Crusaders Continue Pre-League Play at Southern Illinois
Wednesday, September 9, 2009
Crusaders Continue Pre-League Play at Southern Illinois
Tara Diebler is currently third on the team in both kills and blocks per set. (Ray Acevedo)

Valparaiso at Saluki Invitational

vs. Murray State - 5 p.m., Friday, Sept. 11

vs. UAB - 10 a.m., Saturday, Sept. 12

at Southern Illinois - 7 p.m., Saturday, Sept. 12

This Weekend’s Action: Valparaiso concludes pre-league competition this weekend in a challenging tournament field at Southern Illinois’ Saluki Invitational, facing Murray State and UAB in addition to the host Salukis.

The Matchups: Valparaiso (3-3) has never met up with Murray State (0-6) on the volleyball court and has taken on UAB (4-3) and Southern Illinois (7-0) just once apiece.

The Crusaders’ only prior meeting with UAB came on Sept. 6, 1991 in a tournament at Butler, where the Blazers came out with a 3-0 (15-12, 15-8, 17-15) victory.  Lori Barton paced the Valpo offense with 14 kills, while Kristy Gates narrowly missed a triple-double, tallying 19 assists, ten digs and eight kills.

Valpo’s previous meeting with Southern Illinois also came at the Saluki Invitational, 16 years ago.  In that contest, the Salukis swept the Crusaders (15-13, 15-12, 15-10), not allowing any Valpo player into double digits in the kills category.  The Crusaders did tally ten service aces on the night, concluding their play at the 1993 Saluki Invite 1-2, defeating Morehead State and falling to Marquette as well.

Previously: Valparaiso competed in its second of three pre-league tournaments at the Hampton Inn Drake Invitational, going 3-1 to tie for the best record at the tournament.  The Crusaders defeated Centenary (3-0), Texas A&M-Corpus Christi (3-1) and South Dakota (3-2), while falling to the host Bulldogs (3-0).  Valpo, which was awarded third place based on set winning percentage, was represented on the All-Tournament Team by Katie Britton and Taylor Root.

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 three matches this weekend will be carried live over the airwaves of WVUR, as well as online at, which will also have links to live stats for all matches.

Rally Provides Momentum: Valpo went into the locker room at the mid-match break against South Dakota down two sets to none, having dropped six of its last seven sets over a three-match span.  But the Crusaders rallied to take the match victory, winning each of the last three sets, and followed with a sweep of Centenary to close the tournament on a six-set winning streak.

The Termination Advantage:
En route to leading the nation in kills/set last season, Valpo out-killed its opponents by at least ten kills in 23 of its 32 matches.  The Crusaders returned to the big edge in the kills category last weekend at Drake, out-killing Texas A&M-Corpus Christi by 18 and South Dakota by 16 in victories.  Valpo also posted eight more kills than Centenary despite only tallying 33 kills in the sweep, and only trailed Drake by five kills.  To date this season, the Crusaders are averaging nearly a kill/set more (13.27-12.32) than their opposition.

Finale Block Party: Valpo had registered just 18 blocks in its first five matches of the season prior to facing Centenary, but nearly doubled that number against the Ladies, recording 12 rejections, the most by a Crusader squad since 2007.  Katie Layman led the effort individually with seven blocks.

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.

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.

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.

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.

Great Britton: Sophomore Katie Britton has stepped up into a regular outside hitter role for the Crusaders this season and put up some big-time numbers.  The sophomore led Valpo in kills in three of its four matches last weekend at the Drake Invitational, posting a new career high with 16 kills in the win over Texas A&M-Corpus Christi and then surpassing that the next day with 18 kills against South Dakota.  Britton averaged 3.20 kills/set on the week to pace Valpo and earned the first All-Tournament Team honors of her career.  On the season, she currently ranks fifth in the Horizon League with 3.05 kills/set.

Root Rakes in the Honors:
Freshman libero Taylor Root made it two-for-two last weekend, earning All-Tournament Team accolades at Drake, the second such honor of her career in the second weekend of her career.  Root led the Crusaders in digs in all four matches, registering at least 12 digs every time out and averaging 4.33 digs/set on the weekend.  The freshman, who currently ranks fifth in the league with a season average of 4.41 digs/set, stepped up in Valpo’s comeback win over South Dakota, setting a new career best with 28 digs.

Porché Producing on Both Sides: Senior outside hitter Angie Porché continued to be a consistent force for the Crusaders on both sides of the ball last weekend.  The senior posted a double-double with 14 kills and 12 digs in Valpo’s tournament-opening win over Texas A&M-Corpus Christi, and narrowly missed double-doubles in each of the next two matches, registering ten digs and nine kills against Drake and 18 kills and nine digs versus South Dakota.  On the season, Porché ranks fourth in the league and leads the Crusaders with 3.09 kills/set and is also second on the team with 2.68 digs/set.

Groesbeck on the Right:
Sophomore right side Amy Groesbeck had never reached double figures in kills in a match in her career prior to last weekend, but did it twice in a three-match span for the Crusaders.  Groesbeck kicked off the weekend by registering 12 kills against Texas A&M-Corpus Christi, and two matches later, picked up a career-best 14 kills on .300 hitting vs. South Dakota.

Pokorny Plays All Around:
Sophomore setter Jenny Pokorny got the opportunity to hit from the front row against Centenary, and took full advantage with a stellar all-around match.  The sophomore tied for team-high honors with six kills on .429 hitting, while also tallying 11 assists, eight digs, four blocks and two aces.  Every one of the marks, except for assists, was a new career high for Pokorny.