Valparaiso (15-8, 6-3 Horizon)
Friday, Oct. 21 - 7 p.m. - Loyola (4-14, 1-8 Horizon)
Saturday, Oct. 22 - Green Bay (8-13, 4-5 Horizon)
This Week in Crusader Volleyball: Valparaiso returns home to the ARC for two more Horizon League contests this weekend, hosting Loyola on Friday night and Green Bay on Saturday afternoon. The two home matches end a stretch in which the Crusaders play six out of eight contests at home.
Wrapup of Last Week: With just one match on the docket last week, the Crusaders made short work of their one opponent, going on the road to UIC and sweeping the Flames 3-0 (25-16, 25-13, 25-21) to move Valpo into third place by itself in the Horizon League standings.
Top Performers: UIC - Dent 12 kills, .346, 7 digs; Britton 10 kills; Vanden Berg 8 kills, .438, 7 blocks (4 solo); Pokorny 31 assists; Cudney/Hauch/Root team-high 8 digs each
Following the Crusaders: Both of these weekend’s matches can be seen live online for free on the Horizon League Network. An audio broadcast of Friday’s matchup against Loyola will also be available locally on WVUR, 95.1 FM, Valparaiso. Links to the live video and audio, as well as live stats, will be available at www.valpoathletics.com.
Head Coach Carin Avery: In her tenth season at the helm of the Crusader volleyball program, Carin Avery has experienced nothing but success at head coach. Avery is 236-89 (.726) in her nine-plus years at Valpo and owns a 291-113 (.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: Loyola - 13-25 overall (10-3 under Avery); last meeting 3-0 Valpo @ Loyola 9/24/11 [Dooms 13 kills, .345, 13 digs; Beil 7 kills, .357; Pokorny 6 kills, .545, 26 assists, 4 aces, 7 digs; Root 13 digs; Vanden Berg 9 blocks; Hauch 4 blocks]
Green Bay - 18-8 overall (9-2 under Avery); last meeting 3-0 GB @ GB 9/23/11 [Dooms 8 kills, 10 digs; Pokorny 21 assists; Root 21 digs, 7 assists; Hauch 10 digs]
Nine Straight 20-Win Seasons: With at least ten regular season matches remaining, plus any contests as part of the Horizon League Championship and any possible postseason match, the Crusaders have a great shot at continuing the program’s tremendous streak of success. Valpo won 27 matches in 2010, extending to nine straight seasons its streak of posting at least 20 wins. 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.
Getting the Job Done Quickly: Valparaiso’s sweep of UIC last Friday continued a trend over the past month for the Crusaders. Since Sept. 14, when the Crusaders swept the Flames at the ARC to open Horizon League play, eight of Valpo’s 12 matches have ended in just three sets, with the Crusaders going 7-1 in such contests. In fact, five of Valpo’s six Horizon League wins have come in sweeps, with only a four-set win over Butler on Oct. 1 serving as the outlier.
No Road Weariness: The Crusaders’ pair of home matches this weekend continue a stretch of over a month at home. Valpo’s two Horizon League road trips during this stretch (Milwaukee, UIC) 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 this weekend, the Crusaders will be looking towards their home court advantage to help pile up the wins. Valparaiso is currently 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).
Maintaining the Balance: The Crusader offense has been a balanced unit all season long, with a number of players showing the ability to step up and lead the way. Six different players have led the Crusaders in kills at least once, with four of those pacing Valpo on three or more occasions. Katie Britton and Sarah Dooms have led the way six times apiece, while Morgan Beil has led Valpo four times and Mary Dent on three occasions. The balance is also evident in the season totals, as the Crusaders are the only Horizon League team without a player at 200 kills - Dooms leads the way with 193 kills on the year.
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.
Dent Steps Up: Junior outside hitter Mary Dent stepped into a six-rotation role for the first time this season at UIC and stood out for Valpo. Dent paced the Crusaders in kills for the third time this year, registering 12 terminations on .346 hitting in the sweep, and also was solid in the back row, setting a new career high with seven digs.
Britton Terminates: Senior outside hitter Katie Britton had reached double figures in kills just four times in Valpo’s first 19 matches this year. But over the last four outings, Britton has posted double digits in the kills category in each of the three matches she has played full-time, including 16-kill efforts against both Milwaukee and Cleveland State. Most recently, the senior tallied 10 kills in the sweep of UIC and now leads the Crusaders with 2.73 kills/set on the season.
Vanden Berg on the Block: Sophomore Ellen Vanden Berg has proven to be a force in the middle defensively this year for the Crusaders, ranking fifth in the Horizon League with just under a block per set. Her average has increased to 1.06 blocks/set in HL play, thanks in large part to back-to-back seven-block efforts in sweeps of Youngstown State and UIC. Against the Flames, four of the sophomore’s rejections were of the solo variety, a new career high for Vanden Berg in solo blocks.
Root Keeps On Digging: Junior Taylor Root ranks 37th nationally and second in the Horizon League with her average of 5.06 digs/set. But Friday, she had one of the easiest matches of her career, as Root had to pick up just eight digs in the sweep of UIC. Ironically, it was the junior’s lowest dig total over a full match since Oct. 11, 2009, also at UIC, when Root needed to make just seven digs. With the eight digs against the Flames Friday, Root now has 1,750 career digs and is now just 137 digs shy of Sara Silcox for the second spot on the Crusaders’ all-time digs chart.