Indiana State at Valparaiso - Wednesday, Oct. 14 - 7 p.m.
Youngstown State at Valparaiso - Friday, Oct. 16 - 7 p.m.
This Week’s Action: Valparaiso puts a season-best five-match winning streak on the line this week, as the Crusaders return home for a pair of matches. Valpo will step out of league play for the first time in nearly a month to take on Indiana State before hosting Horizon League foe Youngstown State.
The Matchups: Valpo (13-6,7-1) trails the all-time series against Indiana State (6-14) by an 11-8 margin, but the Crusaders have defeated the Sycamores in all three meetings under Carin Avery, including most recently a 30-18, 30-27, 30-19 sweep at the Kentucky Conference Challenge on Sept. 11, 2004. Valpo tallied 16 total team blocks in the sweep, including a match-best 11 rejections from Liz Mikos. The Crusaders also hit .313 with 58 kills for the match, paced by 14 kills on .367 hitting by Amy Palash.
Valpo increased its edge in the all-time series over Youngstown State (6-12, 4-4) to 13-6 with a sweep (25-21, 25-19, 25-15) in Youngstown, Ohio on Sept. 18. Amy Groesbeck had a career match against the Penguins, putting down 19 kills on .455 hitting, while Tara Diebler also stood out with 11 kills on just 18 swings. Taylor Root led all players with 17 digs on the back line.
Previously: The Crusaders passed the latest test in their schedule, ripping off four league wins in a six-day span last week. Valpo defeated Green Bay (3-0) and Milwaukee (3-2) at home before hitting the road to Chicago to down Loyola (3-1) and UIC (3-0). Kim Bukowski handed out 168 assists on the week as the Crusader offense averaged better than 15 kills/set over the four matches, while Taylor Root ended the week with 90 digs.
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 week will be carried live over the airwaves of WVUR, as well as online at www.valpoathletics.com. Live video through the Horizon League Network, as well as live stats, will be available for both matches as well.
Stringing Together Victories: Valparaiso’s current five-match winning streak is its longest of the season, and means that Carin Avery has led the Crusaders to a winning streak of at least five matches in each of her eight seasons at the helm. In total, Avery’s Valpo squads have posted 15 winning streaks of five matches or better over the last eight years. This is also the second straight year that the Crusaders have won at least five consecutive Horizon League contests, as last year’s squad closed out the league campaign with nine straight HL wins amidst a 13-match winning streak.
Halfway Done: Valpo sits tied atop the league standings at 7-1 halfway through the Horizon League slate, a start that none of the current Crusaders have experienced in league play. The last Crusader team to start its conference season this well was in 2005, when Valpo went 6-1 in the first half of the Mid-Con season before closing the conference schedule 13-1.
Success in League Play: Valpo is on an impressive run within Horizon League play currently. Going back to Oct. 12 of last season, the Crusaders have won 16 of their last 17 league matches, including nine 3-0 sweeps of their opposition. In fact, during that time frame, Valpo has played seven Horizon League road matches and has swept six of the contests, winning the other match 3-1.
Killer Instinct: The Crusaders have become known recently as a dominant squad on the offensive side of the ball, and have lived up to that reputation so far this season. Valpo, which led the nation in both kills and assists per set in 2008, currently leads the league and ranks 22nd nationally with 13.94 kills/set, and has increased its average to 14.86 kills/set in Horizon League play, also tops among league squads. Valpo is also a perfect 13-0 this season when it outkills its opponent.
Home Cooking: Valpo has started the 2009 home season 4-1, right in line with the Crusaders’ recent success at the ARC. Since Carin Avery’s arrival, the Crusaders are 70-14 (.833) in home matches, and have won at least seven matches at the ARC in each of her first seven seasons.
Player of the Week: Taylor Root earned Horizon League Defensive Player of the Week recognition on Monday for her standout efforts on the back line this past week, her first career league weekly honor. She became the second Crusader to earn league accolades this season, as Angie Porché received Horizon League Offensive Player of the Week recognition on Sept. 21. Valpo has now had 14 league weekly honorees in just 2+ seasons as a Horizon League member.
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.
Root Breaking Records: Freshman libero Taylor Root needed just 16 matches to make her first mark on the Crusader record book, breaking Valpo’s record for digs in a three-set match by tallying 31 last Tuesday against Green Bay. Root also posted more than 20 digs in Crusader victories over Milwaukee and Loyola, but had her streak of 18 straight matches leading Valpo in digs and posting double figures in the category broken Sunday against UIC, when she only had to pick up seven digs in the sweep. On the week, Root averaged an even 6.00 digs/set and earned league Defensive Player of the Week honors. The freshman currently leads all league players and ranks 33rd nationally with an average of 4.91 digs/set on the season.
Bukowski Surpasses 3K: Senior setter Kim Bukowski became just the fourth player in Crusader volleyball history to surpass the 3,000-assist milestone for her career this past Sunday against UIC, and now with 3,012 career assists, is just 49 helpers shy of third place on Valpo’s all-time chart. Bukowski, who has led the Crusaders in assists in every match this season, averaged 11.20 assists/set last week as the Crusaders improved to 7-1 in league action. Her setting has also helped Valpo to the top spot in the league in both kills/set and assists/set, both overall and in league play.
Porché Leads the Way: Senior outside hitter Angie Porché continued her steady rate of production for the Crusaders last week in four victories. Porché registered between 14 and 16 kills in all four matches, leading Valpo in three of the four contests and increasing her Valpo-program best career total to 1,841 kills. The senior, who ranks second in the league with an average of 3.51 kills/set, also contributed in the back row, picking up 40 digs on the week to close within 48 of surpassing 1,000 career digs.
Pokorny Produces All Over: Sophomore Jenny Pokorny is listed on the Crusader roster as a setter, but showcased her versatility all over the court this past week. Pokorny, who had never reached double figures in digs in a single match before this past week, hit double figures twice, including a career-best 24 in Valpo’s five-set win over Milwaukee. The sophomore’s effort against the Panthers was noteworthy all across the board, as she also posted 13 assists, six kills and four blocks in the win, the latter two numbers matching her career highs in the categories. Pokorny also posted five kills in two other matches, and led the Crusaders outright with nine digs in their sweep of UIC.
Quickly: Junior middle hitter Katie Layman recorded a new career high with 13 kills in Valpo’s sweep of Green Bay ... senior defensive specialist Haley Wise tallied three service aces last week, leaving her just one away from 50 for her career ... junior middle hitter Tara Diebler registered seven blocks against Milwaukee, matching a Valpo single-season best ... the Crusaders out-blocked UIC by a 9-6 margin on Sunday, only the second time this year Valpo has out-blocked its opponent ... Valpo picked up 102 digs in its victory over Milwaukee, the second-highest team effort since moving to 25-point rally scoring.