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Crusaders Close Out Homestand; Hit Road for Horizon League Action
Monday, September 24, 2007
Bradley at Valparaiso - Tuesday, Sept. 25 - 7 p.m.
The Matchups: Valparaiso steps out of conference for a midweek match against Bradley before hitting the road for two League matches against Wright State and Butler. Bradley holds a 7-4 edge in the all-time series against the Crusaders, while Wright State is 13-3 and Butler 21-3 against Valpo. Since Carin Avery’s arrival, however, Valpo has not played Bradley or Wright State, and won its only meeting with Butler.
Last Meetings: The Crusaders defeated Bradley 3-1 (14-16, 15-12, 15-9, 15-10) on Oct. 22, 1996. Laura Kulans hit .452 with a team-best 17 kills, while Lindsay Trudell registered 15 kills on .500 hitting.
Last Weekend: Valparaiso kicked off Horizon League play with home wins over UIC and Loyola. Nicole Schulz paced Valpo against the Flames, tallying 17 kills on just 23 attacks for a .739 hitting percentage, a school-record for a five-game match. Sara Hughes registered a double-double with 45 assists and 16 digs in Valpo’s win over the Ramblers.
On The Air: WVUR (95.1 FM - Valparaiso) will broadcast the Bradley and Wright State matches over their airwaves. Valparaiso’s campus radio station is planning on broadcasting almost all of the Crusader regular season volleyball matches this year, plus any matches as part of the Horizon League Championships. Most matches will be carried over the station’s airwaves and online at www.valpo.edu/athletics, while select matches may be carried on www.sportsjuice.com.
10-3 Record=Banner?: Through 13 matches, the Crusaders own a 10-3 record, matching the best record through 13 contests in program history. Four previous times, Valpo has won 10 times in its first 13 matches: 1996, with Nona Richardson at the helm; and 2003, 2004, and 2005, under current head coach Carin Avery. In all four of those seasons, the Crusaders went on to win the conference regular season and tournament championships. They also advanced to the NCAA Tournament in each of the three most recent seasons.
Offensively Overpowering: Valpo has dominated opponents on the offensive side of the net this year, as the Crusaders are currently averaging 16.40 kills/game, nearly five kills a game more than their opponents. Valpo is also hitting at a .258 clip on the season, leading the league by 40 points in the category. Only twice this season has a Crusader opponent tallied more kills than Valpo (Illinois State and Indiana), and in each of the other 11 matches, the Brown and Gold has registered at least 10 more kills than its opponent.
Block Party: While Valpo’s blocking numbers are down from past years, they have been increasing recently, as the Crusaders are averaging 2.26 blocks/game over the past five matches. The increase is due in large part to the play of freshman middles Tara Newton, who has 19 blocks in the last five matches, and Katie Layman, who has 10 blocks in two matches since cracking the starting lineup.
Digging Deep: At first glance, Valpo’s digging numbers are not impressive, as the Crusaders rank last in the Horizon League with 15.74 digs/game. But short rallies are the main reason for the Crusaders’ low ranking, as Valpo has out-dug its opponents in each of its 13 matches and is averaging over three digs per game more than its opponents.
Aces Up: The Crusaders continued their tough serving this past weekend, registering 17 aces over the two matches. Valpo is now averaging 2.28 aces/game, leading the Horizon League by a large margin and among the top-30 teams in the nation. Six different Crusaders have already recorded at least 10 aces, with Sara Hughes just one shy at nine.
Crusaders Tabbed Third: The Horizon League coaches have picked Valparaiso to finish third in its first season of play in the league. The Crusaders tallied 50 points and two first-place votes in the polling, in which a first-place vote is worth eight points. Milwaukee is the preseason favorite to win the championship, garnering 58 points and five first-place votes, followed by Cleveland State. UIC, Green Bay, Loyola, Wright State, Butler and Youngstown State round out the polling.
A Trio of Seniors: The 2007 Crusaders feature three seniors: setter Sara Hughes, outside hitter Tiffany Meikle and right side hitter Nicole Schulz. All three seniors were members of the team’s starting lineup last year and look to be again this year. This senior class has gone 79-25 in their first three years and have made two appearances in the NCAA Tournament.
Record-Setting Performance: Senior right side hitter Nicole Schulz had a night to remember Friday night against UIC in Valpo’s first ever home Horizon League contest in any sport. Schulz first stepped onto the court in the middle of game three and proceeded to demolish the Flames for the rest of the match, registering 17 kills on just 23 attacks with no errors, good for a hitting percentage of .739. That mark shattered Valpo’s previous five-game match record of .500, and also set a new Crusader record for anybody with 20+ attacks in a match. Having a high hitting percentage is nothing new for Schulz, who set the Crusader single-season record last year at .334 and is currently hitting .324 for her career. Over her last five matches (she did not play against Loyola), Schulz has 52 kills on just 91 swings with only seven attack errors, good for a .495 hitting percentage.
Porché Taking the Lead: Sophomore outside hitter Angie Porché has been the Crusaders’ go-to player offensively this season when they need a kill. Eight times this year, Porché has paced Valpo in the kills category, including six of the last eight matches. Last weekend, she picked up match-high totals of 21 kills against UIC and 16 kills against Loyola. Porché has averaged 4.30 kills/game on the season, leading the Crusaders and good for second in the Horizon League. She also is hitting at a .286 clip this year, a 24-point improvement over her freshman campaign, and has raised her career hitting percentage to .269, currently third-best on Valpo’s all-time chart.
Malicoat Moving Up: Junior libero Brittany Malicoat continues to pick up 100 digs every couple weeks like clockwork on the back line for Valpo. Malicoat entered the season 52 digs shy of the 1,000 milestone and reached it on Aug. 31 at Buffalo. Eight days later, she hit 1,100 digs against Western Michigan, and needed just 14 more days to pick up her 1,200th dig versus Loyola. Once Malicoat, who leads the Horizon League with 5.38 digs/game, reaches 1,300 digs, she will be in seventh place on Valpo’s all-time chart in the category.
Career Nights for Meyer: Junior right side hitter Jill Meyer took advantage of increased playing time this past weekend to set new career highs in numerous categories. In the win over UIC on Friday, Meyer was part of a career-best five blocks, in addition to putting down eight kills. She earned the start against Loyola on Saturday and put up career-highs with 15 kills, 38 attacks, three assists and three digs.
Newcomers in the Middle: Valpo’s two freshman middles both had solid weekends to start off Horizon League play. Tara Newton registered team-high totals of six blocks and four aces in addition to eight kills against UIC and added eight more kills versus Loyola. Katie Layman tallied six kills on .357 hitting and four blocks in her first collegiate start against the Flames, and picked up six blocks against the Ramblers.