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Crusaders Continue Tournament Play in Western New York
Wednesday, August 29, 2007
Western New York Invitational
The Matchups: The Crusaders continue pre-conference play this weekend as they travel to the Western New York Invitational. Valpo will take on Buffalo, Binghamton and Saint Francis (N.Y.) over a two-day span. The Brown and Gold has never faced either of the latter two foes, and has not met Buffalo since the two squads were both members of the Mid-Con. The Crusaders hold a 3-1 series edge all-time against the Bulls.
Last Meeting: Needing a victory to secure a share of the Mid-Con regular season title, Valparaiso overcame a two games to one deficit to defeat Buffalo, 3-2 (12-15, 16-14, 0-15, 15-8, 15-8) on Nov. 2, 1997. The Crusaders won despite hitting just .069 versus a .186 clip by the Bulls. Valpo was led by Kelly Schoenhoft, who registered 16 kills, nine digs and four blocks. Defensively, the Crusaders had three players reach double figures in digs, led by 20 from Melissa Alt.
Last Weekend: Valparaiso split a pair of matches last weekend at the Redbird Classic. The Crusaders began the 2007 campaign just like they ended the 2006 season, with a 3-1 victory over Miami (Ohio), before falling to the hosts from Illinois State. Nicole Schulz tallied 17 kills on .500 hitting in the win over Miami, while Allison Sears registered 16 kills in each of the two matches. Brittany Malicoat excelled defensively, leading all players in digs with 19 versus Miami and 22 against Illinois State.
On The Air: WVUR (95.1 FM - Valparaiso) will broadcast all three of this weekend’s matches from Western New York. 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.
New League...: Valparaiso moves to the Horizon League for the 2007 season after playing for 15 seasons in the Mid-Continent Conference. The Crusaders dominated the league in their tenure, capturing six Mid-Con regular season and six Mid-Con tournament championships.
...Same Dominance?: The Crusaders are looking to extend their program-record stretch of 20-win seasons to six this year. Coach Avery has led Valpo to at least 20 victories in each of her five seasons at the helm.
Tournament Success: Last season was the most successful in program history when it came to in-season tournaments. The Crusaders took home tournament titles at three of the five in-season tournaments they participated in, capturing the crown at the Chicagoland Classic, Catamount Clash and Miami Thanksgiving Invitational. Valpo is looking for similar success this year, as they are taking part in four in-season tournaments.
Sears Stepping Up: Junior middle blocker Allison Sears is going to be one of Valpo’s go-to hitters this year, and started off the season well. Sears registered 16 kills in each of the Crusaders’ first two matches, the first time in her career she has picked up at least 15 kills in back-to-back matches. She also paced the Crusaders with six blocks in the win over Miami, and tallied five service aces on the weekend.
Swinging Away: Senior right side hitter Nicole Schulz didn’t miss a beat in the first match of the 2007 season. Schulz, who set Valpo’s single-season hitting percentage record last year by swinging at a .334 clip, hit .500 with 17 kills in Valpo’s season-opening win against the RedHawks. For Schulz, it was the seventh time in her career that she has hit .500 or better with at least 15 attacks.
Back-Row Force: Junior libero Brittany Malicoat kept up her strong play on the back line for Valpo in the season’s first weekend. Malicoat led all players with 19 digs against Miami and 22 versus Illinois State, and is currently second in the league with 5.86 digs/game. Malicoat has now paced Valpo in digs in 44 straight matches.
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.