UIC at Valparaiso - Friday, Nov. 6 - 7 p.m.
Loyola at Valparaiso - Saturday, Nov. 7 - 4 p.m.
This Week’s Action: Valparaiso starts down the home stretch of the regular season this weekend, as the Crusaders host UIC on Friday night before welcoming Loyola to the ARC on Saturday afternoon. The Crusaders currently sit in second place in the Horizon League standings with just four matches to go in the league season.
The Matchups: Valpo (18-8, 9-3) trails the all-time series with UIC (15-13, 8-5), 21-16, but is 4-1 against the Flames since joining the Horizon League, including a 3-0 sweep (25-18, 25-23, 25-19) Oct. 11 in Chicago. The Crusaders hit .265 for the match to the Flames’ .155 clip and out-blocked UIC 9-6, including a match-high five rejections from Katie Layman.
The Crusaders also trail the all-time series against Loyola (11-15, 4-9) 24-10, but again has held the advantage since becoming a Horizon League member, going a perfect 5-0 against the Ramblers over the last three years. Most recently, Valpo came away with a 3-1 (25-13, 25-22, 16-25, 25-22) victory at Loyola on Oct. 10. Angie Porché led all players with 16 kills in the win, while Taylor Root picked up 28 digs on the back line over the four sets.
Previously: Valpo dropped a road Horizon League matchup at Butler on Friday evening before returning home on Halloween night and overcoming a 2-0 deficit to earn a 3-2 win over Oakland. Porché paced the Crusader offense with 34 kills over the two matches, while five different players averaged at least 2.50 digs/set on the weekend.
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 the UIC and Loyola matches 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 statistics, will be available for both matches as well.
20-20-20-20-20-20-20-20 Vision Within Sight: The Crusader volleyball program needs just two more victories this season to reach the 20-win milestone, which would continue Valpo’s run among some elite company. A 20-win season would mark the eighth straight campaign that the Crusaders have won at least 20 matches, going back to the 2002 season. Valpo was one of just 15 programs nationwide that won 20 matches each of the seven seasons from 2002 to 2008.
Fight for a Bye: Valparaiso currently sits in second place in the Horizon League standings, an important distinction this year as the league’s top two teams earn byes into the Horizon League Championship semifinals. The Crusaders are 1 game up on Butler and 1 1/2 games ahead of UIC coming down the home stretch of the regular season. Valpo also still has an outside shot at the top overall seed and hosting the tournament, but would need to win the league outright to earn the top seed, as Cleveland State holds the tiebreaker advantage.
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 17th nationally with 14.22 kills/set and also sits 15th in the nation with 13.34 assists/set. The Crusaders have increased their averages to 14.68 kills/set and 14.20 assists/set in Horizon League play, both also tops among league squads. Valpo is also a perfect 18-0 this season when it outkills its opponent and has held a double-figure advantage in the category on 11 occasions.
Back Home Again in Valparaiso: Following a four-match road trip, the longest since their season-opening trip, the Crusaders returned home on Saturday to the ARC and kicked off their final four-match homestand of the regular season. With Saturday’s victory, Valpo is now 7-1 at the ARC this year, the eighth straight year it has won at least seven home matches. Over head coach Carin Avery’s eight seasons, the Crusaders own a 73-14 (.839) record in their home venue.
Honoring the Senior Class: While next Tuesday marks the Crusaders’ final home match of the regular season, Valparaiso will celebrate Senior Day on Saturday afternoon when the Crusaders take on Loyola. Valpo will honor seniors Kim Bukowski, Angie Porché and Haley Wise prior to the match, who have been a part of 87 victories over their four seasons with the Brown and Gold. Fellow senior Val Bollenbacher, who came in with the aforementioned trio prior to the 2006 season, suffered a season-ending injury in the year’s first match and is planning on coming back next season for her final season of eligibility.
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.
Pokorny Picks Up Triple-Double: Sophomore setter Jenny Pokorny has seen increased playing time this season on the right side and came up with the best match of her career Saturday in Valpo’s win over Oakland. Pokorny registered 12 assists, 12 digs and ten kills in the winning effort for the Crusaders, recording not only her second career double-double but also the first triple-double of her career. It was also the first triple-double by any Valpo player since Katie Bova in 2005. Not to be overlooked was the fact Pokorny’s ten kills came on just 21 swings without an error, good for a .476 hitting percentage, or the fact she also tallied four blocks on the evening, including being in on a rejection for the match’s final point.
Porché Reaches New Heights: Senior outside hitter Angie Porché surpassed one statistical milestone last weekend and has another pair of milestones within reach. Early in the match against Butler last Friday, Porché posted her 1000th career dig, making her one of just six players in Crusader volleyball history to have 1,000 career kills and 1,000 career digs. In addition, Porché is just 41 kills away from 2,000 for her career, nearly 500 more than any other player in Valpo history, and is just 83 attacks away from 5,000 career swings. On the season, the reigning Horizon League Player of the Year ranks second in the league overall with 3.79 kills/set and tops in league-only matches with 4.32 kills/set.
Diebler Doing It All: Junior middle hitter Tara Diebler also found herself approaching a triple-double Saturday against Oakland. Diebler picked up 11 kills and recorded a career-high ten digs for her first career double-double, while also tallying a match-high six blocks at the net. The junior also had a good offensive showing Friday at Butler, tallying 13 kills on .324 hitting on the night. On the season, Diebler is third on the team with 2.59 kills/set and leads the Crusaders’ primary hitters with a .255 hitting percentage. She also is second on the team in blocks (0.53 blocks/set) and leads the way from the service line (23 total aces).
Britton Steps Up: Sophomore outside hitter Katie Britton put forth one of the best offensive efforts of her career Saturday in the five-set win over Oakland, matching her career high with 18 kills, which tied for team-high honors. Britton also committed just three attack errors on the match, hitting at a .405 clip. The sophomore stepped up especially in the match’s last three sets as the Crusaders rallied from behind, hitting .500 with 13 of her kills over the final three frames.
Quickly: Valpo hit at a .306 clip in the five-set win over Oakland, the Crusaders’ best mark in a five-set match since the advent of rally scoring and the second-best in program history, only trailing an effort on Halloween night 1998 against UMKC ... senior setter Kim Bukowski paced Valpo in digs for the first time this year at Butler, picking up 14 digs ... freshman libero Taylor Root broke into Valpo’s single-season top-ten in digs Saturday ... Root’s 463 digs this year are just 33 shy of the Crusaders’ freshman record.