VALPARAISO (16-5, 6-1 Mid-Con) VS WESTERN ILLINOIS (12-9, 6-1 Mid-Con)
Friday, October 21, 7:00 p.m. at Valparaiso
At Athletics-Recreation Center (Valparaiso, Ind.)
RADIO: WVUR, 95.1 FM and online at www.valpo.edu/athletics
SERIES RECORD: This marks the 30th time these two schools will meet, with Valpo holding a 24-5 series lead, including a 3-1 win earlier this year in Macomb, Ill. The Brown and Gold have taken 10 in row from the Westerwinds, dating all the way back to the 1999 season, three years before Carin Avery's arrival at Valpo. Perhaps more impressively, the Crusaders have never lost at home against Western Illinois, winning all 13 times the two teams have met. Additionally, the Crusaders have won 17 straight matches at home and 24 of their last 25 home conference matches.
ON THE VERGE: Head coach Carin Avery is poised to surpass Cindy Harris as Valpo volleyball's all-time winningest coach. Entering tonight's match, Avery and Harris sit at 92 wins apiece, but Avery has reached the mark much faster. Harris took five seasons and 171 matches to obtain 92 wins, while Avery has coached just 120 matches and is midway through her fourth season. Avery has enjoyed eight separate streaks of at least five straight victories, including a school record-setting 14-match winning streak, and has led Valpo to two straight Mid-Con regular season and tournament titles. Avery inherited a program that had suffered through three straight losing seasons and has improved on her win total each year at Valpo, including a school-record 29 wins in 2004.
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.
DEFENSE WINS CHAMPIONSHIPS: Valparaiso has ratcheted up the defensive intensity in 2005. The Crusaders sit atop the Mid-Con with 2.89 blocks/game. Valpo has registered double-digit blocks in twelve 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 18.77 digs/game, and have held opponents to a .127 hitting percentage on the season.
TOP-NOTCH OFFENSE: The Crusaders currently reside atop the Mid-Con and rank 16th in the nation, with 16.50 kills/game to date. Valpo has spread the ball around, as six different Crusaders have at least 130 kills, led by 222 from Amy Palash. The Brown and Gold also lead the Mid-Con with 14.61 assists/game.
SET IN STONE: Senior setter Katie Bova is making her case as a threat in all aspects of the game after being named 2004 Mid-Con Setter of the Year. Bova has continued to get the job done, leading the Mid-Con with 11.75 assists/game. She has stepped up defensively, averaging 3.44 digs/game and moving into Valpo's 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 also leads the Mid-Con, currently hitting at a .301 rate.
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 earlier this season against Oakland. Not to be overlooked is her offense, as Mikos is hitting .245 with 2.67 kills/game this season.
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 eleven 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 eleven occasions. Moulton is Valpo's all-time leader with a .279 hitting percentage, and has moved into sixth all-time with 1,064 career kills, just 24 kills away from fifth. On the defensive side of the ball, Moulton has recorded 61 blocks on the season, jumping into fifth place on Valpo's career chart with 359 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 five matches this season, including four of her last five. Earlier this season, 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. Last week against Oral Roberts, Marks tied her career high with 20 digs. In conference play, she ranks sixth in the Mid-Con with 4.19 digs/game.
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 3rd in the Mid-Con with 3.36 kills per game. On the defensive end, Amy is averaging 3.56 digs/game, good for 8th in the conference. Palash has also received two Mid-Con Player of the Week awards this season, giving her three for her career.
WESTERWIND NOTES: Western Illinois enters tonight's battle tied for first place in the Mid-Con and on a seven-match win streak. The Westerwinds have defeated five straight conference foes during the streak, including toppling Oral Roberts in Tulsa.
The libero position is tailored for Westernwind junior Jennifer Alexander. Alexander is currently averaging a league-best 5.28 digs/game. Over her career, she has averaged 5.34 digs/game, a mark that is the best all-time in the Mid-Con. She is also third all-time in total digs with 1,570.
Middle hitter Jenna Yurs is making an impact on the defensive side of the net for Western Illinois. Yurs, who sits among the Mid-Con's all-time best in blocks per game, has already registered 128 blocks this season. Her 1.56 blocks per game leads the league and ranks 16th nationally.