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Crusaders Put First Place on the Line in Midweek League Matches
Monday, October 01, 2007
*Cleveland State at Valparaiso - Tuesday, Oct. 2 - 7 p.m.
The Matchups: The lone undefeated team in Horizon League play, Valparaiso carries a five-match winning streak into this week’s midweek League contests, as the Crusaders host Cleveland State and Youngstown State. Valpo is 12-2 all-time against Cleveland State and 10-4 all-time versus Youngstown State. Under Carin Avery, the Crusaders and Vikings have met just once, with Valpo coming out victorious, while the Crusaders have not faced the Penguins under Avery.
Last Meetings: Valpo won its sixth straight match to open the season, setting a new Mid-Con record, as the Crusaders swept Cleveland State 30-18, 30-26, 30-22 on Sept. 5, 2003 to open the Popcorn Classic. Michelle Robinson paced Valpo with 12 kills, while Sarah Schmalz tallied six kills and six blocks.
Last Week: The Crusaders swept Bradley in non-conference action and followed with wins in their first two Horizon League road matchups at Wright State and Butler. Angie Porché led Valpo with 57 kills over the three matches, while Val Bollenbacher added 43 terminations. Brittany Malicoat registered 52 digs on the back line.
On The Air: WVUR (95.1 FM - Valparaiso) will broadcast both of the Crusaders’ midweek 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.
Hot Start: With three more victories last week, Valpo continued its hot start to the 2007 campaign, as the Crusaders now sit at 13-3 on the season. This kind of start has only been seen three previous times in Crusader history. Both the 1996 and 2005 teams started out their respective seasons 14-3 en route to conference championships. The 2004 squad took it one step farther, running its record up to 20-3 before suffering its fourth loss of the season.
Finding a Way: The Crusaders entered last week with the most potent offense in the Horizon League, but found that offense stifled for the most part in their two League matches. Wright State held the Crusaders to .102 hitting, while Butler limited Valpo to a .119 clip. But, when it needed to, the offense stepped up, especially in the final two games against the Raiders, when the Crusaders hit .266 to come from behind for the win.
Getting it Done Defensively: As limited as the offense was last weekend, the Crusader defense stepped up to the plate to secure the two League victories. Valpo held Wright State to an .070 hitting percentage for the match and limited Butler to .157 hitting. The two opponents combined for just 89 kills, less than 10 kills per game, as the Crusaders registered 150 digs over the two matches.
Advantage Crusaders: One reason for the Crusaders’ superb record to this point in the season lies in two of the most basic of statistical categories. Valpo has registered more kills than its opponents in 14 of 16 matches (Illinois State and Indiana), and in all 14 instances, the Crusaders have racked up at least 12 more kills than their opponent. Also, the Brown and Gold has out-dug the opposition in each of the 16 matches during the 2007 season to date.
Aces Up: Valpo continues to rank among the top teams nationally in service aces. The Crusaders, who were 24th nationally going into last week’s matches in the category, registered 29 aces over their three matches, increasing their season total to 136, an average of 2.31/game.
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.
Both Ways for Porché: It has become commonplace to see sophomore outside hitter Angie Porché pacing the Crusaders on the offensive side of the ball this year. Porché has led Valpo in kills in 10 of 16 matches this season, including two of three matches last week. Porché did not lead the Crusaders against Bradley, but did post 13 kills on .370 hitting in the sweep. She went on to register team-high totals of 24 kills against Wright State and 20 kills versus Butler. Against the Raiders, Porché took 74 swings, matching the most in a five-game match in Crusader history. What was different, however, were Porché’s numbers on the defensive side. The sophomore became the first player other than Brittany Malicoat to lead the Crusaders in digs since Nov. 4, 2005, registering a match-high 21 digs against Wright State. The next afternoon, Porché paced the Crusaders in digs again, posting 18 digs to go along with a career-best five blocks. With those two double-doubles, Porché now has four on the season, all in the last six matches.
Solid Second Option: Sophomore outside hitter Val Bollenbacher has stepped up into one of Valpo’s main offensive threats this season. Last week, Bollenbacher reached double figures in kills in all three matches. She paced Valpo with 14 kills on .435 hitting in its sweep of Bradley, registered 17 kills versus Wright State and put down 12 balls against Butler. On the season, Bollenbacher is averaging 3.11 kills/game, just outside the top-10 in the League.
Digging Deep: Junior libero Brittany Malicoat had her streak of 56 consecutive matches leading Valpo in digs broken Friday night against Wright State, but still enjoyed a good week on the back line. Against Bradley, Malicoat was the only player with double-figure digs on either side, registering 18, and also recorded six service aces, tied for third-most in a three-game match in Valpo history. While she didn’t lead Valpo in digs in either conference match over the weekend, she did reach double figures in both, tallying 20 against Wright State and 14 against Butler, extending to 34 her streak of matches with double-figure dig totals.
Setting the Pace: Sophomore setter Kim Bukowski was called upon to spark a stagnant Crusader offense Friday night against Wright State and did so successfully, leading the Crusaders to a .265 hitting percentage in the final two games in the come-from-behind win while dishing out 19 assists. Bukowski earned the start the next afternoon against Butler, registering 47 assists to go along with a season-high eight digs.