Valparaiso (21-6, 8-5 Horizon)
Crusaders travel to eastern Ohio
Friday, Nov. 5 - 6 p.m. CT - at Youngstown State (2-23, 0-12 Horizon)
Saturday, Nov. 6 - 3 p.m. CT - at Cleveland State (19-4, 9-3 Horizon)
This Week in Crusader Volleyball: Already assured of a berth in the 2010 Horizon League Championship, Valparaiso looks to secure its seeding for the tournament this weekend with a pair of league road tests. The Crusaders face Youngstown State on Friday evening before traveling to Cleveland State on Saturday afternoon.
Looking Back at Last Week: Valpo split its final home regular season weekend last weekend. The Crusaders took down Green Bay 3-1 on Friday night, but fell to Milwaukee by the same score on Saturday afternoon.
Following the Crusaders: Fans can listen to both of this week's matches online at www.valpoathletics.com, with the audio broadcast for Friday also available locally on WVUR, 95.1 FM. Live stats and live video will also be available for both matches 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 215-79 (.731) in her eight-plus years at Valpo and owns a 270-103 (.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: Youngstown State - 15-6 overall (5-2 under Avery); last meeting 3-0 Valpo @ Valpo 10/10/10 (Dent career-high 15 kills; Pokorny 43 assists; Root 24 digs; Layman 5 blocks)
Cleveland State - 14-9 overall (3-7 under Avery); last meeting 3-1 CSU @ Valpo 10/9/10 (Diebler 14 kills, .545, 5 blocks; Dooms 11 kills, 17 digs; Layman 10 kills; Pokorny 47 assists; Root 23 digs; Bollenbacher 10 digs)
The Opponents: Youngstown State - The Penguins are still looking for their first league win and are just 2-23 overall entering Friday’s match. YSU is getting out-killed by over four kills per set and out-dug by better than three digs per set. The Penguins do out-block their opponents, averaging 2.04 blocks/frame, led by 1.04 blocks/set from middle blocker Jenna Cavanaugh.
Cleveland State - The Vikings enter this week just one win shy of 20 for the season and in third place in the Horizon League standings. CSU gets the job done on both sides of the ball, leading the league in both hitting percentage and opponent hitting percentage. Offensively, Kara Koch paces the Viking effort with 3.95 kills/set, while Amy Benz hits .313 with 2.58 kills/set. Benz also leads CSU at the net with an even block/set, while in the back row, Amy Grabiec picks up 5.09 digs/set from the libero position.
Make It Nine Straight: With their victory Oct. 25 over SIU Edwardsville, the Crusaders continued a tremendous streak of success as a program. The win over the Cougars was Valpo’s 20th of the 2010 campaign, marking the ninth straight season it has won 20 or more matches. The Crusaders have won 20+ matches every year since 2002, Avery’s first at the helm of the Crusader program. Valpo was one of just 13 programs nationwide to have won at least 20 matches in each of the last eight years entering this season and was just the third out of the group to reach 20 victories in 2010.
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.
Digging Deep: Valparaiso has proven especially efficient this season at keeping the ball in play and keeping rallies going. The Crusaders are averaging 18.76 digs/set, just 0.08 behind Yale for the top spot nationally, and have five players posting at least two digs/set apiece, led by Root’s efforts at libero. Last Friday, Valpo posted a season-high 110 digs in its four-set victory over Green Bay, matching the most digs by a Crusader squad since the move to 25-point rally scoring.
Block Parties: At the midway point of October, Valpo hadn’t had more than 10 blocks in a match this season and hadn’t surpassed 13 blocks in the last four years. But the Crusaders tallied 14 team blocks against Wright State in a win Oct. 16, and then one-upped that effort last time out against Milwaukee, registering 15 total team rejections, the most by a Valpo team since posting 17 blocks against Oral Roberts in the Mid-Con championship match on Nov. 18, 2006. Tara Diebler and Katie Layman were each in on seven blocks against Milwaukee, the former matching her season high, while Val Bollenbacher, Sarah Dooms, Kelsey Victor and Jenny Pokorny helped on three blocks apiece.
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 Leads the Nation: Sophomore libero Taylor Root enters this week’s action atop all of NCAA Division I volleyball in digs/set. Root is averaging 5.84 digs/set on the season, a number that went up slightly last week with four-set efforts of 28 against Green Bay, a match high, and 23 versus Milwaukee. The three-time Horizon League Defensive Player of the Week has tallied at least 10 digs in each of the year’s first 27 matches, including 19 efforts of 20+ digs. Also a two-time CVU.com Top Performer honoree and the MVP of the Bradley Invitational, Root has at least tied for team-high honors in all 27 matches and has led all players in 20 contests so far.
Moving Up the Charts: Root currently has 596 total digs this season, surpassing her rookie-year total last time out against the Panthers. Her 596 digs already ranks fifth both on Valpo’s single-season chart and the Horizon League’s single-season chart, chasing Brittany Malicoat’s 2007 total of 740 digs on both lists. Career-wise, the sophomore became by far the quickest player in Crusader volleyball history to surpass the 1,000 dig milestone back on Oct. 9. Root enters this week with 1,182 career digs, already just 81 digs shy of Valpo’s top-ten career chart.
Layman Has Career Night: Senior middle hitter Katie Layman couldn’t have picked a more appropriate night to have the best match of her career than Friday evening against Green Bay. On Senior Night at the ARC, Layman demolished her previous career high of 13 kills, tallying 21 kills on .439 hitting in the Valpo victory. Layman also added four blocks against the Phoenix and then posted seven the next night versus Milwaukee, giving her 254 career rejections, 10th most in Crusader volleyball history.
Diebler Cracks Another Chart: Senior middle hitter Tara Diebler also had a standout offensive match against Green Bay on Friday, matching her career-high with 20 kills while swinging at a .342 clip. Diebler added eight kills the next evening against Milwaukee to increase her career total to 1,033, the 10th-most kills by a single player in Valpo history. Diebler also ranks ninth on Valpo’s all-time blocks chart with 291 career blocks, making her just one of four players among Valpo’s all-time top-10 in both categories.
Pokorny Does It All: Junior setter Jenny Pokorny continues to be a versatile threat in all aspects of the game. The two-time HL Offensive Player of the Week currently ranks second in the Horizon League with 10.48 assists/set, but has also cemented herself as a weapon on the attack, hitting .282 with 1.46 kills/set. Defensively, she ranks third among Crusaders with 2.79 digs/set and also has been in on 41 blocks this year, third-most on the team as well.
Back Row Warriors: All five Crusaders who average at least two digs/set stood up and posted double-figure efforts in the category against Green Bay on Friday. Root led the way with her 28 digs, while Pokorny, Val Bollenbacher and Sarah Dooms added 18 apiece. Andrea Balsis chipped in 13 digs as well. Bollenbacher matched her career-best effort in the category, while Dooms came up just one dig shy of her career high as well.
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.
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.
Quickly: Pokorny now has 13 double-doubles on the year after her effort against Green Bay ... Valpo’s loss to Milwaukee snapped a five-match winning streak and was just the fourth time the Crusaders were out-killed by an opponent this year ... Valpo out-killed Green Bay by nearly a 2-to-1 margin (67-34) on Friday, making it seven straight victories the Crusaders have held a double-digit advantage in kills over their opponent ... Friday was the first time in the 25-point rally scoring era two Crusaders picked up at least 20 kills in the same match ... Kelsey Victor matched her career high with 11 kills against Milwaukee ... the Crusaders drew a crowd of 1,075 fans for their match Saturday, the second four-figure attendance of the year for Valpo at the ARC ... with one more league win, the Crusaders secure at least the fourth seed for the HL Championship ... Valpo would need to win out and have Cleveland State lose three of its last four league contests to move up to the three seed.