*Wright State at Valparaiso - Friday, Sept. 25 - 7 p.m.
*Cleveland State at Valparaiso - Saturday, Sept. 26 - 7 p.m.
This Weekend’s Action: After four weekends on the road in Florida, Iowa, Illinois, Ohio and Pennsylvania, Valparaiso finally opens the 2009 home campaign at the Athletics-Recreation Center this weekend with matches against Horizon League foes Wright State and Cleveland State.
The Matchups: Valparaiso (7-5, 1-0) trails the all-time series with Wright State (8-5, 0-1) 14-6 and leads the series with Cleveland State (11-4, 1-0) by an identical 14-6 margin. But the Crusaders’ luck against the two squads has been reversed since joining the Horizon League, as Valpo is 3-1 against the Raiders and 2-4 against the Vikings over the last two years.
The Crusaders are actually opening this year’s home slate with the same opponent they closed the ARC last year with, as Valpo swept Wright State (25-19, 25-19, 25-16) in its regular season finale on Nov. 15, 2008. Angie Porché and Allison Sears each tallied 13 kills as the Crusaders cruised to the 3-0 win behind a .302 hitting performance as a team.
Valpo’s last matchup with Cleveland State came in Cleveland in the semifinals of the 2008 Horizon League Championship, and the back-and-forth match that featured 44 ties and 16 lead changes over the five sets eventually went to the Vikings (26-24, 20-25, 25-23, 23-25, 15-11). The Crusaders got 16 kills apiece from Porché, Sears and Val Bollenbacher, while Jill Meyer also chipped in 12 kills. Brittany Malicoat led all players with 23 digs.
Previously: The Crusaders opened Horizon League play on Friday with a sweep of Youngstown State and continued east on Saturday to play in the Pitt Blue and Gold Tournament, sweeping Maryland-Eastern Shore before dropping a hard-fought four-set match to the host Panthers. Angie Porché was awarded All-Tournament honors for her performance in Saturday’s pair of matches.
Following the Crusaders: The sports staff at Valparaiso’s campus radio station, WVUR 95.1 FM, will be broadcasting most of the Crusaders’ volleyball matches this season. Both matches this weekend will be carried live over the airwaves of WVUR, as well as online at www.valpoathletics.com, which will also have links to live stats for both matches. Live video through the Horizon League Network will also be available for both matches as well.
Three and Out: One of the most impressive streaks in Crusader volleyball history looks to continue this weekend as Valpo hosts league foes Wright State and Cleveland State. The Crusaders kicked off the 2009 league slate last Friday with a sweep of Youngstown State, extending its streak of consecutive sets won in Horizon League regular season play to 24. Valpo has not dropped a set in Horizon League action since losing the opening frame to Milwaukee on Oct. 24, 2008, sweeping its last seven league matches.
Kills = Wins: It’s a simple concept, in that kills are the most common ways to score points - if you out-kill your opponent, you’re probably going to win the match. The Crusaders have held true to that so far in 2009, going 7-0 when they outkill their opponent, but 0-5 when they trail in the category. But when Valpo has held the advantage, it has held it in a big way, as five times the Crusaders have had a double-figure advantage in kills over the opposition. Valpo enters the week averaging nearly two kills per set more than its opposition, while its average of 13.49 kills/set ranks among the nation’s top-50.
Spreading Out All-Tournament Accolades: The Crusaders have had a number of players step up on the court over the season’s first four weekends, as five different Valpo athletes earned All-Tournament honors. Taylor Root earned recognition at both the Campus USA Credit Union Invite and the Hampton Inn Drake Invitational, joined on the latter squad by Katie Britton. Kim Bukowski and Amy Groesbeck both earned All-Tournament accolades at the Saluki Invitational, while Angie Porché most recently was recognized at the Pitt Blue and Gold Tournament.
Player of the Week: Angie Porché became the first Crusader to earn Horizon League Player of the Week honors this year, receiving Offensive recognition for her performance last weekend. It was the third HL weekly honor of the senior’s career, and marks the 13th time a Valpo player has earned weekly accolades in just 28 weeks as a league member.
AVCA Honors: After senior outside hitter Angie Porché made Crusader history by earning Honorable Mention All-American and All-Midwest Region honors from the AVCA in 2007, Valpo found itself well represented on the AVCA squads last year. Porché repeated as an All-Region and Honorable Mention All-American honoree, while she was joined on both teams by graduated libero Brittany Malicoat. Senior setter Kim Bukowski also earned recognition as an Honorable Mention All-Region honoree.
Tabbed Second: Valparaiso has been projected to finish second in the Horizon League this season in preseason polling of the league’s nine head coaches. The Crusaders received two of the nine first-place votes en route to tallying 58 points. Defending league champion Milwaukee received the other seven first-place nods and totaled 63 points, while Cleveland State, Butler, Wright State, Loyola, UIC, Youngstown State and Green Bay rounded out the polling in order.
Porché Picks Up Hardware: Senior outside hitter Angie Porché appears to be rounding into form right in time for Horizon League play. The senior was named the league’s Offensive Player of the Week and also received All-Tournament accolades at the Pitt Blue and Gold Tournament, the eighth All-Tournament team of her career. She kicked off the week with nine kills in a sweep of Youngstown State, began Saturday with ten kills on .364 hitting in a sweep of 2008 MEAC champion Maryland-Eastern Shore, and then hit a season-best .433 in the nightcap against the host Panthers, posting a team-high 17 kills and also tallying eight digs. On the year, Porché leads the Crusaders and is tied for third in the league with 3.14 kills/set, while also averaging 2.21 digs/set, second-most among Valpo players.
Diebler Dialed In: Junior middle hitter Tara Diebler served as an extremely potent offensive threat over Valpo’s three matches last week. Diebler terminated over half the sets that came her way on the weekend, putting down 2.60 kills/set. She kicked off the league slate with 11 kills on just 18 swings in the sweep of YSU, hitting at a .556 clip. The junior then posted eight kills in Valpo’s sweep of Maryland-Eastern Shore before putting down seven kills on .545 hitting against Pitt. On the season, Diebler is hitting at a .248 clip, best among Valpo’s primary hitters, and also leads the team in service aces.
Root Continues Consistency: Freshman libero Taylor Root has had a remarkable start to her Crusader career. In Valpo’s first 12 matches, Root has not only reached double figures in digs in every match, but has also led the Crusaders in the category every time out. The freshman continued her productivity last weekend, putting up 17 and 14 digs in sweeps of Youngstown State and UMES, respectively, before posting a weekend-high 18 digs in the match against Pitt. On the year, Root is averaging 4.56 digs/set, second in the Horizon League and among the top-60 in the nation in the category.
Balsis in the Back Row: Junior outside hitter Andrea Balsis has become a regular in the back row for Valpo this season and has had some of her best performances in the past couple weeks. Balsis reached double figures for the first time in digs Sept. 12 against Southern Illinois, but obliterated her career high the next time out at Youngstown State last Friday, needing just three sets to pick up 16 digs. The junior proceeded to tally ten digs versus UMES and eight against Pitt, averaging 3.40 digs/set on the weekend.
Quickly: Sophomore right side Amy Groesbeck had a monster match in the HL opener at Youngstown State, posting a career-best 19 kills on .455 hitting ... Groesbeck also played all the way around the court for the first time in her career last weekend, picking up 21 digs over the three matches, including a career-high ten against Pitt, registering her first career double-double ... senior setter Kim Bukowski dished out a season-best 46 assists versus the Panthers ... Bukowski is now just 48 assists shy of fourth place on Valpo’s all-time list in the category.