Thursday, August 29, 2013
Picked Atop the League
For the first time since joining the Horizon League prior to the 2007 season, Valparaiso has been chosen to finish atop the league standings in preseason polling of the league's head coaches. The Crusaders went 10-4 in league play last season, finishing in a tie for second in the league standings.
Valpo picked up four of the available first-place votes and totaled 44 points, out-pacing Cleveland State by two points and Milwaukee by three points. Both CSU and Milwaukee earned two first-place votes apiece.
Valpo has consistently been a winning program over the past decade-plus, and is among an elite group of programs that has won at least 20 matches every year over that span.
In each of head coach Carin Avery's 11 seasons at the helm, the Crusaders have won 20 or more matches, including last year's 21-win campaign. Valpo is one of just 11 Division I programs to have accomplished this feat, a group which also includes Colorado State, Dayton, Florida, Hawai’i, Nebraska, Ohio, Penn State, Stanford, UNI and Western Kentucky.
Returning Almost Everybody
All six starters in the rotation from last year's 21-win squad return in 2013 for the Crusaders, part of a group of nine returnees.
Preseason All-League selections Ellen Vanden Berg and Morgan Beil lead a group of attackers up front that returns six of seven players from last season that tallied at least 100 kills. Running a 6-2 formation, the Crusaders also return both setters in senior Ariel Cudney and sophomore Kelsey Berrington.
Big Shoes to Fill at Libero
Easily the biggest quetion mark for the Crusaders coming into 2013 is at the libero spot, where Valpo loses three-time AVCA Honorable Mention All-American Taylor Root. Root ended her career, which saw her earn Horizon League Defensive Player of the Year honors three times, ranked fourth in NCAA history in digs.
The Crusaders also lose outside hitter Mary Dent, who averaged nearly two kills per set as a senior in 2012.
A Lot of New Faces
New faces will be battling to earn spots in the rotation all over the court for the Crusaders, as seven freshmen and one transfer join the nine returnees to round out the 17-player roster.
Morganne Longoria highlights the newcomers, as the PrepVolleyball.com All-American will likely start the season at libero.