Valparaiso (11-2, 1-1 Horizon)
A quick trip and then a return to the ARC this week
Friday, Sept. 24 - 7 p.m. - at UIC (6-6, 1-1 Horizon)
Saturday, Sept. 25 - 6 p.m. - IUPUI (2-12, 1-3 Summit)
This Week in Crusader Volleyball: After suffering their first loss since the season opener last week, Valparaiso looks to rebound as it travels to Chicago to face UIC before returning home on Homecoming Saturday for a non-league showdown with IUPUI.
Looking Back at Last Week: Valparaiso extended its winning streak to 11 matches as it won its Horizon League opener in four sets over Wright State on Friday, but in front of a record crowd at the ARC Saturday afternoon, the Crusaders couldn’t come all the way back from a two-set deficit, dropping a 3-2 decision to Butler.
Following the Crusaders: Saturday’s match against IUPUI will have live audio and video links at www.valpoathletics.com, while the radio broadcast can also be heard on WVUR, 95.1 FM, Valparaiso. Live stats for both the match against the Jaguars, as well as Friday’s road contest at UIC, will be available as well through the official Crusader website.
Head Coach Carin Avery: Carin Avery is in her ninth season at the helm of the Crusader volleyball program and has experienced nothing but success as head coach. Avery is 205-75 (.732) in her eight-plus years at Valpo and owns a 260-99 (.724) record overall in ten-plus years as a head coach. She ranks among the top-20 winningest active coaches in Division I volleyball and is Valpo’s all-time leader in both wins and winning percentage.
Series Notes: UIC - 17-21 overall (8-2 under Avery); last meeting: 3-0 Valpo @ Valpo 11/6/09 (Team hit .308 and posted 12 service aces; Porché 11 kills, .429; Britton 10 kills, .360; Diebler 9 kills, 5 blocks, 3 aces; Bukowski 30 assists; Root 12 digs, 3 aces; Pokorny 3 aces)
IUPUI - 18-12 overall (13-3 under Avery); last meeting: 3-0 Valpo @ IUPUI 10/20/09 (Britton 12 kills, .480; Layman 12 kills, .435; Porché 11 kills, 12 digs; Diebler 11 kills; Bukowski 42 assists; Root 22 digs; Pokorny 15 digs)
The Opponents: UIC - 6-6 (1-1 Horizon); soph OH Kelsey Safranek 3.12 kps; soph MH Janise Dismuke 2.56 kps, .355, 0.91 bps; senior OH Casie Sullivan 2.53 kps, 2.81 dps; senior S Jessica Dalke 10.14 aps, 2.19 dps; senior DS Taylor Szatkowski 3.33 dps
IUPUI - 2-12; soph OH Lindsey Weber 2.87 kps, 2.87 dps; junior OH Kalyse Reimbold 2.65 kps, 2.89 dps; fresh S Alexis Meeks 8.96 aps, 2.26 dps; junior L Shari Bernhardt 5.34 dps
The Best Start: While the Crusaders suffered just their second loss of the season Saturday evening, they still had already set a program record for most wins before their second loss, starting the year 11-1. In fact, they have already set the record for most wins before the third loss, as the 2003 squad held the previous best at 10-2. The 2010 Crusaders still have a ways to go to set the mark for most wins before the fourth loss, a mark currently owned by the 2004 team, which won 20 games before suffering its fourth defeat.
Double-Digit Winning Streaks: Of course, this year’s 11-1 start began with the lone blemish in the loss column, meaning that the Crusaders extended their winning streak to 11 straight matches with the win over Wright State last Friday before finally taking another loss. The 11-match win streak is the third-longest in program history, surpassed only by the 2004 (14 straight) and 2008 (13 straight) teams.
Home Court Advantage: While Valpo’s 10-match home winning streak was also snapped with Saturday night’s loss, the Crusaders still have owned a tremendous advantage over the opposition while playing at the ARC under Avery. Since the start of the 2002 season, Valpo is now 77-15 (.837) at home, including a 19-3 (.864) mark since the start of 2008.
Record Crowd: Valpo’s home court advantage has been thanks in large part to some of the best crowd support in the Horizon League, and never were more people at the ARC for a volleyball match than Saturday afternoon. As part of Communiversity Day activities on the Crusader campus, a record crowd of 1,236 fans attended Valpo’s match against the Bulldogs, breaking the previous single-match attendance record of 1,152, set back in September of 2006 against Oral Roberts.
Wanted - Bigger Trophy Case: The Crusaders captured their third straight in-season tournament title by bringing home the crown from the Bradley Invitational Sept. 11, the first time in program history Valpo has won three consecutive in-season tournaments. Valpo, which won the La Salle and Appalachian Invitationals in this season’s first two weekends, previously earned three in-season tournament titles in 2006, but one of those championships came at the end of the regular season.
Digging Deep: Valparaiso has proven especially efficient in the early portion of the season at keeping the ball in play and keeping rallies going. The Crusaders are averaging 18.30 digs/set through the season’s first month, easily the most in the Horizon League and ranked sixth nationally, thanks in large part to Taylor Root’s efforts at libero. Three other Crusaders are also averaging between two and three digs per set as well.
All They Do is Win in the Windy City: Same-day trips to Chicago for road volleyball matches have proven to be no match for the Crusaders over the past eight years. Valpo went a perfect 2-0 in Chicago last year, sweeping both Loyola and UIC within the city limits. The Crusaders have now won an amazing 21 straight matches in the Second City, dating back to Oct. 8, 2002.
Pokorny Picks Up Award: Junior setter Jenny Pokorny, who earned two All-Tournament Team honors in the first three weeks of the season, picked up her first career Horizon League weekly honor Monday, as she was named the league’s Offensive Player of the Week. Pokorny hit .378 in Valpo’s two matches last week while averaging 10.22 assists, 3.67 digs and 1.78 kills/set, including a near triple-double against Butler of 44 assists, 20 digs and nine kills. On the year, the junior ranks fourth in the league both in assists/set (9.82) and hitting percentage (.333).
Root Among Nation’s Best: Sophomore libero Taylor Root posted 20 digs in both matches for the Crusaders last weekend and has tallied at least 15 digs in each of the year’s first 13 matches, including 10 efforts of 20+ digs. The two-time HL Defensive Player of the Week and MVP of the Bradley Ivnitational has at least tied for team-high honors in all 13 matches and has led all players in nine contests so far. Her average of 5.76 digs/set leads all Horizon League athletes and ranks sixth nationally.
Diebler Racks Up the Kills: Senior middle hitter Tara Diebler has been the Crusaders’ most consistent offensive weapon so far this season. Diebler picked up 17 kills on .419 hitting against Wright State and added 12 more kills against Butler. She now has reached double figures in kills in each of Valpo’s last 10 matches and has hit .300 or better in nine of those outings. On the year, Diebler ranks fifth in the league in both hitting percentage (.329) and kills/set (3.16) and also sits ninth in blocks/set (0.84).
Layman On the Offensive: Senior middle hitter Katie Layman has turned into a solid offensive option out of the middle as well for the Crusaders this year. Layman posted 10 kills on .348 hitting against WSU and 10 kills on .281 hitting versus Butler, while also combining for eight blocks over the two matches. The senior has reached double figures in kills six times this season to date, including each of the last three matches, after reaching 10+ kills just seven times in her first three years.
Britton Ending Rallies: Junior outside hitter Katie Britton has been Valpo’s most frequent attacker this year and has picked up a proportionate number of kills, averaging 3.02 kills/set, good for seventh in the league. Britton registered 14 kills on .278 hitting against Butler on Saturday, her eighth double-figure kill effort of the season.
Groesbeck With the Rejection: Entering last weekend, junior right side Amy Groesbeck had tallied just five blocks in her first 22 sets of action this year. But Groesbeck nearly tripled that total in just two matches, registering four blocks Friday against WSU before tallying five rejections, including two solos, Saturday versus Butler.
Aces for Ariel: Freshman Ariel Cudney has found her way into the Crusaders’ regular rotation as a defensive specialist, averaging nearly two digs/set this year. But her most lethal contribution has been at the service line, where she has already picked up 24 aces in 13 matches. Cudney has registered aces on nearly one out of every six serves, while her average of 0.56 aces/set leads the Horizon League and ranks 16th nationally.
Looking Back at 2009: Valparaiso enjoyed another successful season in 2009, finishing the year 22-11 overall and 12-4 in Horizon League play. The Crusaders finished second in the Horizon League regular season standings for the second straight season, marking eight times in the last nine years they have earned a top-two finish in conference play.
Eight Straight 20-Win Seasons: The Crusaders’ 22 victories last year helped the program continue a tremendous streak of success. Valparaiso has won 20 or more matches every year since 2002, Avery’s first at the helm of the Crusader program. Valpo is one of just 13 programs nationwide to have won at least 20 matches in each of the last eight years.
Crusaders Picked Third in Preseason Poll: The head coaches selected Valparaiso to finish third in the Horizon League this season according to the preseason poll. Only Milwaukee, last year’s tournament champion, and Cleveland State, last season’s regular season champion, were chosen ahead of the Crusaders.
Welcome Newbies: The Crusaders have plenty of new faces for fans to put names to in 2010, as a class of eight freshmen enters together for their rookie year. The eight-person class, the largest Avery has brought in during her time at Valpo, makes up almost half of the 17-player roster, also the largest under Avery.
Quickly: Freshman outside hitter Sarah Dooms registered a double-double with 11 kills and 11 digs against Wright State, her second double-double of the year ... senior defensive specialist Andrea Balsis picked up 11 digs against WSU and 12 digs versus Butler, giving her five double-digit efforts in the category this season ... Valpo’s total of 104 digs against the Bulldogs is the program’s second-highest total since the move to 25-point rally scoring ... the Crusaders have won the first set just seven times and the second set just eight times this year out of 13 matches, despite owning an 11-2 record ... Pokorny moved into ninth place on Valpo’s career assist chart last weekend with 860 career helpers, while Diebler is one block shy of Valpo’s all-time top-10 with 247 career blocks.