The Matchups: Valparaiso begins its first Horizon League Championship Friday afternoon as the Crusaders, who enter the championship as the four seed, face off against fifth-seeded Butler. Valpo has won both previous meetings between the two squads this year, improving its all-time record against the Bulldogs to 5-21.
Last Meeting: Valparaiso used a standout defensive effort on the back line to kick off the second half of the Horizon League slate Oct. 19 with a victory at the Athletics-Recreation Center over Butler, 3-1 (30-19, 30-26, 19-30, 30-22). Leading Valpo’s play on the back line was junior libero Brittany Malicoat, who registered 33 digs, third-most in a four-game match all-time at Valpo. Malicoat got plenty of help on the back line, however, as sophomore Haley Wise posted a career-best 19 digs. Sophomore Angie Porché recorded 14 digs, while senior Tiffany Meikle picked up 12 digs to round out the four Crusaders in double figures. Porché led the Crusader offense with 26 kills on .373 hitting.
Last Week: The Crusaders finished the Horizon League regular season in a tie for third place after capturing hard-fought victories on the road over Loyola in five games and against UIC in four games. Brittany Malicoat earned Horizon League Defensive Player of the Week honors after picking up 27 digs in each match. Angie Porché led the Crusader offense with 27 terminations against the Ramblers, and followed with 24 kills versus the Flames.
On The Air: WVUR (95.1 FM - Valparaiso) will be broadcasting any matches as part of the Horizon League Championship, beginning with Friday’s quarterfinal against Butler, over its airwaves and online at www.valpo.edu/athletics. The campus radio station has broadcast most Crusader volleyball matches this season. Live video feeds will also be available at www.horizonleaguenetwork.tv.
Looking for 20/20/20/20/20/20 Vision: With two victories last weekend, Valparaiso finds itself just one win shy of reaching 20 wins on the season. If the Crusaders win once more and reach the 20-win plateau, it would mark the sixth consecutive season of reaching the milestone, as Carin Avery has never failed to win 20 matches in her first five seasons. Prior to Avery’s arrival, Valpo had won 20 matches in a season just five times in the first 23 years of the program’s existence.
Tournament Success: While the Crusaders begin their first Horizon League Championship, they bring a track record of performance in postseason tournament action with them. Since Avery’s arrival, Valpo is 7-2 in conference tournament matches, including three conference tournament championships. In addition, Valpo has never been defeated in less than five games in league tournament play under Avery.
200 Wins: Carin Avery reached a coaching milestone with the Crusaders’ win over UIC on Saturday, registering her 200th career victory. Avery reached the mark with a 200-77 (.722) overall record in just her eighth season as a head coach, and is 145-53 (.732) in six years at Valpo. Avery registered her 200th victory just under four calendar years after her 100th win, which occurred Nov. 14, 2003 against Oakland.
Serving it Up Hot: This year’s incarnation of the Crusaders continue to be the most successful team from the service line since Avery’s arrival. Valpo registered 13 service aces last weekend in two matches, extending its season total to 222, which is 15 more than the next closest Horizon League squad. The Crusaders have also shown balance from the service line, as nine different players have registered at least ten aces.
Getting it Done on Offense: Valparaiso’s offense has been its trademark this season, as just four times have the Crusaders been bested in the kills category. Valpo ranks second in the Horizon League with 16.04 kills/game and leads the league with 15.12 assists/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.
Another Week, Another Honor: Junior libero Brittany Malicoat has made a habit out of picking up league honors during her career, especially this season. Malicoat was named the Horizon League’s Defensive Player of the Week after picking up 27 digs against both Loyola and UIC last week, helping the Crusaders to victories in both matches. For Malicoat, it was her League-best third defensive honor of the season, and marks her fifth career weekly award. The junior currently paces the HL in both digs/game and aces/game, and extended her single-season league record for digs to 653, second-best in Crusader history.
Porché On Offense (And Defense): Sophomore outside hitter Angie Porché continued to stand out on both sides of the ball for the Crusaders last weekend. The sophomore paced Valpo for the 19th and 20th times this season in kills last weekend, picking up 27 kills against Loyola and 24 terminations at UIC. With the 51 kills, she now has 517 kills on the season, second-most in a single campaign all-time at Valpo. Porché also is just three kills shy of 1,000 for her career. Defensively, Porché tallied 17 digs versus the Ramblers and followed with 15 more against the Flames, giving her a team-high 13 double-doubles on the season.
Meikle Steps Up: Senior outside hitter Tiffany Meikle has played mostly a defensive role for the Crusaders this season, but stepped right up when needed on offense last weekend. Meikle tallied 12 kills against both Loyola and UIC, her first times breaking double figures in kills this season. In addition, the senior picked up 12 digs versus Loyola and a season-best 18 digs at UIC for her first two double-doubles of the season.