Final Tuneups For Horizon League Championship Await Valpo
Monday, November 8, 2010
Final Tuneups For Horizon League Championship Await Valpo
Val Bollenbacher has reached double figures in digs seven of Valpo's last eight matches. (Ray Acevedo)
Valparaiso (23-6, 9-5 Horizon)
Crusaders get in final reps before Horizon League Championship
Tuesday, Nov. 9 - 7 p.m. - at Chicago State (0-30, 0-11 GWC)
 Saturday, Nov. 13 - 2 p.m. - at Loyola (10-17, 3-12 Horizon)
This Week in Crusader Volleyball: Valparaiso makes two short trips to Chicago this week in its final preparations for the 2010 Horizon League Championship.  The Crusaders face off against Chicago State in non-league action Tuesday night before closing out the league slate at Loyola on Saturday.

Looking Back at Last Week:
The Crusaders’ annual road swing to eastern Ohio resulted in a pair of victories for just the second time in Valpo’s four years in the Horizon League.  Valpo dropped the first set to Youngstown State on Friday before rallying for a 3-1 win, and then captured a marathon opening set at Cleveland State Saturday to spark a sweep of the Vikings.

Following the Crusaders: Neither match this week will be broadcast by WVUR (95.1 FM, Valparaiso), but radio coverage will resume with the Horizon League Championship.  Live stats and live video will be available for the Loyola match at, while live chats for both matches will also be available 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 217-79 (.733) in her eight-plus years at Valpo and owns a 272-103 (.725) 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:  Chicago State - 35-1 overall (13-0 under Avery); last meeting 3-0 Valpo @ Valpo 11/10/09 (Crusaders hit .357 as a team and held CSU to .000 hitting; Britton 8 kills, .583; Bukowski 22 assists, 12 digs, 7 kills, .583; Wise 7 digs)
Loyola - 12-24 overall (9-2 under Avery); last meeting 3-0 Valpo @ Valpo 10/5/10 (Dooms 14 kills, .684; Layman 9 kills, .529; Pokorny 36 assists, 7 kills, .538; Root 17 digs; Valpo hits .389 and holds Loyola to .063)

The Opponents: Chicago State -  The Cougars enter this week in search of their first victory of 2010, as they sit at 0-30.  CSU did have one of its best matches of the year last Monday against Western Illinois, however, taking the Leathernecks to five sets.  Valeria Desiderio paces the offensive attack with 2.00 kills/set, while Mysta Townsell is averaging 3.07 digs/set on the back line.
Loyola - The Ramblers are 10-17 overall this year and have struggled in Horizon League play, sitting in eighth place at 3-12.  Four players average better than two kills/set for Loyola, led by 3.24 kills/set from Colleen Francis.  The Ramblers are also out-digging their opponents and get 4.41 digs/set from libero Cat Languido.

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 Towards the Top: Valparaiso has proven especially efficient this season at keeping the ball in play and keeping rallies going.  The Crusaders are averaging 18.94 digs/set, behind only Yale nationally, and have five players posting at least two digs/set apiece, led by Root’s efforts at libero.  On Oct. 29, 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.

And You Say Chi City...: Same-day trips to Chicago for road volleyball matches have proven to be no match for the Crusaders over the past eight years.  Valpo battled back from a pair of match point chances for UIC earlier this season in its closest match in Chicago in quite some time to earn the five-set victory.  The Crusaders have now won an amazing 22 straight matches in the Second City, dating back to Oct. 8, 2002.

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 5.83 digs/set on the season after posting a team-high 21 digs at YSU and a match-best 18 digs in the sweep of CSU.  The three-time Horizon League Defensive Player of the Week has tallied at least 10 digs in each of the year’s first 29 matches, including 20 efforts of 20+ digs.  Also a two-time Top Performer honoree and the MVP of the Bradley Invitational, Root has at least tied for team-high honors in all 29 matches and has led all players in 21 contests so far.

Moving Up the Charts: Root currently has 635 total digs this season, moving into third place on Valpo’s single-season chart last weekend as she passed Sara Silcox’s 2004 season at YSU and Brittany Malicoat’s 2008 campaign at CSU.  She is chasing Malicoat’s 2007 total of 740 digs atop the Valpo chart, as well as the Horizon League single-season chart, where she is poised to move into second place this week.  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 1,225 career digs, already just 38 digs shy of Valpo’s top-ten career chart.

Diebler Dominates on the Block: Senior middle hitter Tara Diebler ranks among Valpo’s all-time best in blocking, but just Saturday posted the best individual effort of her career in the category.  Diebler picked up two rejections apiece on CSU attacks in each of the first two sets before sending back five attacks in the third set to close the night with nine blocks, a career high and the most in a sweep by any Crusader since the move to 25-point scoring.  Diebler now has 302 career blocks, ninth-most in Valpo history, and also has 1,044 career kills, tenth-most all-time at Valpo.

Bombs Away From Britton: Junior outside hitter Katie Britton hadn’t cracked double digits in the kills category in over a month entering this past weekend, but made her presence felt at both YSU and CSU.  Britton averaged 4.71 kills/set for the week, kicking it off with a 20-kill performance Friday night at YSU, the second-highest total of her career.  The junior followed Saturday with 13 kills on .364 hitting in the sweep of CSU.  Britton has now paced the Crusaders in kills 12 times on the season.

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 10.61 assists/set, but has also cemented herself as a weapon on the attack, hitting .279 with 1.44 kills/set.  Defensively, she ranks third among Crusaders with 2.82 digs/set and also has been in on 49 blocks this year, third-most on the team as well.

Bollenbacher Gets Defensive: Fifth-year senior Val Bollenbacher has been a huge part of the Crusaders’ recent success defensively.  Over Valpo’s last eight matches, Bollenbacher has reached double figures in digs seven times and is averaging 3.89 digs/set.  She also chipped in the block at CSU Saturday, contributing to three rejections, including the block which ended the opening set.  The fifth-year senior stood out offensively against the Vikings as well, putting down nine kills on just 20 attacks.

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 Oct. 29 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 and now has 258 career blocks, tenth-most in Crusader history.

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: Britton was the only Crusader to reach double figures in kills in either match last weekend ... Valpo’s 32-30 win over CSU in the opening set was the farthest the Crusaders have gone into extra points since an identical victory in the opener against Loyola on Nov. 7 last year ... freshman Ellen Vanden Berg played the final three sets in the middle at YSU and hit .700 with career highs of seven kills and three blocks.