Crusaders Set to Close Out Home Campaign
Wednesday, October 27, 2010
Crusaders Set to Close Out Home Campaign
Valpo has won 20+ matches each of the last nine years following Monday night's win. (Ray Acevedo)
Valparaiso (20-5, 7-4 Horizon)
Crusaders close out 2010 home campaign
Friday, Oct. 29 - 7 p.m. - Green Bay (8-17, 4-7 Horizon)
Saturday, Oct. 30 - 5 p.m. - Milwaukee (15-8, 10-1 Horizon)
This Week in Crusader Volleyball: Valparaiso finishes the 2010 home season at the Athletics-Recreation Center this weekend with a pair of key league matches.  The Crusaders host Green Bay on Friday night for their annual breast cancer awareness match, as well as Senior Night, before welcoming Milwaukee on Saturday.

Looking Back at Last Week: The Crusaders broke the 20-win barrier for the ninth straight season with a trio of wins over the last week-plus.  Valpo traveled to Oakland and swept their former Mid-Con rival last Tuesday, came home and took care of Horizon League foe UIC in three straight sets and then traveled to SIU Edwardsville for a rare Monday night sweep.

Following the Crusaders: Fans can listen to both of this week's matches online at, with the audio broadcasts also available locally on WVUR, 95.1 FM.  Live stats and live video will also be running for both 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 214-78 (.733) in her eight-plus years at Valpo and owns a 269-102 (.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:
  Green Bay - 16-7 overall (7-1 under Avery); last meeting 3-1 Valpo @ GB 10/2/10 (Diebler 15 kills, .400; Pokorny 10 kills, .500, 45 assists, 8 digs; Root 18 digs; Dooms 15 digs; Cudney 10 digs; Britton 4 blocks)
Milwaukee - 12-14 overall (3-6 under Avery); last meeting 3-2 UWM @ UWM 10/1/10 (Dooms 18 kills; Diebler 12 kills, 4 blocks; Groesbeck 11 kills; Layman 10 kills; Britton 10 kills; Pokorny 53 assists, 19 digs; Cudney 12 digs, 4 aces; Root 34 digs)

The Opponents: Green Bay - The Phoenix enter this weekend’s action at 8-17 overall this year and at 4-7 in Horizon League play, fighting for the sixth spot in the league standings.  Green Bay is led offensively by Abbey Gitter, who is averaging 2.87 kills/set on .251 hitting.  In the back row, libero Brittany Groth is averaging 4.55 digs/set and has increased her production to 5.46 digs/set in league action.
Milwaukee - The Panthers enter the weekend tied atop the Horizon League standings at 10-1 and own a 15-8 overall mark.  Milwaukee leads the league in blocking, averaging 2.72 blocks/set, led by 1.18 blocks/set from Natalie Schmitting.  On the back line, Morgan Potter paces the Panthers with 4.49 digs/set, while up front, four Milwaukee players average at least two kills/set, including a team-high 2.82 kills/set by Kerri Schuh.

Make It Nine Straight: With their victory Monday night over SIU Edwardsville, the Crusaders continued a tremendous streak of success as a program.  The win over the Cougars was Valpo’s 20th of the 2010 campaign, marking the ninth straight season it has won 20 or more matches.  The Crusaders have won 20+ matches every year since 2002, Avery’s first at the helm of the Crusader program.  Valpo was one of just 13 programs nationwide to have won at least 20 matches in each of the last eight years entering this season and was just the third out of the group to reach 20 victories in 2010.

The Best Start: This year’s Crusader squad set new standards for the best start to the season all-time at Valpo.  The 2010 Crusaders started the campaign 11-1 and 13-2, the most wins in program history before the squad's second and third losses of the season, respectively.

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.

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.

Senior Class Success: Four Crusader seniors will be honored for their contributions to the Valpo volleyball program prior to Friday night’s match against Green Bay.  Andrea Balsis, Tara Diebler and Katie Layman have been a part of 88 wins and counting over their four years, while Val Bollenbacher, who redshirted last season and is in her fifth season, has seen 111 Crusader victories.

Balanced Offense to the Extreme: The Crusaders have taken the concept of a balanced offense to a new level in their last two sweeps.  In the win over UIC Saturday, Sarah Dooms led the way with nine kills, while each of the other four primary hitters, as well as setter Jenny Pokorny, tallied seven kills.  Then, at SIU Edwardsville on Monday, Tara Diebler led the team with just eight kills, as seven different players picked up at least five kills and nobody took more than 20 swings.

A Blockbuster Blocking Effort:
Valpo posted its best defensive effort at the net in nearly four years Oct. 16 at Wright State.  The Crusaders tallied 14 total team blocks against the Raiders, the most rejections the squad has registered since posting 17 blocks against Oral Roberts in the Mid-Con championship match on Nov. 18, 2006.  Katie Layman matched her career high with a team-best eight rejections, while Jenny Pokorny set a new career best with five blocks.  Amy Groesbeck was in on a season-best five blocks, while Tara Diebler chipped in on four blocks as well.

Digging Deep: Valparaiso has proven especially efficient this season at keeping the ball in play and keeping rallies going.  The Crusaders are averaging 18.48 digs/set, 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, with two others just under two per set as well.

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.

Diebler Hits 1K: Senior middle hitter Tara Diebler became just the 12th player in Crusader volleyball history to tally 1,000 career kills, reaching the mark with a kill late in the first set at SIU Edwardsville on Monday.  Diebler, who is a four-year starter for Valpo, posted just over 200 kills in each of her first two seasons before registering 337 kills as a junior.  This season, she is averaging a career-best 2.90 kills/set and has 258 kills for the year after Monday’s sweep.

Root Wins More Awards: Sophomore libero Taylor Root received her third Horizon League Defensive Player of the Week honor and second CVU Top Performer accolade of the year for her production last week.  Root picked up match-high dig totals of 22 at Oakland and 21 at home against UIC, both in sweeps, to earn the honors.  Following her 15-dig effort Monday at SIU Edwardsville, she has tallied at least 10 digs in each of the year’s first 25 matches, including 17 efforts of 20+ digs.  The MVP of the Bradley Invitational has at least tied for team-high honors in all 25 matches and has led all players in 19 contests so far.  Her average of 5.80 digs/set currently ranks second nationally.

Already Reaching Milestones: Root quickly surpassed the 1,000 dig milestone two weeks ago, picking up the millennial dig in the third set against Cleveland State Oct. 9.  The sophomore is by far the quickest player in Valpo volleyball history to post 1,000 digs.  Root currently has 545 digs on the year, sixth-most in a single season in Crusader history, while she is already just 134 digs shy of Valpo’s top-ten career chart.

Pokorny Does It All: Coming off a week in which she registered her second career triple-double and was named HL Offensive Player of the Week for the second time this year, junior setter Jenny Pokorny had another stellar week in all facets of the game.  Over the last three matches, Pokorny averaged 11.22 assists/set, 3.11 digs/set and 2.00 kills/set while hitting at a .333 clip.  On the year, Pokorny ranks third in the Horizon League with 10.39 assists/set and is hitting .286, good for sixth among league players.

Rejections by Layman: Senior middle hitter Katie Layman had one of the most impressive defensive stretches of volleyball ever seen at Valpo in the early stages of set two against UIC Saturday.  Within the first ten points of the frame, Layman tallied an amazing five blocks, including a trio of solo rejections.  The senior ended the night with a match-high six blocks and currently ranks second on the squad with 0.80 blocks/set.

Victor Steps Up: Freshman outside hitter Kelsey Victor earned her first regular playing time of the season over the last three matches and proved to be a potent offensive weapon for the Crusaders.  In her first career start at Oakland, Victor put down a career-high 11 kills on .429 hitting and has averaged 3.00 kills/set on .383 hitting over the last three matches.  Perhaps more impressively, Victor has tallied kills on over half her swings (24/47) over the trio of contests.

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.

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.

Quickly: Freshman Sarah Dooms paced Valpo in kills at Oakland (13) and against UIC (9) ... Dooms also tallied a season-best four service aces against the Flames ... the Crusaders have swept three straight matches for the second time this season ... Valpo has out-killed its opponents by double figures in each of its last six victories ... the Crusaders used all 16 available players in the sweep of SIU Edwardsville on Monday ... senior Andrea Balsis picked up eight digs in the first set alone in the sweep of the Cougars.