VALPARAISO (15-4, 5-0 Mid-Con) AT ORAL ROBERTS (11-8, 4-1)
Friday, October 14, 7:00 p.m. at Oral Roberts
At Cooper Aerobics Center (Tulsa, Okla.).
SERIES RECORD: This marks the 20h meeting between the two schools, with the Crusaders looking for a ninth win and eighth in a row over Oral Roberts. These two teams have dominated the Mid-Continent Conference, winning 11 consecutive conference tournaments between them. The Brown and Gold have knocked off the Golden Eagles in the last two Mid-Con Finals. Again this year, the two teams are atop the Mid-Con standings and pacing the league in most statistical categories. The Crusaders have won 25 straight Mid-Con matches, including back-to-back tournament titles.
HEAD COACH CARIN AVERY: Crusader Head Coach Carin Avery enters her fourth season at the helm as one of the all-time winningest coaches in school history. Nineteen matches in, Avery has improved her career record to 91-27, winning a dazzling 77% of the time. Her 91 wins are second most in school history, and just one behind the all-time leader, Cindy Harris, who won 92 matches from 1990-94.Avery came to VU in 1998 as an assistant coach and was named head coach in 2002. She was a high school All-American at nearby Mishawaka High School and played collegiately at Ball State where she was an All-MAC honoree.
CRUSADER SPLIT: Valparaiso enters this weekend coming off a split of two matches last week. The Crusaders traveled to #10 Notre Dame last Wednesday looking for a repeat of 2004, when the Brown and Gold captured a five-game thriller. Despite earning three game points in the first game, however, Valpo was not able to pull off the upset, as the Irish prevailed 34-32, 30-21, 30-26. Amy Palash paced the Crusaders with 11 kills and 20 digs. Valpo bounced back Friday night, sweeping Mid-Con foe Oakland on the road 30-22, 30-15, 31-29. Jessie Fox tallied 12 kills for the Crusaders, while Brittany Marks had a team-high 15 digs.
WILL YOU PROTECT THIS HOUSE? : The Crusaders have dominated on the court of the Athletics-Recreation Center since Carin Avery took over prior to the 2002 season. Valpo has accumulated a 38-4 record at home under Avery, including a current streak of 17 straight victories dating back to last season. In addition, the Crusaders are 24-1 at home against Mid-Con opponents since 2002, including the 2003 Mid-Con Tournament title.
MID-CON DOMINANCE: Valpo has extended many of their Mid-Con streaks over the first half of the season. The Crusaders have recorded 21 straight wins in Mid-Con regular season play, as well as 26 straight against Mid-Con opponents. The Brown and Gold have also captured 19 straight conference road tilts, dating back to Nov. 9, 2002.
TOP-NOTCH OFFENSE: The Crusaders currently reside atop the Mid-Con and rank tenth in the nation, recording 16.86 kills/game to date. Valpo has spread the ball around, as six different Crusaders have at least 120 kills, led by 211 from Amy Palash. The Brown and Gold also lead the Mid-Con with 14.95 assists/game, 23rd in the nation.
DEFENSE WINS CHAMPIONSHIPS: Valparaiso has ratcheted up the defensive intensity in 2005. The Crusaders sit atop the Mid-Con with 2.91 blocks/game. Valpo has registered double-digit blocks in eleven matches, and tied a school record for blocks in a match earlier this season, recording 21 against UCLA. Valpo also leads the Mid-Con, sitting seventh in the nation, with 18.85 digs/game, and have held opponents to a .133 hitting percentage on the season.
QUEEN OF BLOCKS: Liz Mikos has been leaving her mark on the Valpo record books during her final season. The middle blocker became Valpo's all-time leader in both total and solo blocks earlier this season. Mikos also leads the Mid-Con with 1.54 career blocks/game. She had a stretch of 55 consecutive matches with at least one block snapped last Friday against Oakland. Not to be overlooked is her offense, as Mikos is hitting .256 with 2.80 kills/game this season.
THERE'S SOMETHING ABOUT AMY: Sophomore outside hitter Amy Palash has been getting it done at both ends of the floor for the Crusaders in 2005. Palash, who was a member of the 2004 Mid-Con All Freshman Team, leads Valpo and ranks 2nd in the Mid-Con with 3.52 kills per game. On the defensive end, Amy is averaging 3.62 digs/game, good for 7th in the conference. Palash has also received two Mid-Con Player of the Week awards this season, giving her three for her career.
SET IN STONE: Senior setter Katie Bova is making her case as a threat in all aspects of the game after being named the 2004 Mid-Con Setter of the Year. Bova has continued to get the job done at setter, leading the Mid-Con with 12.09 assists/game. She has stepped up defensively, averaging 3.35 digs/game and moving into Valpo's all-time top-10 in career digs. Bova has also given opponents cause to worry about her attacking, as she has contributed just under two kills per game. She is also on pace to break Valpo's single-season hitting percentage record, as Bova is currently hitting at a .313 rate.
MODEL OF CONSISTENCY: Senior right side hitter Lauren Moulton has been a constant presence up front for Valpo this season and over the course of her career. Moulton has posted double-digit kill totals ten times this season, including one stretch of seven straight matches. She also has proven to be efficient with her attacks, hitting at least .300 on ten occasions. Moulton is Valpo's all-time leader with a .279 hitting percentage, and has moved into sixth all-time with 1,052 career kills, just 36 kills away from fifth. On the defensive side of the ball, Moulton has recorded 58 blocks on the season, jumping into fifth place on Valpo's career chart with 356 total blocks.
LEAVING HER MARK: Libero Brittany Marks has already made an impact on the Crusader squad midway through her freshman year. Marks has put up double-digit digs in four matches this season, including each of her last three. Last week, Marks earned her first career Mid-Con Defensive Player of the Week award. Marks entered the match at libero in the third game against Notre Dame and picked up 12 digs, the most in a single game for any Valpo player this season. Marks also made the start at libero against Oakland and registered 15 digs over 3 games. In conference play, she ranks fourth in the Mid-Con with 5.00 digs/game.
GOLDEN EAGLE NOTES: When the Western Illinois Westerwinds knocked off ORU at Cooper Aerobics Center September 30, they became only the second Mid-Con team to win in Tulsa. The Crusaders are the other, winning three times on the Golden Eagles' home court.
The Golden Eagles are confortably leading the Mid-Con in service aces this season, averaging 2.35/game, compared to the Crusaders 1.12. ORU is led by Ori Zuzic, fourth in the nation with 0.82 blocks/game.
It should come as no surprise that the Crusaders and Golden Eagles are battling for first place in the conference this season. The two teams have faced each of the last two years in the Mid-Con Title match (with Valpo winning both) and either Valpo or ORU has represented the conference in the NCAA Tournament each of the past 11 years.