Valparaiso (16-4, 5-3 Horizon)
Second half of league play begins
Friday, Oct. 15 - 6 p.m. CT - at Butler (12-7, 7-1 Horizon)
Saturday, Oct. 16 - 3 p.m. CT - at Wright State (7-13, 2-6 Horizon)
This Week in Crusader Volleyball: The second half of Horizon League play gets underway for Valparaiso this weekend as the Crusaders hit the road again. Valpo takes on in-state rival and co-league leader Butler Friday night before continuing on to Dayton to face Wright State Saturday afternoon.
Looking Back at Last Week: A three-match league homestand came to a close with a 2-1 mark for the Crusaders. Valpo bookended the trio of matches with sweeps of Loyola and Youngstown State, but fell to Cleveland State 3-1 in the middle match of the homestand.
Following the Crusaders: Fans can listen to or watch both of this weekend’s matches online at www.valpoathletics.com, with the audio broadcast also available locally on WVUR, 95.1 FM. Live stats will also be running for both matches through the official Crusader website, while there will be live chat available for both contests as well.
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 210-77 (.732) in her eight-plus years at Valpo and owns a 265-101 (.724) 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: Butler - 8-24 overall (6-3 under Avery); last meeting 3-2 Butler @ Valpo 9/18/10 (Britton 14 kills; Diebler 12 kills; Groesbeck 10 kills, 5 blocks; Layman 10 kills, 5 blocks; Pokorny 44 assists, 20 digs, 9 kills, .400; Root 20 digs; Dooms 16 digs; Cudney 15 digs; Balsis 12 digs)
Wright State - 9-14 overall (6-1 under Avery); last meeting 3-1 Valpo @ Valpo 9/17/10 (Diebler 17 kills, .419, 4 blocks; Dooms 11 kills, 11 digs; Layman 10 kills, .348; Pokorny 48 assists, 13 digs, 7 kills, .353; Root 20 digs; Balsis 11 digs; Cudney 4 service aces)
The Opponents: Butler - The Bulldogs enter the second half of league play tied at the top of the league standings at 7-1. Butler is 12-7 overall, thanks in large part to the play of senior outside hitter Jessica Wolfe, who leads the league with 3.93 kills/set and also contributes 2.97 digs/set. Maureen Bamiro is hitting .315 with 2.73 kills and 1.01 blocks/set out of the middle as well.
Wright State - The Raiders are 7-13 overall on the season and 2-6 through one half of league action. Outside hitter Heidi Splinter leads the way with 2.95 kills/set, while middle blocker Shaunda Sandifer is posting 2.74 kills/set and 1.11 blocks/set. Outside hitter Jessica Woods is averaging 2.24 kills/set while also leading the way on the back line with 4.09 digs/set.
The Best Start: With Saturday’s loss to Cleveland State, the 2010 Crusaders were unable to set a new program record for most wins before the fourth loss, a mark owned by the 2004 team, which started out 19-3. This year’s squad had already set new program standards by starting the year 11-1 and 13-2.
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.
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.
Offensive Firepower: Valpo put together one of its best offensive matches in recent history in last Tuesday’s sweep of Loyola. The Crusaders tallied 49 kills in the three-set win while hitting .389, easily their best clip of the season and the second-best hitting percentage since the move to 25-point rally scoring. Ironically enough, the only better performance in the last three seasons also came against the Ramblers, in Chicago on Nov. 7, 2008, when Valpo hit .395.
Decent Defense as Well: Not to be overlooked with the high rate of offensive production is the fact that the Crusaders held Loyola to just 24 kills on .063 hitting Tuesday as well. The .063 opponent attack percentage is the lowest clip by a Crusader opponent in league play since 2006, back when Valpo was still a member of the Mid-Con and held Centenary to .000 hitting in a sweep on Sept. 30.
Digging Deep: Valparaiso has proven especially efficient this season at keeping the ball in play and keeping rallies going. The Crusaders are averaging 18.09 digs/set, easily the most in the Horizon League and ranked eighth 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.
Done in 3: Both of the Crusaders’ wins last week were three-set sweeps, the first such victories in nearly a month. Valpo now owns six sweeps among its 16 wins this year and has not been on the losing end of a three-set decision yet, easily the longest into a season the Crusaders have ever gone without being swept.
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.
Root Steady at Libero: It was another week, another three times leading all players in digs for sophomore libero Taylor Root. Root posted match highs of 17 digs against Loyola, 23 versus CSU and 24 against YSU. She has tallied at least 15 digs in each of the year’s first 20 matches, including 14 efforts of 20+ digs. The two-time HL Defensive Player of the Week and MVP of the Bradley Invitational has at least tied for team-high honors in all 20 matches and has led all players in 15 contests so far. Her average of 5.77 digs/set leads all Horizon League athletes and ranks third nationally.
Already Reaching Milestones: Root quickly surpassed the 1,000 dig milestone last week, picking up the millennial dig in the third set against Cleveland State. The sophomore is by far the quickest player in Valpo volleyball history to post 1,000 digs. Root also ended the weekend with 450 digs on the season, already just 14 shy of the Crusaders’ single-season top-10 list.
Dooms-Day Device: Freshman outside hitter Sarah Dooms put together one of the most efficient offensive performances in Crusader volleyball history against Loyola on Tuesday. Dooms needed just 19 swings to rack up 14 kills and also committed just one attack error, registering a hitting percentage of .684, a clip which is the best by a Crusader since the move to 25-point rally scoring in 2008. Her .684 attack percentage also ranks seventh overall in program history for a single match.
Dent Does Damage: Sophomore outside hitter Mary Dent earned her first starting opportunity of the season Sunday against Youngstown State and easily made the most of it, racking up seven kills on just 11 swings in the first set alone. Dent would close the match with a career-high 15 kills, leading all players and becoming the fifth different Crusader this year to pace the team in kills. The sophomore also registered her first career service ace in the sweep.
Diebler Racks Up the Kills: Senior middle hitter Tara Diebler, who ranks in the league’s top five in both kills/set (2.99) and hitting percentage (.310), has hit .300 or better on 12 occasions this year, but posted her best offensive performance of the season Saturday against Cleveland State. Diebler took 22 swings against the Vikings and registered 14 kills while committing just two errors, good for a .545 hitting percentage.
Pokorny Posts Numbers All Around: Junior setter Jenny Pokorny continued her production in all phases of the game last week. Pokorny tallied 36 assists, seven kills (.538) and six digs against Loyola, 47 assists, six kills and eight digs against CSU, and then 43 assists and nine digs versus YSU. Pokorny is now averaging 10.38 assists/set on the season, third-best in the league, and is also second on the team with 2.76 digs/set. The setter also has racked up 110 kills as well this year.
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 35 aces in 20 matches. Cudney has registered aces on nearly 14% of her service attempts, while her average of 0.49 aces/set leads the HL and ranks 17th 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: Junior Amy Groesbeck posted nine kills on .529 hitting in the sweep of Loyola ... senior Katie Layman reached double figures in kills for the eighth time this year with 10 kills against CSU ... the Crusaders matched a season high with 10 blocks against the Vikings, led by five from Diebler ... fifth-year senior Val Bollenbacher registered 10 digs in the sweep of YSU, her third double-digit effort in the category this season.