Valparaiso (14-8, 5-3 Horizon)
Friday, Oct. 14 - 7 p.m. - at UIC (12-7, 5-3 Horizon)
This Week in Crusader Volleyball: After playing five matches in a 10-day span, the Valparaiso volleyball team has just one match on the docket this week, as the Crusaders make the short trip to Chicago to face UIC Friday to start the second half of Horizon League play.
Wrapup of Last Week: The Crusaders dropped a pair of hard-fought five-set matches to the top two teams in the league to start last week, as Valpo fell 3-2 at Milwaukee on Wednesday and against Cleveland State at home on Saturday. The Crusaders concluded the week on a positive note, sweeping Youngstown State on Sunday.
Top Performers: Milwaukee - Britton 16 kills; Dooms 14 kills, 22 digs; Vanden Berg 13 kills, .300; Beil 10 kills, 6 blocks; Pokorny 51 assists, 11 digs; Root 27 digs; Hauch 19 digs; Cudney 12 digs
Cleveland State - Britton 16 kills; Pokorny 39 assists, 19 digs, 7 kills, .389; Root 27 digs; Dooms 19 digs; Beil 6 blocks
Youngstown State - Dent/Dooms team-high 7 kills; Pokorny 29 assists, 5 kills; Root 18 digs; Chrabaszcz career-high 8 digs; Vanden Berg 7 blocks
Following the Crusaders: This week’s match at UIC will have a free live video stream through the Horizon League Network. The link to the HLN live video, as well as live stats and a live chat, will be available at www.valpoathletics.com
Head Coach Carin Avery: Carin Avery enters her tenth season at the helm of the Crusader volleyball program having experienced nothing but success at head coach. Avery is 235-89 (.725) in her nine-plus years at Valpo and owns a 290-113 (.720) record overall in 11-plus years as a head coach. She ranks among the top-20 winningest active coaches in Division I volleyball by winning percentage and is Valpo’s all-time leader in both wins and winning percentage.
Series Notes: UIC - 20-21 overall (11-2 under Avery); last meeting 3-0 Valpo @ Valpo 9/14/11 [Beil 12 kills, .688 (best single-match performance in HL play this year), 3 blocks; Britton 11 kills, .333; Pokorny 35 assists, 11 digs; Dooms 19 digs; Root 18 digs; Hauch 12 digs; Cudney 10 digs
Nine Straight 20-Win Seasons: The Crusaders’ 27 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 12 programs nationwide to have won at least 20 matches in each of the last nine years.
Crusaders Picked Third in Preseason Poll: The head coaches selected Valparaiso to finish in a tie for third place in the Horizon League this season according to the preseason poll. The Crusaders, who received one first-place vote, were deadlocked with Butler, both just one point behind Cleveland State. Milwaukee was tabbed as the league’s preseason favorite.
Halfway Home: With the league slate halfway complete, Valpo sits in a tie for third place with a 5-3 record. The 5-3 mark is in line with the Crusaders’ performance in the first half of league play in their first four years as a league member, as Valpo went 21-11 in the first half of play in 2007-2010. Through its first four seasons, Valpo has posted a 22-10 record in the second half of league play.
Second City Success: Over the years, Valpo has proved extremely successful when playing within the Chicago city limits. Until their loss to Loyola to close the regular season last year, the Crusaders had won 23 straight matches in Chicago, a stretch which dated back to 2002. In fact, under Avery, Valpo is now 26-4 in the Windy City, including a 3-1 mark already this year. Included among those 26 wins are wins over UIC at the Flames Athletic Center in each of the last four years.
No Road Weariness: While the match at UIC will be Valpo’s second road contest in a nine-day span, both road trips have been same-day excursions, giving the Crusaders an almost unprecedented break from overnight road trips. Valpo ended its last overnight trip with a match at Loyola on Sept. 24 and won’t have another overnight trip until the Butler-Wright State swing Oct. 28-29.
Home Is Where the Wins Are: With three Horizon League matches remaining at home, including a pair next weekend, the Crusaders will be looking towards their home court advantage to help pile up the wins. Despite losing in five to Cleveland State, Valpo is 7-2 this season at the Athletics-Recreation Center, keeping pace with its all-time winning percentage at the ARC under Carin Avery, which currently stands at .824 (89-19).
Players of the Week: Freshman Morgan Beil became the second Crusader to earn a weekly award from the Horizon League office this season on Sept. 19, picking up Offensive Player of the Week honors after averaging three kills per set on .403 hitting over the four matches the previous week. Beil’s week was highlighted by a team-best 12 kills in the sweep of UIC on .688 hitting, the best performance by a Horizon League hitter in league-only action so far this season. Previously, junior Taylor Root earned defensive weekly accolades the first week of the season, her sixth career honor from the league office.
All-Tournament Accolades: Beil also picked up her second straight All-Tournament Team honor at the DePaul Invitational, adding that to her accolade at the Golden Dome Invitational the previous weekend. Root and senior Amy Groesbeck represented Valparaiso on the All-Tournament Team at the Marriott Volley Brawl, while Root was joined by senior Jenny Pokorny on the All-Tournament Team at the WVU Mountaineer Invitational in the season’s first week.
Britton Puts Them Down: Senior outside hitter Katie Britton had led the Crusaders in kills just four times through their first 19 matches of the season entering last week. But the senior stepped up in the pair of five-set matches, tallying a Valpo-season high 16 kills both at Milwaukee and against Cleveland State. Britton, who added four kills in just one set of action in the sweep of YSU, now leads the Crusaders in kills/set both overall (2.70) and in HL play (2.83).
Holding a Block Party: Valpo is on pace for its best blocking season since the move to 25-point rally scoring, currently ranking third in the league in blocks, and a big part of the reason why is the play of freshman middle Morgan Beil and sophomore middle Ellen Vanden Berg. The duo, who rank fifth and ninth in the HL, respectively, in blocking, each registered at least a block per set over last week’s three matches. Beil’s week was highlighted by six-block performances against UWM and CSU, while Vanden Berg needed just three sets to pick up seven blocks against YSU.
Root Keeps On Digging: Junior Taylor Root ranks just behind the top spot on the Horizon League chart in digs with an average of 5.15 digs/set, good for 29th nationally. Last week, Root posted a pair of 27-dig performances in five-set outings at Milwaukee and against Cleveland State, and then closed the weekend with a match-high 18 digs in the sweep of Youngstown State. Root, who has now reached double figures in the category in 21 of Valpo’s 22 matches this year, now has 1,742 total digs and is now just 145 digs shy of Sara Silcox for the second spot on the Crusaders’ all-time digs chart.
Pokorny Approaches Triple Doubles: Senior Jenny Pokorny has become more aggressive on the attack over the last few weeks, leading to her making runs at her third career triple-double. Twice in her last four matches, against Butler and Cleveland State, she has posted double-doubles (44 assists, 19 digs vs. Butler; 39 assists, 19 digs vs. CSU) and also added seven kills in both contests. Pokorny has picked up five or more kills in five of Valpo’s last seven matches after doing so just twice in its first 15 of the year, and the senior is hitting .313 over the Crusaders’ last eight contests.