Popcorn Classic (Valparaiso, Ind.)
Marshall at Valpo - Thursday, Sept. 6 - 7 p.m.
Indiana vs. Marshall - Friday, Sept. 7 - 11 a.m.
Western Michigan vs. Marshall - Friday, Sept. 7 - 4:30 p.m.
Indiana at Valpo - Friday, Sept. 7 - 7 p.m.
Western Michigan vs. Indiana - Saturday, Sept. 8 - noon
Western Michigan at Valpo - Saturday, Sept. 8 - 7 p.m.
The Matchups: Valparaiso hosts the Popcorn Classic this year for the fourth time in six years. The Crusaders welcome Indiana, Marshall and Western Michigan to this year’s tournament. Valpo, which enters the weekend on a three-match winning streak, will be looking for the first victory in program history against both Indiana (0-2) and Western Michigan (0-5). The Brown and Gold defeated Marshall in the two teams’ only prior meeting.
Last Meeting: Valpo’s last matchup against both Marshall and Indiana occured at the 1995 Blockport Classic, hosted by Wright State. The Crusaders downed Marshall 3-0 (15-12, 15-7, 15-2) behind 17 kills and 21 digs by Cheri Hughes, but would later fall to the Hoosiers 3-0 (15-8, 15-5, 15-7) as they hit at a .432 clip for the match. In its last meeting against the Broncos, Valpo fell 3-0 (30-27, 30-22, 30-26) on Aug. 27, 2005. Jessi Novak picked up 11 kills in that match, while Lauren Moulton chipped in 10.
Last Weekend: Valparaiso was one of three teams at the 11-team Western New York Invitational to go through the weekend undefeated. The Crusaders swept Buffalo on Friday night before downing Binghamton in five and St. Francis (N.Y.) in three on Saturday. Jill Meyer earned All-Tournament Team honors after picking up 30 kills on .308 hitting over the three matches.
On The Air: WVUR (95.1 FM - Valparaiso) will broadcast all three of Valpo’s matches this weekend from the Popcorn Classic. Valparaiso’s campus radio station is planning on broadcasting all 29 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.
Popcorn Dominance: Valparaiso has taken the Popcorn Classic title in each of the three previous times it has hosted the tournament under current head coach Carin Avery. In 2002, the Crusaders downed Northeastern, Jacksonville and Fairfield. In 2003, Valpo defeated Cleveland State, East Tennessee State and Indiana State, while in 2005, the Brown and Gold prevailed against Saint Louis, Drake and Eastern Michigan.
Aces Wild, Part 1: The Crusaders matched a program record for aces in a three-game match Saturday against St. Francis, recording 16 service aces. Valpo had previously registered 16 aces in a sweep of Chicago State on Nov. 5, 1991. It also marked the most aces in any length match by a Crusader squad since rally scoring was implemented prior to the 2001 campaign.
Aces Wild, Part 2: Freshman outside hitter Andrea Balsis made her first career start one to remember on Saturday. Balsis registered seven service aces against the Terriers, second-most in a three-game match in Valpo history and tied for third-most in any length match. Fittingly, the final point of the match was Balsis’ seventh ace. The freshman also recorded 11 kills while hitting .450 and chipped in five digs and two blocks.
Force in the Middle: Junior middle blocker Allison Sears had a solid all-around weekend for the Crusaders. Sears led Valpo over the three matches in kills (38), hitting percentage (.315) and blocks (15). She picked up 19 kills in Valpo’s win over Binghamton and hit .450 with 12 kills and eight blocks in the sweep of St. Francis. Sears currently ranks among the league’s top-five in kills/game (3.89, 4th), aces/game (0.50, t-2nd) and blocks/game (1.22, 3rd).
Digging Deep: Junior libero Brittany Malicoat earned Valpo’s first-ever Horizon League honor this past week, taking Defensive Player of the Week accolades. Over Valpo’s three matches, Malicoat tallied 56 digs, including 31 against Binghamton, fifth-most in a five-game match in Valpo history. She reached the 1,000 dig plateau with dig number 11 against Buffalo. Malicoat also extended her streak of matches leading Valpo in digs to 47. She has also reached double figures in digs 23 straight times.
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.