Crusaders Head to Drake for Four Matches
Wednesday, September 2, 2009
Crusaders Head to Drake for Four Matches
Amy Groesbeck picked up 15 kills over the two matches last weekend. (Ray Acevedo)

Valparaiso at Hampton Inn Drake Invitational

vs. Texas A&M-Corpus Christi - 1 p.m., Friday., Sept. 4

at Drake - 7:30 p.m., Friday, Sept. 4

vs. South Dakota - 11 a.m., Saturday, Sept. 5

vs. Centenary - 3 p.m., Saturday, Sept. 5

This Weekend’s Action: Valparaiso continues pre-league play this weekend with a quartet of matches at the Hampton Inn Drake Invitational in Des Moines, Iowa.  The Crusaders will face off against Texas A&M-Corpus Christi, South Dakota and Centenary in addition to the host Bulldogs.

The Matchups: Valparaiso has never matched up against either Texas A&M-Corpus Christi or South Dakota on the volleyball court.  The Crusaders own a 3-1 mark all-time against Drake, and have never lost to Centenary in eight meetings all-time.

Valpo swept Drake by identical 30-25 scores in all three sets in the last meeting, on Sept. 9, 2006 in Des Moines.  Brittany Malicoat set a new Crusader record by tallying 30 digs in the three-set match, while Angie Porché paced the Valpo offense with 16 kills and Allison Sears added 12 kills of her own.

The Crusaders earned a 3-1 (30-25, 30-24, 29-31, 30-16) victory over Centenary in their final meeting as Mid-Con foes on Oct. 27, 2006 in Shreveport, La.  Porché led the way with 20 kills, while Sears and Jessie Fox registered 16 apiece.  Kim Bukowski handed out 54 assists and Malicoat led three players in double figures in digs with 14 picks.

Previously: Valpo traveled down to Gainesville, Fla. last weekend to take part in the Campus USA Credit Union Invitational, but could not come away with a victory, losing to Colorado (3-0) and UNLV (3-1).  Freshman libero Taylor Root earned All-Tournament Team accolades.

Following the Crusaders:  The sports staff at Valparaiso’s campus radio station, WVUR 95.1 FM, will be broadcasting most of the Crusaders’ volleyball matches this season.  All four matches this weekend will be carried live over the airwaves of WVUR, as well as online at

Gaining Experience: In trying to replace three graduated starters from last year’s squad and a fourth who suffered an injury early in the first match, Valparaiso put quite a few players on the court who earned consistent playing time for the first time in their careers last weekend.  Sophomores Katie Britton and Amy Groesbeck, who appeared in just 21 and 8 sets, respectively, as freshmen, both played in all seven sets and were among the Crusaders’ offensive leaders.  In addition, freshman Taylor Root earned the start at libero in both matches, becoming the first Valpo freshman to start at libero in her first career match.

Right in the Match: While the standings show two losses for the Crusaders last weekend, Valpo was right in both matches.  The Crusaders rallied for the third-set victory over UNLV, held two set points in the first set against Colorado and also led at 23-22 in the second frame against the Buffaloes.  In addition, Valpo was within two points late in three of the other four sets on the weekend.

Looking Back at 2008: 2008 was yet another stellar season in the Crusaders’ reign of excellence.  Valpo won 25 matches last year, making it one of just 15 programs nationwide with at least seven straight 20-win seasons, and put together a late-season 13-match winning streak, the second longest streak in program history.

AVCA Honors: After senior outside hitter Angie Porché made Crusader history by earning Honorable Mention All-American and All-Midwest Region honors from the AVCA in 2007, Valpo found itself well represented on the AVCA squads last year.  Porché repeated as an All-Region and Honorable Mention All-American honoree, while she was joined on both teams by graduated libero Brittany Malicoat.  Senior setter Kim Bukowski also earned recognition as an Honorable Mention All-Region honoree.

Leading the Nation: Valparaiso closed the 2008 campaign as the nation’s best in both kills/set and assists/set, outpacing national champion Penn State in both categories.  It marked the first time in program history the Crusaders led the nation in any statistical category.

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.  The Crusaders received two of the nine first-place votes en route to tallying 58 points.  Defending league champion Milwaukee received the other seven first-place nods and totaled 63 points, while Cleveland State, Butler, Wright State, Loyola, UIC, Youngstown State and Green Bay rounded out the polling in order.

Root Steps Right In: Freshman libero Taylor Root stepped right into the Crusader starting lineup at the libero position last weekend and showed no signs of being a newbie, picking up 32 digs over the two matches.  Root tied for team-high honors with 14 digs against Colorado and then led all players with 18 digs to go along with a pair of aces versus UNLV.  The High School All-American led all players at the tournament with her 32 total digs, and earned All-Tournament Team honors for her performance.

Porché Back in Action: Senior outside hitter Angie Porché rebounded from offseason surgery and came right back as the Crusaders’ top offensive threat in the season’s first weekend.  The senior kicked off the year with 15 kills on .344 hitting to go with 14 digs against Colorado, and followed with an 11-kill, nine-dig effort versus UNLV.  Porché surpassed 1,600 kills and 4,000 attacks for her career over the weekend, while also extending her streak  of consecutive matches with at least ten kills to 56. 

Britton Filling In Nicely: Sophomore Katie Britton saw the first extended playing time of her career this past weekend and took full advantage.  Britton put up five kills on just 15 swings in the season opener against Colorado.  She followed the next day against UNLV with 42 attacks, second-most on the team and more than she attempted her entire freshman season, and a team-best 14 kills, the first time Britton has paced the Crusaders in the category.

Groesbeck on the Right: The right side starting position was up for grabs entering the season, and sophomore Amy Groesbeck put up a nice performance in her first starting weekend.  Groesbeck matched her entire freshman year total with nine kills Friday versus Colorado, hitting at a .368 clip, and added six more kills Saturday against UNLV.  She also picked up six blocks on the weekend, second-most among the Crusaders.

Diebler Dialed In: Junior middle hitter Tara Diebler leads the Crusaders in hitting percentage through the season’s first weekend, hitting at a .286 clip.  Diebler posted six kills in the season opener against Colorado, and followed by registering the tenth double-figure performance in the category of her career, putting up ten kills on .304 hitting versus UNLV.