This Weekend’s Action: After finishing up a challenging pre-league slate with a 7-2 record, Valparaiso begins Horizon League play this week with a match at in-state rival Butler on Friday evening.
Wrapping Up Last Weekend: The Crusaders were one of three teams playing at WKU’s Lady Topper Invitational last weekend to end the tournament with just one loss. Valpo downed Tennessee Tech and Furman on Friday by 3-2 and 3-1 counts, respectively, before dropping a 3-1 decision to the host on Saturday. Val Bollenbacher earned All-Tournament honors after hitting .302 with 37 kills for the weekend.
The Matchups: Historically, Butler holds a large edge in the all-time series with Valpo, winning 21 of the previous 27 meetings between the two programs. But most of those results can be described as ancient history, as since Carin Avery’s ascension to the head coaching position, Valpo is 4-0 against Butler, including a sweep of three matches versus the Bulldogs last year.
In their last meeting, which took place in the quarterfinals of the Horizon League Championship in Milwaukee, Wis. on Nov. 16, 2007, the fourth-seeded Crusaders swept the fifth-seeded Bulldogs, 30-28, 30-25, 30-25. Angie Porché led four Valpo players with double-figure kill totals with 20 kills on .304 hitting. Porché also broke Valpo’s single-season kills record on the match’s final point. Tara Newton put together an outstanding performance offensively as well, hitting at a .556 clip with 12 kills. Defensively, Brittany Malicoat registered a match-high 23 digs, breaking her own Valpo single-season record in the category late in the match.
Following the Crusaders: WVUR (95.1 FM - Valparaiso) will be broadcasting Friday’s match against the Bulldogs live over its airwaves. If you’re not in the Valparaiso area, you can listen live online to the match at www.valpoathletics.com, which will also have links to live stats and live video for the match against the Bulldogs.
Tops in the Region: Valparaiso enters Horizon League play this weekend ranked 46th in the nation in RKPI, a simulation of the NCAA’s RPI ranking system produced by RichKern.com. The Crusaders currently are the highest-ranked team in the RKPI in the Midwest Region, which encompasses Conference USA, the Ohio Valley Conference and the Southwestern Athletic Conference in addition to the Horizon League. Valpo is one of three HL schools currently in the top-100, joined by Milwaukee (80) and Butler (94).
Early Success: Coming into the 2008 season, the Crusaders knew they had a challenging pre-league slate ahead of them. Five teams that finished in the top-100 of the RPI in 2007 and two others which won at least 20 matches were on the schedule. But this year’s squad stepped up to the challenge, posting a 7-2 record in pre-league action, the best mark percentage-wise prior to the start of league play in Carin Avery’s seven years.
License to Kill: Carin Avery’s teams have registered the top four seasons in total kills in Valpo volleyball history, and this season’s team looks to be continuing the trend. The Crusaders are averaging 14.86 kills/set through three weekends of play, good for third nationally behind just San Diego and Penn State. Valpo also ranks seventh nationally in assists/set.
A Big Victory: Louisville entered the adidas Classic listed fifth among teams also receiving votes in the AVCA Coaches Top 25 poll, the second-highest ranked team to be downed by the Crusaders under Carin Avery. When Valpo defeated Notre Dame on Sept. 7, 2004, the Irish were the first team also receiving votes in the AVCA’s weekly poll.
Neutral Site Success: The Crusaders took victories in each of their six neutral-site contests in the pre-league schedule, extending an impressive streak. Dating back to mid-September 2006, Valpo has now won 16 of the last 17 matches it has played on a neutral floor.
Tabbed Second: Valparaiso has been projected to finish second in the Horizon League this season in preseason polling of the league’s nine head coaches. Cleveland State, last year’s tournament champion, was a unanimous selection to capture the league crown. Following the Crusaders were Milwaukee, UIC, and Butler. Youngstown State was placed sixth, while Wright State, Loyola and Green Bay rounded out the polling.
Know Your Rules: The NCAA Women’s Volleyball Rules Committee and the Playing Rules Oversight Panel approved a number of rule changes prior to the 2008 season. The most visible of the rule changes will be the following:
- The term “game” will be changed to “set”
- Sets one through four will now be contested to 25 (previously 30) points
- The maximum number of substiutions will now be 12 (previously 15) per set
Bollenbacher Stands Out: Junior outside hitter Val Bollenbacher represented Valparaiso on the All-Tournament Team at the Lady Topper Invitational last weekend. The junior, who received the second All-Tournament honor of her career (2007 Horizon League Championship), averaged 2.85 kills and 2.69 digs/set while swinging at a .302 pace on the weekend. Her tournament was highlighted by a 17-kill, 17-dig performance in the win over Furman, while she also put down 13 kills on .435 hitting versus host WKU. She currently ranks ninth in the Horizon League with an average of 2.92 kills/set.
Digging Deep: Senior libero Brittany Malicoat, the 2007 Horizon League Defensive Player of the Year, was featured in a story last week on ESPN.com which talked about her and her husband, Bobby, who is currently deployed in Iraq with the U.S. Marine Corps. On the court, Malicoat continued her strong play on the back line, leading the Crusaders in digs in all three matches while picking up 61 on the weekend. Malicoat currently ranks 48th nationally with 4.56 digs/set after finishing among the top-50 in the nation in the category as a sophomore and junior. She is poised to break Valpo’s career digs mark within the next couple matches, sitting just 35 shy of Sara Silcox’s record.
Killer Outside: Junior outside hitter Angie Porché, who earned Honorable Mention All-American honors last season, continues to be one of the nation’s most prolific players in racking up kills early on in the 2008 campaign. Porché currently ranks fifth nationally among all players with an average of 4.75 kills/set. Last weekend, she led Valpo in kills in all three matches and has now picked up at least ten kills in 32 consecutive appearances. She also moved up Valpo’s career charts last week, moving into fourth in kills (1,235) and seventh in attacks (3,048).
Efficient Swings: Senior middle hitter Allison Sears was a big part of the Crusaders’ offensive attack in both their wins last weekend at the Lady Topper Invitational. Sears hit at a .448 clip while matching for team-high honors with 18 kills against Tennessee Tech, while also picking up five blocks. In the nightcap on Friday, she again tied for team-high honors with 17 kills and swung at a .500 pace against Furman. Sears currently ranks among the top-ten in the Horizon League in both kills/set and hitting percentage.