#1 VALPARAISO (24-6, 13-1 Mid-Con), #2 ORAL ROBERTS (21-10, 12-2 Mid-Con), #3 WESTERN ILLINOIS (17-12, 11-3 Mid-Con), #4 IUPUI (14-16, 7-7 Mid-Con)
WHEN: Semifinals: Western Illinois vs. Oral Roberts, November 19, 5 p.m.
IUPUI vs. Valparaiso, November 19, 7:30 p.m.
Championship: WIU/ORU winner vs. Valpo/IUPUI winner, November 20, 2 p.m.
WHERE: Athletics-Recreation Center (5,000), Valparaiso, Ind.
RADIO: WVUR (95.1-FM-Valparaiso) and on the internet at www.valpo.edu/athletics. Ken LaVicka and Eric Brooks will call all the action.
Valparaiso hosts the 2005 Mid-Continent Conference volleyball championship for the second time in the last three years this weekend. The Crusaders are looking for their third consecutive tournament title and third straight trip to the NCAA Tournament.
WINNING ANOTHER CHAMPIONSHIP: Valparaiso enters the Mid-Continent Conference Tournament having captured its third consecutive regular season crown. The Crusaders cruised past Centenary in three games, 30-20, 30-15, 30-17 last Friday to set up a showdown with Oral Roberts for the championship. Valpo jumped on top early, winning the first game 30-26, but the Golden Eagles knotted the match at one, capturing game two 30-22. ORU jumped out to a quick lead in game three as well, but the Crusaders went on a 9-0 run midway through the game to take control and win 30-22. Valpo then coasted to the game four win, 30-13, hitting a season's single-game best .625 to down the Golden Eagles. Katie Bova recorded her fifth career triple-double in the win, tallying 48 assists, 13 digs, and 12 kills. Liz Mikos hit .476 with 12 kills and a match-high five blocks, while Amy Palash paced Valpo with 17 kills and 18 digs.
DEE-FENCE: Valpo can look at its defense this year as the main reason the team has reached the levels of success it has. The Crusaders have registered Mid-Con bests of 18.72 digs/game and 2.89 blocks/game, contributing to the Brown and Gold holding opponents to a .118 hitting percentage on the season, tied for Penn State as the best in the nation. Valpo has been even stingier at home, allowing opponents to hit only .095 in the eleven matches at the ARC.
SWEET HOME VALPARAISO: The Brown and Gold have been dominant in the friendly confines of the Athletics-Recreation Center since Avery took over as coach prior to 2002. Valpo has gone 42-4 (.913) overall at the ARC in Avery's four seasons, including 21 straight victories since falling to Big 10 foe Michigan at the beginning of the 2004 season. The Crusaders have been even better against conference opponents at the ARC, tallying a 26-1 (.963) record over the last four years against the Mid-Con, including the 2003 Mid-Con Tournament Championship.
BEATING THE MID-CON: Valparaiso has controlled the top echelon of the Mid-Continent Conference over the last three years. The Crusaders have gone 40-2 (.952) in regular season action, while capturing the last three Mid-Con championships and the 2003 and 2004 tournament championships. The Brown and Gold have not dropped a match to a conference rival in less than five games since November 9, 2002 at IUPUI, where they lost in three.
ONE VERSATILE SETTER: Senior setter Katie Bova has shown this season why she is the reigning Mid-Con Setter of the Year. Bova leads Valpo and the Mid-Con with 11.73 assists/game. But Bova has done more than just set up her teammates. Like any good quarterback, Bova has called her own number at times, keeping opponents off balance all year with her attacks. She has hit at a team-best .277 rate on the season, good for third in the conference, with 1.75 kills/game.
Her defense has been stellar as well, as Bova ranks tenth in the league with 3.46 kills/game and has also put up 0.61 blocks/game. Not to be overlooked is her ability from the service line. Bova's long floaters have proven to be troubling for opponents, as she is averaging 0.32 aces/game, ninth-best in the Mid-Con. Bova is the only Mid-Con athlete to rank in the top-ten of at least four of the six statistical categories.
HITTING THE CHARTS: Bova's strength over the course of her career has been her versatility, as is shown by her appearances on Valpo's all-time records. She has racked up 2,853 assists for her career, third-best all-time, most of them coming the last two seasons when Bova has been the primary setter. With her first two seasons of work coming as a defensive specialist, Bova has registered 1,267 career digs, which ranks seventh in Valpo history. Her serve has propelled her into the top-ten in career aces as well, with 115.
MIKOS ON THE BLOCK: Liz Mikos has proven herself over her four-year career to be one of the best blockers in the conference, if not the country. Her 562 career blocks easily rank first on Valpo's all-time chart, and trail only Kathy Brinkworth on the Mid-Con career list. She is averaging a Mid-Con all-time best 1.50 blocks/game for her career. Mikos also holds Valpo's career solo blocks record with 136 total solo blocks. She has been consistent over her three seasons as a starter, as she has recorded each of the top three blocking seasons in school history. Her sophomore (196 blocks) and junior (184 blocks) seasons ranks third and fourth in Mid-Con single season history, respectively, while her 139 blocks this year places her 16th with at least three more matches to play.
ADEPT IN THE CLASSROOM: Mikos has shown that she is not just a top performer on the volleyball court. She received Mid-Con All-Academic Team accolades each of the previous two seasons. Last week, Mikos was named to the ESPN the Magazine District V Academic First Team. With the honor, Mikos moves on and becomes a candidate for the Academic All-American Team, to be released November 30.
BUILDING A LEGACY: Senior rightside hitter Lauren Moulton has left her mark on Valpo's record books. Her career hitting percentage of .278 is best in Crusader history, while her 1,132 kills rank fifth all-time. The 2004 Mid-Con Player of the Year has shown that her defense has not been shabby either, as she has tallied 385 career blocks, ranking in the top-five, just three blocks out of the four spot.
TAKING ADVANTAGE OF HOMECOURT: While all the Crusaders perform well at the ARC, Moulton shows the biggest preference for the friendly confines. She leads the Brown and Gold with a .343 hitting percentage at home, while also tallying a team-best 3.09 kills/game. Her block has been solid as well, as she has 1.18 rejections/game on the home court.
HITTING FRENZY: Sophomore outside hitter Amy Palash has been Valpo's top offensive threat over the 2005 season. Palash is averaging a team-high 3.46 kills/game, fourth-highest in the Mid-Con. She has put together 19 matches with at least ten kills, including a Crusader single-match high 19 kills versus UCLA and at IUPUI.
GETTING DEFENSIVE: Palash has also been a solid performer on the defensive side of the ball for the Brown and Gold. Her 3.55 digs/game ranks eighth in the league, making her the Mid-Con's only player in the top-ten of both kills and digs. She has also tallied 19 matches with double-digit digs, propelling her to 15 double-doubles on the season.
FOX ROCKIN' THE BOX: Jessie Fox has had a stellar junior season for the Crusaders. She has moved into Valpo's all-time top-ten in hitting percentage, having hit at a .254 clip for her career. Her 1.22 blocks/game is fourth-best in the Mid-Con, while her 283 career blocks rank eighth in Valpo history. She has especially shined in conference play, hitting .290 with 3.11 kills/game, both in the Mid-Con top-ten.