VALPARAISO (9-3) AT UMKC (2-8) & WESTERN ILLINOIS (4-7)
Friday, September 23, 7:00 p.m. at UMKC
Saturday, September 24, 7:00 p.m. at Western Illinois
Friday at Swinney Gymnasium (Kansas City, Mo.)
Saturday at Western Hall (Macomb, Ill.)
SERIES RECORD: The Crusaders are 17-8 all-time against UMKC after winning a pair of 3-1 matches last season. Valpo holds a 23-5 series edge over WIU, sweeping both macthes from the Westerwinds last year.
MID-CON POWERHOUSE: Since Carin Avery took over as head coach prior to the 2002 season, Valparaiso has spent Mid-Continent Conference play as a target for the rest of the conference. In the past three seasons, the Crusaders have accumulated a 36-4 record in conference play, including a 19-1 record at home. Last season, the Brown and Gold dropped just six out of 48 games to Mid-Con opponents as they went undefeated in conference play.
LOOKING DOWN FROM THE TOP: The Crusaders are a unanimous pick to repeat as Mid-Con regular season champions in the 2005 season. Valpo received seven first-place votes, the maximum possible, from Mid-Con coaches in the preseason poll. Projected, in order, to finish behind the Crusaders are Oral Roberts, Western Illinois, IUPUI, UMKC, Oakland, Chicago State, and Centenary.
INNTOWNER INVITE: Valparaiso spent last weekend playing among the nation's elite at the InnTowner Invitational in Madison, Wis. Friday night, the Crusaders gave #11 UCLA a scare, jumping ahead two games to one before dropping the match 3-2. Saturday, Valpo defeated Big East foe Villanova 3-1 before falling to host #13 Wisconsin 3-0 to finish the tournament with a 1-2 record. Lauren Moulton represented the Brown and Gold on the All-Tournament Team after recording 36 kills and 19 blocks over the three matches.
BOVA DOES IT ALL: 2004 Mid-Con Setter of the Year Katie Bova has shown opponents that they must focus on all facets of her game in 2005. Bova has racked up three triple-doubles and five double-doubles in the first 12 matches of the season. She collected Mid-Con Offensive Player of the Week honors for her play at the WMU Fall Kickoff Tournament, was named MVP of the Blue Demon Invitational, and was named co-MVP of the Popcorn Classic. Bova is leading the Crusaders in assists (11.55/game) and hitting percentage (.345), while also averaging 2.91 digs per game and 1.95 kills per game.
GUESS WHO'S BACK: 2004 Mid-Con Player of the Year Lauren Moulton has returned as a steady performer in 2005. She has picked up double-digit kills in each of her last five matches for Valpo, and is currently averaging 3.10 kills per game. Moulton garnered co-MVP honors at the Popcorn Classic, hitting .386 for the tournament with 44 kills, and also received Mid-Con Offensive Player of the Week accolades. Moulton followed that performance with another All-Tournament Team appearance, this time at the InnTowner Invitational, where she averaged 3 kills and 1.58 blocks per game.
QUEEN OF BLOCKS: Since arriving at Valpo in 2002, middle blocker Liz Mikos has completely rewritten the Crusader blocking record books. Mikos made her way to the top of Valpo's career blocks list with a block against Belmont in the fifth match of the season. Mikos currently finds herself just one solo block shy of tying xxx at the top of the Crusader record book. So far in 2005, Mikos has recorded 70 blocks (1.59/game), including ten apiece last weekend against #11 UCLA and Villanova. Mikos has also performed offensively for the Brown and Gold, hitting a sizzling .733 (11-0-15) against Evansville at the Blue Demon Invitational, and registering a career-high 16 kills in Valpo's victory over Villanova.
NO SOPHOMORE SLUMP HERE: Amy Palash has picked up right where she left off after a freshman campaign in which she recorded 496 digs, fourth-best in Crusader history, and 358 kills. Palash earned Mid-Con Offensive Player of the Week honors after a Blue Demon Invitational where she hit .304 with 49 kills and 38 digs. Last weekend, Palash led the Crusaders in their near-upset of #11 UCLA, hitting .260 with 19 kills and 12 digs.
UNDERCLASSMEN CONTRIBUTING: Valparaiso has received solid efforts from the less-experienced members of its roster early in 2005. Sophomore libero Heidi Hammond picked up Most Valuable Libero honors at the Blue Demon Invitational. Hammond currently leads the Crusaders with 167 digs (4.07/game) on the season. Sophomore outside hitter Tiffany Meikle and freshman right side Jill Meyer received starting assignments against Drake and DePaul, respectively. Freshman Brittany Marks has seen action at libero and defensive specialist for the Crusaders, picking up ten digs against Drake.
OPPONENTS SHOULD FEAR REJECTION: The Crusaders have picked up right where they left off in 2004, using the block as a scoring weapon. Valpo has recorded 135 total blocks through their first 12 matches of the season. Most recently, the Crusaders registered 21 total blocks in their five-game match versus #11 UCLA, tying the school record for most blocks in a match, and followed that up with a 17-block effort in the win over Villanova. Earlier this season, Valpo tied a single-match record when they put up eight solo blocks in their victory over Eastern Michigan