Valparaiso (17-5, 6-4 Horizon)
Crusaders take step out of league play before returning home
Tuesday, Oct. 19 - 6 p.m. CT - at Oakland (11-11, 6-5 Summit)
Saturday, Oct. 23 - 6 p.m. - UIC (10-12, 5-5 Horizon)
This Week in Crusader Volleyball: Valparaiso closes out a three-match road trip with a non-league showdown Tuesday at former Mid-Con opponent Oakland. The Crusaders play just one Horizon League contest this week, a Saturday night return to the ARC against UIC.
Looking Back at Last Week: The Crusaders earned a split in Horizon League road action last weekend. Valpo dropped a three-set match at Butler on Friday evening before rebounding to earn a four-set win over Wright State Saturday afternoon.
Following the Crusaders: Fans can listen to both of this week's matches online at www.valpoathletics.com, with the audio broadcasts 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 video available for Saturday night's match from the ARC against UIC.
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 211-78 (.730) in her eight-plus years at Valpo and owns a 266-102 (.723) 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: Oakland - 16-3 overall (11-0 under Avery); last meeting 3-2 Valpo @ Valpo 10/31/09 (Valpo trailed 2-0 before rallying for the win; Pokorny 10 kills, .476, 12 assists, 12 digs, 4 blocks [first Valpo triple-double since 2005]; Britton 18 kills, .405; Porche 18 kills, 17 digs; Diebler 11 kills, 10 digs, 6 blocks; Bukowski 48 assists; Root 21 digs)
UIC - 18-21 overall (9-2 under Avery); last meeting 3-2 Valpo @ UIC 9/24/10 (Britton 15 kills; Dooms 12 kills; Diebler 11 kills, 5 blocks; Groesbeck 10 kills; Pokorny 48 assists; Root 19 digs)
The Opponents: Oakland - The Golden Grizzlies sit at .500 on the year at 11-11 overall and are 6-5 in Summit League action. Oakland's offense is led by Meghan Bray, who is averaging 3.48 kills/set as well as 2.23 digs/set and put up 30 kills against the Crusaders last season. On the back line, Brittany Dunn is posting nearly five digs/set, while at the net, Oakland is averaging better than two blocks per frame, led by Brittany Holbrook's 70 total blocks this year.
UIC - The Flames also split a pair of league road games last weekend and are 10-12 overall and 5-5 in Horizon League play, one spot behind the Crusaders in the league standings. Kelsey Safranek is leading the way for UIC with 3.14 kills/set, while three other Flames are averaging better than two kills per frame. Jessica Dalke has played all year as UIC's primary setter and is averaging 10.33 assists/set to go with 2.35 digs/set.
The Best Start: This year’s Crusader squad set new standards for the best start to the season all-time at Valpo. The 2010 Crusaders started the campaign 11-1 and 13-2, the most wins in program history before the squad's second and third losses of the season, respectively.
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 the October 5 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 on October 5 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.
A Blockbuster Blocking Effort: Valpo posted its best defensive effort at the net in nearly four years this past Saturday at Wright State. The Crusaders tallied 14 total team blocks against the Raiders, the most rejections the squad has registered since posting 17 blocks against Oral Roberts in the Mid-Con championship match on Nov. 18, 2006. Katie Layman matched her career high with a team-best eight rejections, while Jenny Pokorny set a new career best with five blocks. Amy Groesbeck was in on a season-best five blocks, while Tara Diebler chipped in on four blocks as well.
Digging Deep: Valparaiso has proven especially efficient this season at keeping the ball in play and keeping rallies going. The Crusaders are averaging 18.15 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.
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: Sophomore libero Taylor Root continued her production on the back line last weekend in the Crusaders’ pair of road matches, picking up 11 digs at Butler and tying for match-high honors at Wright State with 26 digs. She has tallied at least 10 digs in each of the year’s first 22 matches, including 15 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 22 matches and has led all players in 16 contests so far. Her average of 5.73 digs/set leads all Horizon League athletes and ranks among the national leaders.
Already Reaching Milestones: Root quickly surpassed the 1,000 dig milestone two weeks ago, picking up the millennial dig in the third set against Cleveland State Oct. 9. The sophomore is by far the quickest player in Valpo volleyball history to post 1,000 digs. Root ended last weekend with 487 digs on the season, already tenth in a single season in program history.
Triple-Double for Pokorny: After a couple of near misses earlier this season, junior setter Jenny Pokorny finally registered her first triple-double of 2010 and second of her career Saturday at Wright State. The junior tallied 36 assists, 11 kills and picked up her 10th dig on the match’s final point. Pokorny, who set new career highs for kills, attacks (26) and blocks (5) against the Raiders, is averaging 10.31 assists/set this year, fourth in the Horizon League, and has also chipped in 2.73 digs/set and 1.44 kills/set.
Layman Dominates Both Sides: Senior middle hitter Katie Layman had perhaps the best match of her career Saturday at Wright State. Layman led the Crusader effort at the net with eight blocks, tying her career high and matching the most by a Valpo player since the move to 25-point rally scoring. Offensively, the senior tallied a match-best 12 kills, just one off her career best, and hit at a .333 clip.
Victor Produces Off the Bench: Freshman outside hitter Kelsey Victor had played in just 10 sets over six matches entering last weekend, but made the most of her playing time off the bench in Valpo’s pair of road contests. Victor appeared in the final two sets against Butler, hitting .300 while matching her season high with five kills, and then played the final two frames at Wright State, again posting five kills while also tallying three digs and a solo block.
More Career-Best Efforts: Career-best efforts in the offensive categories have been the norm over the past couple weeks for a number of Crusader players. In addition to the aforementioned feats, freshman outside hitter Sarah Dooms hit .684 with 14 kills against Loyola Oct. 5, the seventh best hitting percentage in Crusader volleyball history. Also, sophomore outside hitter Mary Dent took advantage of her first start of the year Oct. 10 against Youngstown State to tally a career-high 15 kills.
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: Five different Crusaders have led or tied for team-high honors in kills over the last four matches ... Valpo’s sweep at Butler was the first three-match loss the Crusaders have suffered this season ... Dooms matched her career high with 19 digs against Wright State ... Groesbeck tied her season best with five blocks in the win over the Raiders ... senior middle hitter Tara Diebler enters this week just 18 kills shy of 1,000 for her career ... Root has committed just two service reception errors in Valpo’s last eight matches (.987 reception percentage).