Valparaiso (3-1, 0-0 Horizon)
at Appalachian Invitational (Boone, N.C.)
Friday, Sept. 3 - 3:30 p.m. CT vs. USC Upstate (1-2, 0-0 A-Sun)
Saturday, Sept. 4 - 9 a.m. CT vs. Eastern Kentucky (1-2, 0-0 OVC)
6 p.m. CT at Appalachian State (4-0, 0-0 SoCon)
This Week in Crusader Volleyball: Valparaiso continues its circuit of early-season tournaments this weekend at the Appalachian Invitational in Boone, N.C., taking on USC Upstate and Eastern Kentucky in addition to host Applachian State. The Crusaders are looking for their second tournament title of the season after capturing the La Salle Invitational last weekend.
Looking Back at Last Week: The Crusaders kicked off the 2010 campaign last weekend in Philadelphia, dropping their opening match, a neutral-site contest, to Virginia before earning victories over all three opponents at the La Salle Invitational (La Salle, Hartford, Niagara) to earn the tournament title. Junior outside hitter Katie Britton was named Tournament MVP, while junior setter Jenny Pokorny joined Britton on the All-Tournament Team. Meanwhile, sophomore libero Taylor Root earned Horizon League Defensive Player of the Week honors.
Following the Crusaders: All three matches of the Appalachian Invitational will be broadcast live over the airwaves of Valpo’s student radio station, WVUR (95.1 FM), and online at www.valpoathletics.com. Live stats will be available for all three matches as well on 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 197-74 (.727) in her eight-plus years at Valpo and owns a 252-98 (.720) 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: The new opponents continue for the Crusaders this weekend, as Valpo will be facing USC Upstate and Appalachian State for the first time in program history after taking on four new foes last weekend. Valpo defeated Eastern Kentucky, 3-1 (15-5, 10-15, 15-11, 15-7) in their only previous meeting, as part of the Popcorn Classic on Sept. 6, 1997. Kelly Schoenhoft hit .414 with 15 kills in that victory, while Kelly Olson registered 43 assists, 12 digs and eight kills on .538 hitting.
The Opponents: USC Upstate went 1-2 at Bradley’s tournament last weekend and plays South Carolina State before this weekend’s tournament. The Spartans got 3.79 kills/set and 2.50 digs/set from freshman OH Cori Harris on the opening weekend.
Eastern Kentucky went 1-2 at Western Carolina’s tournament last weekend and received 5.73 digs/set from senior libero Abby O’Connor.
Appalachian State enters its own tournament at 4-0 after winning High Point’s tournament on the opening weekend and downing East Tennessee State in a mid-week contest. The Mountaineers are holding opponents to just .048 hitting and are averaging 2.62 blocks/set, led by 1.50 blocks/set from junior MB Alison Blasingame.
Carolina on Their Mind: This weekend brings about the Crusaders’ furthest trip south of the regular season, as Valpo travels to North Carolina. It actually marks the second time in Avery’s tenure that the Crusaders have played in the state of North Carolina, following three 3-0 sweeps at the Catamount Clash V Tournament in 2006, hosted by Western Carolina.
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.
Taking Tournament Titles: With their victory at the La Salle Invitational on the opening weekend, the Crusaders added to a long list of in-season tournament crowns they have earned under Avery. The championship was the 12th in-season tournament title for Valpo in Avery’s ninth season, but marks only its second in the last four years. The last in-season tournament hardware the Crusaders brought home was from the 2008 Shamrock Invitational at Notre Dame.
Who’s Got the License to Kill?: With all-time kills leader Angie Porché graduated, Valpo had the question answering the season of where its kills would come from this year, and at least through the year’s first two matches, the question went unanswered. No Crusader reached double figures in kills against either Virginia or La Salle, marking the first time since Oct. 24/27, 2000 (Butler, at Oral Roberts) that Valpo went back-to-back matches without anyone in double figures in the category.
Britton Steps Up: But then junior outside hitter Katie Britton made her presence felt offensively the next day, hitting .478 with 13 kills in the sweep of Hartford before matching her career high with 18 kills against Niagara to clinch the tournament title. Britton was named the MVP of the La Salle Invitational after hitting .295 with 39 kills over the three matches, her second career All-Tournament honor.
Pokorny Runs the Offense: Junior setter Jenny Pokorny joined Britton on the All-Tournament Team at La Salle in her first weekend as the Crusaders’ full-time setter. Pokorny posted 98 assists, 29 digs, 16 kills, four blocks and four aces over the course of Valpo's three victories. She registered a pair of double-doubles, tallying 33 assists and 10 digs at La Salle and a career-best 44 assists to go with 14 digs against Niagara. The junior also enjoyed an outstanding weekend on the attack, hitting .325, highlighted by a .636 clip on seven kills against Hartford.
Root Keeps Rallies Going: Sophomore libero Taylor Root picked up right where she left off at the end of her freshman campaign, when she was named Horizon League Newcomer of the Year. Root earned league Defensive Player of the Week honors, her third career weekly accolade, after averaging an even 6.00 digs/set over the opening weekend. She kicked off the season with a 23-dig performance against Virginia, and followed that evening with 27 digs and six assists against the host Explorers. Root helped the Crusaders earn the tournament championship the next day with 15 digs and seven assists against Hartford, and closed the weekend with a 25-dig effort against 2009 NCAA Tournament participant Niagara.
Lucky Number?: Freshman outside hitter Sarah Dooms was eerily consistent at the net in her first four collegiate matches, picking up exactly seven kills in all four contests. In the back line, she was more divergent, but definitely effective, posting double figures in digs three times, including a high of 17 in the tournament-clinching victory over Niagara.
Aces Up: Freshman defensive specialist Ariel Cudney made her first appearance in the match against Hartford late, entering to serve at 17-16 in the third set. But the rookie made the very most of her opportunity, tallying three service aces in a four-point span to help propel the Crusaders to the sweep.
Digging To the Century Mark: Valparaiso had a stellar performance on the back line in the win over Niagara, picking up an even 100 digs in the four-set win. The 100 digs ties the most in a four-set match since the move to 25-point rally scoring (at Green Bay, 11/14/09), while five Crusaders reached double figures in the category, including weekend highs by Dooms, Pokorny, Cudney (10), and senior defensive specialist Andrea Balsis (10). Valpo easily leads the league right now with an average of 19.53 digs/set.
Record Book Watch: A number of Crusaders are threatening to break into Valpo’s career charts with solid years in 2010. In their respective seniors seasons, Bollenbacher is just 186 kills shy of Valpo’s all-time top-10 in the category, while Diebler is 33 blocks away from the top-10 for all-time rejections. Britton will look to maintain or move up the hitting percentage chart, where she is currently 10th, hitting at a .236 clip for her career, while with a full year as primary setter, Pokorny could move as high as eighth on the assists chart.
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.