Valparaiso (13-2, 2-1 Horizon)
Horizon League road swing into Wisconsin awaits
Friday, Oct. 1 - 7 p.m. - at Milwaukee (6-7, 3-0 Horizon)
Saturday, Oct. 2 - 4 p.m. - at Green Bay (4-11, 1-2 Horizon)
This Week in Crusader Volleyball: Valparaiso heads away from home this weekend, traveling north to Wisconsin to take on Milwaukee and Green Bay in Horizon League action.
Looking Back at Last Week: The Crusaders earned a hard-fought five-set victory in their first road league match of the season at UIC on Friday. Valpo then returned home for a non-league match on Homecoming Saturday, taking care of IUPUI in four sets.
Following the Crusaders: Fans can listen to both the Milwaukee and Green Bay matches over the air live on WVUR, 95.1 FM, Valparaiso or online at www.valpoathletics.com, which will also have a link for live video for Friday night’s match. Live stats and live chat for both of this weekend’s matches will be available as well through the official Crusader website.
Head Coach Carin Avery: Carin Avery is in her ninth season at the helm of the Crusader volleyball program and has experienced nothing but success as head coach. Avery is 207-75 (.734) in her eight-plus years at Valpo and owns a 262-99 (.726) record overall in ten-plus years as a head coach. She ranks among the top-20 winningest active coaches in Division I volleyball and is Valpo’s all-time leader in both wins and winning percentage.
Series Notes: Milwaukee - 12-13 overall (3-5 under Avery); last meeting: 3-0 Milwaukee @ CSU 11/21/09 (HL Semifinal; Diebler 14 kills; Bukowski 25 assists; Root 22 digs; Pokorny 11 digs; Crusaders hit just .071 and were blocked 17 times)
Green Bay - 15-7 overall (6-1 under Avery); last meeting: 3-1 Valpo @ Green Bay 11/14/09 (Porché 22 kills, 20 digs; Diebler 19 kills, .357; Bukowski 53 assists, 13 digs; Root 28 digs; Pokorny 21 digs)
The Opponents: Milwaukee - The Panthers enter this weekend at just 6-7 overall after a tough pre-league slate, but are a perfect 3-0 in league action. Milwaukee is averaging 2.40 blocks/set and holding opponents to .174 hitting, led by 1.12 bps from Natalie Schmitting. Offensively, Schmitting and Rachel Neuberger are both hitting .258 while Kerri Schuh has posted a team-best 2.68 kps. Jena Berg has moved into the full-time setter role after starting the season at outside hitter.
Green Bay - Green Bay sits at 4-11 overall and 1-2 in Horizon League play to date, and will face Chicago State Thursday and Loyola Friday prior to the match against the Crusaders Saturday. The Phoenix are led offensively by Abbey Gitter, who is hitting .233 with 2.74 kps on the year. Defensively, six players have already surpassed 100 digs this year, with Brittany Groth averaging a team-high 3.38 dps.
The Best Start: With two more wins last weekend, this year’s Crusader squad continued their very strong start to the season. Valpo set a program record for most wins before their second loss, starting the year 11-1. In fact, they have already set the record for most wins before the third loss, as the 2003 squad held the previous best at 10-2. The 2010 Crusaders still have a ways to go to set the mark for most wins before the fourth loss, a mark currently owned by the 2004 team, which won 20 games before suffering its fourth defeat.
Double-Digit Winning Streaks: Of course, this year’s 11-1 start began with the lone blemish in the loss column, meaning that the Crusaders extended their winning streak to 11 straight matches with the win over Wright State Sept. 17 before finally taking another loss the next afternoon. The 11-match win streak is the third-longest in program history, surpassed only by the 2004 (14 straight) and 2008 (13 straight) teams.
Home Court Support: Valparaiso currently ranks 38th nationally in home attendance. Through three matches at the ARC this season, the Crusaders have drawn an average of 879 fans, easily the highest attendance figures in the Horizon League.
Record Crowd: Never were more people at the ARC for a volleyball match than on September 18. As part of Communiversity Day activities on the Crusader campus, a record crowd of 1,236 fans attended Valpo’s match against the Bulldogs, breaking the previous single-match attendance record of 1,152, set back in September of 2006 against Oral Roberts.
Wanted - Bigger Trophy Case: The Crusaders captured their third straight in-season tournament title by bringing home the crown from the Bradley Invitational Sept. 11, the first time in program history Valpo has won three consecutive in-season tournaments. Valpo, which won the La Salle and Appalachian Invitationals in this season’s first two weekends, previously earned three in-season tournament titles in 2006, but one of those championships came at the end of the regular season.
Digging Deep: Valparaiso has proven especially efficient this season at keeping the ball in play and keeping rallies going. The Crusaders are averaging 17.93 digs/set, easily the most in the Horizon League and ranked ninth nationally, thanks in large part to Taylor Root’s efforts at libero. Three other Crusaders are also averaging between two and three digs per set as well.
Never Easy: The Crusaders were up two sets to none against UIC last Friday before dropping the next two to force a fifth set, where they eventually held off a pair of match points before earning the victory. The match was a microcosm of Valpo’s season to date, as despite being 13-2, the Crusaders have only swept four matches. In fact, if you remove a three-match stretch from Sept. 7-11, Valpo has swept just one of the other 12 matches this season. Also, the Crusaders have led at the in-game break 2-0 just five times, have been tied 1-1 on eight occasions and have trailed 0-2 twice.
Root Among Nation’s Best: Sophomore libero Taylor Root once again led all players in digs in both matches last weekend, picking up 19 at UIC and 27 against IUPUI. She has tallied at least 15 digs in each of the year’s first 15 matches, including 11 efforts of 20+ digs. The two-time HL Defensive Player of the Week and MVP of the Bradley Ivnitational has at least tied for team-high honors in all 15 matches and has led all players in 11 contests so far. Her average of 5.66 digs/set leads all Horizon League athletes and ranks ninth nationally.
Diebler Racks Up the Kills: Senior middle hitter Tara Diebler has been the Crusaders’ most consistent offensive weapon so far this season. Diebler picked up 11 kills at UIC before registering 13 kills on .370 hitting against IUPUI. She now has reached double figures in kills in each of Valpo’s last 12 matches and has hit .300 or better in 10 of those outings. She currently ranks fourth in the league in hitting percentage (.319) and fifth in kills/set (3.07). On the defensive side of the ball, Diebler tallied nine blocks last week and sits seventh in the league rankings with 0.87 blocks/set.
Moving Into the Top 10: With her first rejection in the match at UIC, Diebler cracked Valpo’s all-time top-10 in career blocks. The senior now owns 256 career blocks, moving her into ninth place in Crusader history in the category. If she maintains her current rate of blocks/set this year, Diebler has a chance to move even further up the chart, as Carrie Goodrich is next up in 8th place with 325 career blocks.
Groesbeck Consistently Contributes: Junior right side Amy Groesbeck has received regular playing time over the past two weeks and has posted solid efforts on both sides of the ball. In each of her last three outings, Groesbeck has tallied exactly 10 kills, most notably hitting .360 against IUPUI last Saturday. Defensively, the junior is averaging nearly a block per set over the last four matches and has picked up at least three blocks in all four contests.
Bollenbacher Fills In: Fifth-year senior Val Bollenbacher had been splitting time with Groesbeck at right side earlier this year, but last week found herself filling in due to absences in the Crusaders’ regular rotation. Bollenbacher stepped in as a back-row player at UIC on Friday, picking up nine digs in the league win, and then moved back to a six-rotation outside hitter on Saturday against IUPUI, tallying seven kills and matching her career best with 18 digs.
Pokorny Picks Up Award: Junior setter Jenny Pokorny, who earned two All-Tournament Team honors in the first three weeks of the season, picked up her first career Horizon League weekly honor Sept. 20, as she was named the league’s Offensive Player of the Week. Last week, Pokorny continued her strong play at setter, dishing out 95 assists over Valpo’s two matches. She also posted an impressive defensive performance Saturday against IUPUI, recording a season-high 21 digs, just three off of her career best.
Britton Ending Rallies: Junior outside hitter Katie Britton paced Valpo in the kills category just nine times in her first two seasons, but already this year has posted team-high totals in the category on 10 occasions. Britton has led the Crusaders in each of the last three outings, including efforts last week of 15 kills at UIC and 14 against IUPUI. On the year, the junior ranks sixth in the league with 3.05 kills/set.
Aces for Ariel: Freshman Ariel Cudney has found her way into the Crusaders’ regular rotation as a defensive specialist, averaging nearly two digs/set this year. But her most lethal contribution has been at the service line, where she has already picked up 27 aces in 16 matches. Cudney has registered aces on nearly 15% of her service attempts, while her average of 0.52 aces/set leads the HL and ranks 13th nationally.
Looking Back at 2009: Valparaiso enjoyed another successful season in 2009, finishing the year 22-11 overall and 12-4 in Horizon League play. The Crusaders finished second in the Horizon League regular season standings for the second straight season, marking eight times in the last nine years they have earned a top-two finish in conference play.
Eight Straight 20-Win Seasons: The Crusaders’ 22 victories last year helped the program continue a tremendous streak of success. Valparaiso has won 20 or more matches every year since 2002, Avery’s first at the helm of the Crusader program. Valpo is one of just 13 programs nationwide to have won at least 20 matches in each of the last eight years.
Crusaders Picked Third in Preseason Poll: The head coaches selected Valparaiso to finish third in the Horizon League this season according to the preseason poll. Only Milwaukee, last year’s tournament champion, and Cleveland State, last season’s regular season champion, were chosen ahead of the Crusaders.
Welcome Newbies: The Crusaders have plenty of new faces for fans to put names to in 2010, as a class of eight freshmen enters together for their rookie year. The eight-person class, the largest Avery has brought in during her time at Valpo, makes up almost half of the 17-player roster, also the largest under Avery.
Quickly: Freshman Sarah Dooms posted a career-best 12 kills in the win at UIC Friday ... freshman Casey Phillips saw regular action in the back row against IUPUI Saturday, totaling five digs ... Valpo matched its season high with 10 service aces at UIC, as seven different players tallied aces.