*Butler at Valparaiso - Friday, Oct. 2 - 7 p.m.
This Week’s Action: It is a brief but important week for the Valparaiso volleyball team, as the Crusaders host in-state rival Butler on Friday evening. The matchup against the Bulldogs, which enter the week as the Horizon League’s only undefeated squad in league play, has been designated as Blackout Night at the ARC, with all fans encouraged to wear black to support the Crusaders.
The Matchups: Valpo (8-6, 2-1) trails the all-time series with Butler (12-7, 3-0) by a 22-7 margin, but has turned the tables since joining the Horizon League, going 4-1 against the Bulldogs over the past two seasons. Most recently at the ARC on Oct. 17, 2008, the Crusaders took a 3-1 (23-25, 25-19, 25-18, 25-16) victory over Butler. Valpo was led by a match-high 21 kills from Angie Porché, while Allison Sears added 19 kills on .500 hitting to go along with five blocks. Brittany Malicoat picked up a match-best 31 digs on the back line.
Previously: The Crusaders split their first two home matches of the season last weekend, rallying from a 1-2, 17-22 deficit to earn a 3-2 victory over Wright State on Friday before being swept by Cleveland State on Saturday. Porché led Valpo with 32 kills on the weekend, while Tara Diebler posted 24 terminations of her own.
Looking Ahead: While this week only contains one match, next week the tables are turned, as the Crusaders will face one of their most important stretches of the season with four league matches in a six-day span. Valpo will host Green Bay and Milwaukee on Tuesday and Wednesday (Oct. 6/7) before traveling to take on Loyola and UIC on Saturday and Sunday (Oct. 10/11).
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. The Butler match will be carried live over the airwaves of WVUR, as well as online at www.valpoathletics.com, which will also have a link for live stats for the match against the Bulldogs. Live video through the Horizon League Network will also be available.
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 8-0 when they outkill their opponent, but 0-6 when they trail in the category. But when Valpo has held the advantage, it has held it in a big way, as six 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 13.37 kills/set ranks 53rd in the nation.
Home Cooking: Valpo reaches the midpoint of a five-match homestand this Friday, a welcome sight on the schedule after playing its first 12 matches of the season away from home. Under Carin Avery, the Crusaders have had tremendous success at the Athletics-Recreation Center, owning a 67-14 (.827) record as she enters her eighth season. In each of the last seven years, Valpo has won at least seven home matches each season.
Spreading Out All-Tournament Accolades: The Crusaders had a number of players step up on the court over the season’s first four weekends during pre-league play, 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 on Sept. 21 for her performance the previous 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 Leads the Way: Senior outside hitter Angie Porché has now led the Crusaders in kills in four straight matches following her performances last weekend. In Friday’s come-from-behind victory over Wright State, the senior posted a season-best 23 kills while swinging at a .375 clip. Porché also recorded 13 digs defensively, picking up her third double-double of the season. She also led the Crusaders offensively against Cleveland State Saturday with nine kills. On the year, Porché is averaging 3.27 kills/set, good for fourth among Horizon League players, and has increased that average to 3.73 kills/set in league play.
Diebler Continues to Produce: Junior middle hitter Tara Diebler continued her torrid stretch of offensive production last weekend. After hitting at a .457 clip with 2.6 kills/set two weekends ago over three matches, Diebler had the best offensive match of her career this past Friday against Wright State. The junior smashed her previous career high with 19 kills in the win over the Raiders, hitting at a .389 clip. She also matched her career best with four service aces, including back-to-back aces during Valpo’s fourth-set rally. In league play to date, Diebler ranks third in aces (0.36/set), fourth in hitting percentage (.357) and seventh in kills (3.18/set).
Bukowski Sets Them All Up: Senior setter Kim Bukowski continued her ascension up Valpo’s all-time assists chart last weekend. Bukowski handed out 60 assists, a season-best and just six off of her career high, in the win over Wright State, in the process surpassing Kelly Olson for fourth place on the Crusaders’ career assists list. After handing out 24 assists against Cleveland State, she now has 2,817 career assists, just 244 shy of third place on the chart. On the season, Bukowski is averaging 8.92 assists/set, a mark which has increased to 11.45 assists/set in Horizon League play.
Root Continues Consistency: Freshman libero Taylor Root has had a remarkable start to her Crusader career. Over Valpo’s first 14 matches, she has posted at least ten digs every time out. Root has also led the Crusaders in digs in all 14 matches, and has led all players ten times, including each of the last five matches. Last weekend, the freshman posted 24 digs against Wright State and 13 against Cleveland State, and now ranks second in the league and 52nd nationally with 4.57 digs/set.
Quickly: Junior outside hitter Andrea Balsis set a new career high in digs for the fourth time this season, registering 20 digs against Wright State ... sophomore outside hitter Katie Britton reached double figures in kills for the sixth time this year with ten kills in the win over the Raiders ... freshman outside hitter Mary Dent matched her career high with five kills against Cleveland State despite playing just 14 points ... the Crusaders have added walk-on freshman Alyssa Updegrave to their roster, a native of Trinity, Fla. who earned two letters at J.W. Mitchell H.S.