Valpo Heads to 2010 HL Volleyball Championship
Thursday, November 18, 2010
Valpo Heads to 2010 HL Volleyball Championship
The Crusaders look to bring home the Horizon League championship this weekend. (Ray Acevedo)
Valparaiso (24-7, 10-6 Horizon)
Crusaders head to 2010 Horizon League Championship
Friday, Nov. 19 - 7 p.m. - vs. Green Bay (12-18, 8-8 Horizon)
 Saturday, Nov. 20 - 1 or 3:30 p.m. - Semifinals
Sunday, Nov. 21 - 1 p.m. - Championship match
This Week in Crusader Volleyball: Valparaiso heads to the 2010 Horizon League Volleyball Championship as the tournament’s fourth seed, looking to bring home the program’s first tournament title as a member of the league.

Looking Back at Last Week: Valpo split a pair of matches last week in Chicago.  The Crusaders earned a sweep in mid-week non-league action at Chicago State, but fell in five sets to Loyola in the league regular season finale despite a season-best 18 blocks.

Following the Crusaders: Live audio, video and statistics for all of the Crusaders’ matches this weekend will be available at, while WVUR (95.1 FM, Valparaiso) will be carrying the audio broadcasts on Friday and Sunday.  Live chats for all of Valpo’s tournament matches will also be available 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 218-80 (.732) in her eight-plus years at Valpo and owns a 273-104 (.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:  Green Bay - 17-7 overall (8-1 under Avery); last meeting 3-1 Valpo @ Valpo 10/29/10 (Crusaders 110 team digs; Layman career-high 21 kills, .439, 4 blocks; Diebler tied career-high 20 kills, .342; Pokorny 52 assists, 18 digs; Root 28 digs; Bollenbacher 18 digs; Dooms 18 digs; Balsis 13 digs)
Milwaukee - 12-15 overall (3-7 under Avery); this year 3-2 UWM @ UWM; 3-1 UWM @ Valpo
Butler - 8-25 overall (6-4 under Avery); this year 3-2 Butler @ Valpo; 3-0 Butler @ Butler
Cleveland State - 15-9 overall (4-7 under Avery); this year 3-1 CSU @ Valpo; 3-0 Valpo @ CSU
UIC - 19-21 overall (10-2 under Avery); this year 3-2 Valpo @ UIC; 3-0 Valpo @ Valpo

The Seedings: Valpo earned the fourth seed with its 10-6 record in league play and plays fifth-seeded Green Bay (8-8) in the first round.  On the other side of the bracket, third-seeded Cleveland State (11-5) faces sixth-seeded UIC (7-9).  Milwaukee (15-1), the top overall seed, takes on the lower remaining seed in the first semifinal, while second-seeded Butler (13-3) will play the higher remaining seed.

Make It Nine Straight: With their victory Oct. 25 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.

Going For 3-0: Valparaiso’s first-round matchup against Green Bay pits the Crusaders against a squad it defeated twice already during the regular season.  Since Avery’s arrival, Valpo is 7-1 in the third matchup against teams it has beaten twice already that season, with the only loss coming in the 2008 HL semifinals at Cleveland State.

Looking for the First Win: On the flip side, the Crusaders have lost twice already this season to both Milwaukee and Butler, the team’s two possible semifinal opponents.  Valpo is just 1-2 when taking on teams for the third time after dropping the first two meetings of the year, but the one win was at Milwaukee in the 2007 HL semifinals, a scenario that could repeat itself this year.

Digging Towards the Top: Valparaiso has proven especially efficient this season at keeping the ball in play and keeping rallies going.  The Crusaders are averaging 18.59 digs/set, good for sixth nationally, and have five players posting at least two digs/set apiece, led by Root’s efforts at libero.  On Oct. 29, Valpo posted a season-high 110 digs in its four-set victory over Green Bay, matching the most digs by a Crusader squad since the move to 25-point rally scoring.  The Crusaders also already have 2,175 total digs this year, tenth in a single season in program history and just 120 digs shy of the top-five.

Lots of Blocks: Through their first 21 matches of the season, the Crusaders hadn’t posted more than 10 blocks in a single match.  But in the last 10 outings, Valpo has tallied at least 11 blocks on four occasions, culminating in a season-best 18 blocks last time out at Loyola, the team’s best blocking effort in nearly five years.  Katie Layman, Jenny Pokorny, Katie Britton and Sarah Dooms all matched or set new career highs in the blocking category against the Ramblers.

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 Earns Defensive Year-End Honor: Thanks to her eye-popping play in the back row this year, sophomore libero Taylor Root has been named the Horizon League Defensive Player of the Year, as well as to the All-League squad.  Root enters this weekend second in the nation with 5.82 digs/set.  The three-time Horizon League Defensive Player of the Week has tallied at least 10 digs in each of her 30 matches this season, including 21 efforts of 20+ digs.  Also a two-time Top Performer honoree and the MVP of the Bradley Invitational, Root has at least tied for team-high honors in all 30 matches she has appeared in and has led all players in 22 contests so far.

Crusaders Dominate the Defensive Award: Root’s honor marked the third time in Valpo’s four years in the Horizon League that a Crusader has taken home Defensive Player of the Year accoaldes.  Brittany Malicoat previously earned the award for both the 2007 and 2008 seasons.

Moving Up the Charts: Root currently has 663 total digs this season, in third place on Valpo’s single-season chart, just 12 behind Malicoat’s 2006 campaign for second place.  She is chasing Malicoat’s 2007 total of 740 digs atop the Valpo chart, as well as the Horizon League single-season chart, where she moved into second place week.  Career-wise, the sophomore became by far the quickest player in Crusader volleyball history to surpass the 1,000 dig milestone back on Oct. 9.  Root enters this weekend with 1,249 career digs, already just 14 digs shy of Valpo’s top-ten career chart.

Pokorny Recognized: Junior setter Jenny Pokorny earned her first career year-end accolade as she was named to the All-Horizon League team this week.  The two-time league Offensive Player of the Week enters this week third in the league with 10.36 assists/set and dished out a league-best 10.78 assists/set in league-only action.  A jack of all trades for Valpo, Pokorny also ranks sixth in the league in hitting percentage (.286) while tallying 1.42 kills/set.  On the defensive side of the ball, she is third on the team with 2.75 digs/set and also has chipped in 0.50 blocks/set.

Dooms One of Top Rookies: Freshman outside hitter Sarah Dooms earned a spot on the All-Newcomer Team after playing as a six-rotation regular for the Crusaders all season long as a rookie.  The freshman enters tournament play second on the team with 2.82 digs/set and has been stellar on serve receive, posting a team-best .972 reception percentage on the year.  Offensively, Dooms averages 2.35 kills/set and registered double figures in kills in eight matches this season, four of which were part of double-doubles.

Bombs Away From Britton: Junior outside hitter Katie Britton hadn’t cracked double digits in the kills category in over a month entering November, but in her three matches since, she has paced the Crusaders all three times and is hitting .330 with 4.25 kills/set.  Last time out at Loyola, Britton posted a team-best 18 kills on .429 hitting and has now led Valpo in kills 13 times this year.  On the season, Britton is averaging 2.76 kills/set, second-best on the team.

Senior Middles Step Up the Block: Valparaiso senior middle hitters Tara Diebler and Katie Layman keyed the massive Crusader effort on the block Saturday at Loyola, as they were part of seven and eight blocks, respectively.  On the year, Diebler has posted 100 total blocks, while Layman is right behind her with 95 total rejections.  Diebler’s 309 total blocks ranks ninth in Crusader history, while Layman has picked up 266 career blocks, tenth-best all-time at Valpo.

Diebler Attacks as Well: Diebler has also been the Crusaders’ most consistent offensive weapon this year, leading the team with 2.87 kills/set on .276 hitting, good for eighth and seventh in the league, respectively.  The senior has reached double figures in kills 18 times this year and now has 1,054 career kills, ninth-most all-time at Valpo. 

Quickly: Valpo held Chicago State to just six second-set points last Tuesday, the lowest figure in a set since the move to rally scoring ... most of the Crusaders’ regulars sat out the match against the Cougars ... Amy Groesbeck and Janelle Hobbs tied for team-high honors with seven kills each at CSU, the latter setting a career high ... Hobbs also posted a new career best with five blocks ... Ariel Cudney tied her season-best with five aces against CSU, while Groesbeck set a new career high with four aces ... Valpo was out-killed at Loyola, 67-54, and is now 0-5 this year when trailing in the kills category ... the Crusaders are a perfect 18-0 this year when winning the second set.