Valparaiso (14-3, 3-2 Horizon)
Crusaders return to the ARC for trio of league showdowns
Tuesday, Oct. 5 - 7 p.m. - Loyola (Chicago) [7-9, 0-5 Horizon]
Saturday, Oct. 9 - 6 p.m. - Cleveland State (12-1, 3-1 Horizon)
Sunday, Oct. 10 - 3 p.m. - Youngstown State (2-15, 0-4 Horizon)
This Week in Crusader Volleyball: Valparaiso returns to the ARC for a key three-match Horizon League homestand this week, taking on Loyola Tuesday, Cleveland State Saturday and Youngstown State Sunday. The Crusaders are looking to cement their spot in the upper portion of the standings as they hit the halfway mark of league play.
Looking Back at Last Week: Valparaiso returned to Horizon League play for its annual Wisconsin swing, splitting a pair of matches. The Crusaders dropped a hard-fought five-set decision to league leader Milwaukee on Friday evening before rebounding Saturday afternoon with a four-set win at Green Bay.
Following the Crusaders: Fans can listen to or watch all three of this week’s matches online at www.valpoathletics.com, with the audio broadcast also available locally on WVUR, 95.1 FM. Live stats will also be running for all three matches 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 208-76 (.732) in her eight-plus years at Valpo and owns a 263-100 (.725) 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: Loyola - 11-24 overall (8-2 under Avery); last meeting: 3-0 Valpo @ Valpo 11/7/09 (Porché 17 kills, 21 digs; Diebler 16 kills; Britton 11 kills; Bukowski 46 assists; Pokorny 4 aces, 17 digs; Root 19 digs; Valpo outkilled Loyola 57-34)
Cleveland State - 14-8 overall (3-6 under Avery); last meeting: 3-1 CSU @ CSU 10/23/09 (Porché 16 kills, 10 digs; Dent 9 kills, .381; Bukowski 39 assists; Root 17 digs; Layman 5 blocks)
Youngstown State - 14-6 overall (4-2 under Avery); last meeting: 3-1 Valpo @ Valpo 10/16/09 (Porché 26 kills, 11 digs; Diebler 13 kills, .323; Bukowski 49 assists, 19 digs; Root 25 digs; Pokorny 16 digs; Wise 15 digs)
The Opponents: Loyola - The Ramblers have struggled in the early part of league play, entering Tuesday at 0-5 in HL action and 7-9 overall. Loyola’s offense has hit at a .221 clip this year and outkilled its opponents by nearly a kill per set, led by 3.46 kps from Colleen Francis.
Cleveland State - Only a five-set loss to Milwaukee has blemished the Vikings’ slate, as they are 12-1 overall and 3-1 in league play. The CSU offense has been impressive, posting 13.77 kills per set on .243 hitting. Kara Koch leads the way with 3.83 kps, while Amy Benz and Jackie Dabbelt are both averaging better than 2.50 kps and hitting at better than a .300 clip.
Youngstown State - The Penguins sit at 2-15 overall and 0-4 in the Horizon League entering this week. YSU is averaging just 9.49 kills/set on the year. Brittany McNeal leads the back-row effort with 3.18 digs/set.
The Best Start: While Valpo only split last weekend’s matches, it still set a program record for most wins before its fourth loss, starting the year 13-2 to better the 2003 squad’s 10-2 start. 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 Sept. 17 before finally taking another loss the next afternoon. 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 Support...: Valparaiso currently ranks 42nd nationally in home attendance. Through three matches at the ARC this season, the Crusaders have drawn an average of 879 fans, easily the highest attendance figure in the Horizon League.
...Leads to Wins: The Crusaders have a tradition of great fan support at the ARC and have parlayed that into a great home court advantage over the years. Valpo is 2-1 at home this year and is 78-15 (.839) at the ARC under Avery, including a 19-3 (.864) mark since the start of the 2008 season.
Record Crowd: Never were more people at the ARC for a volleyball match than on September 18. 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.
Digging Deep: Valparaiso has proven especially efficient this season at keeping the ball in play and keeping rallies going. The Crusaders are averaging 18.00 digs/set, easily the most in the Horizon League and ranked xxth 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.
Not Feeling Sweep-y: Fans who have come to the Crusaders’ matches this year have almost always gotten to watch at least four sets of volleyball. Valpo has swept just four matches this season and has not been on the wrong end of a 3-0 decision. In fact, each of the Crusaders’ last seven matches have gone at least four sets, the second-longest streak under Avery, trailing only an eight-match stretch in the middle of the 2007 season.
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.
Root Steady at Libero: Sophomore libero Taylor Root led all players with 34 digs Friday at Milwaukee, just one off her career high, and added a team-best 18 in Saturday’s win at Green Bay. She has tallied at least 15 digs in each of the year’s first 17 matches, including 12 efforts of 20+ digs. The two-time HL Defensive Player of the Week and MVP of the Bradley Invitational has at least tied for team-high honors in all 17 matches and has led all players in 12 contests so far. Her average of 5.68 digs/set leads all Horizon League athletes and ranks among the top-10 nationally.
Pokorny Showcases Versatility: Junior setter Jenny Pokorny picked up a pair of double-doubles last weekend in different fashions. Pokorny handed out 53 assists and tallied 19 digs at Milwaukee before matching her career high with 10 kills at Green Bay, to go along with 45 assists. The junior did not commit an attack error on her 20 attempts against the Phoenix, marking the fourth time this season she has tallied at least five kills without committing an error. Pokorny is averaging 10.06 assists/set on the season, third best in the league, and is also second on the team with 2.82 digs/set.
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 12 kills at Milwaukee Friday before hitting .400 with a team-best 15 kills Saturday in the win over Green Bay. She now has reached double figures in kills in each of Valpo’s last 14 matches and has hit .300 or better in 11 of those outings. She currently ranks fourth in the league in hitting percentage (.309) and fifth in kills/set (3.06).
Dooms On the Attack: Freshman outside hitter Sarah Dooms paced the Crusaders in kills for the first time in her career on Friday, picking up a career-best 18 kills while also tallying a career-high 58 swings. While Dooms picked up just nine kills the next day at Green Bay, she did so while committing just one attack error, hitting .276. The freshman also posted 24 digs over the two matches, including 15 against the Phoenix, her eighth double-figure effort of the season in the back row.
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 32 aces in 17 matches. Cudney has registered aces on nearly 15% of her service attempts, while her average of 0.52 aces/set leads the HL and ranks among the top-20 nationally. Last week, the freshman also posted double-figure efforts in the back row in both match, registering 12 digs at Milwaukee and 10 digs at Green Bay, giving her seven matches with 10+ digs this season.
A Little Bit of Everything: Junior outside hitter Katie Britton is leading the Crusaders in kills this year, but last weekend was posting career-best numbers in other categories. Britton had just three career service aces entering the road trip, but matched that with a pair of aces at Milwaukee and another ace at Green Bay. The junior also recorded a career-high seven digs against the Panthers and set a new career best the next day with four blocks against the Phoenix.
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: Valpo hit a season-worst .086 at Milwaukee and committed 46 attack errors, the most by the Crusaders since the move to 25-point scoring ... the Crusaders actually had more attack errors in that match than Milwaukee had kills (45) ... Amy Groesbeck set a new season best with 11 kills against the Panthers ... the loss at Milwaukee was the first in a true road match this year for Valpo, as well as its first loss at night ... the Crusaders boasted a balanced offensive attack at Green Bay, as six players took between 20 and 30 attacks.