaching Milestone: Crusader head coach Carin Avery is just two wins shy of 200 in her coaching career. She is poised to reach the mark less than four years after recording her 100th career victory, which occurred Nov. 14, 2003 against Oakland.
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.
Malicoat Moving Up: Junior libero Brittany Malicoat continues to move up Valpo’s all-time digs chart. Posting 57 digs over two matches last weekend, Malicoat now has 1,504 career digs, making her only the fourth player in Valpo history to reach the 1,500 dig milestone. She kicked off the week with a 32-dig effort against league leader Milwaukee and followed with 25 digs in the Crusaders’ sweep of Green Bay, both match-high totals. She currently leads the Horizon League with 5.85 digs/game, a mark which ranks 17th nationally, and has stepped it up in league play, averaging 6.31 digs/game. So far this season, she has registered 556 digs, the third-most in a single season in Valpo history with at least six matches to play. Malicoat is also just 24 digs shy of breaking the League single-season digs record. Also a threat from the service line, Malicoat now has 105 career aces, just three shy of Valpo’s all-time top-ten in the category. She ranks second in the HL this season with 0.38 aces/game.
Porché the Terminator: Sophomore outside hitter Angie Porché continued to stand out fror the Crusaders last weekend. The sophomore picked up team-high totals of 20 kills against Milwaukee and 18 kills against Green Bay, while also hitting at a .471 clip against the Phoenix. She earned her 10th and 11th double-doubles of the season as well, registering 14 and 13 digs, respectively. Porché continues to pace the Horizon League in kills/game (4.70) and aces/game (0.39), and has stepped up in league play with a conference-best 4.90 kills/game. Her overall kills average is good for 34th nationally.
Schulz Comes Back: Senior right side hitter Nicole Schulz made her first appearances in the Crusader lineup in over a month last weekend. Schulz returned to the court against Milwaukee, tallying 16 kills on .297 hitting while chipping in three blocks. On Senior Night versus Green Bay, she posted 11 kills on .320 hitting and registered five rejections. Schulz has now recorded double figures in kills in each of her last four matches and seven times total this season.
Setters Step Up: With the return of Schulz, Valpo was able to switch back to the 6-2 offense last weekend, and both Crusader setters took full advantage. Both senior Sara Hughes and sophomore Kim Bukowski posted double-doubles against the Panthers (Hughes: 31 assists, 16 digs; Bukowski: 33 assists, 10 digs), and Hughes added another double-double against the Phoenix with 27 assists and 11 digs, while Bukowski dished out 22 helpers versus Green Bay.