Valparaiso (8-6, 0-0 Horizon)
Friday, Sept. 21 - 7 p.m. - at UIC (6-8, 0-0 Horizon)
Saturday, Sept. 22 - 4 p.m. - at Loyola (8-5, 0-0 Horizon)
This Week in Crusader Volleyball: Valparaiso opens the 2012 Horizon League slate this weekend with a pair of matches in the Windy City. The Crusaders will travel to Chicago to face UIC on Friday evening before taking on Loyola Saturday afternoon. Valpo is coming off a tournament title at the Hoosier Classic last weekend which included a five-set win over Indiana.
Previously: Valpo earned the tournament title at the 2012 Hoosier Classic last weekend. The Crusaders started the tournament Friday night with a come-from-behind five-set win over host Indiana, and swept both Miami (Ohio) and UT-Chattanooga on Saturday. Kelsey Victor was named Tournament MVP, while Ellen Vanden Berg and Sarah Dooms joined Victor on the All-Tournament Team.
Next Up: Valpo stops home for the first time in over three weeks next Wednesday, September 26, as the Crusaders host South Dakota State in non-league action. The Crusaders then have just one weekend match, a Friday night contest at Wright State.
Following the Crusaders: Live video for both of this weekend’s matches will be available through the Horizon League Network. Links to both webcasts, as well as live stats, can be found at www.valpoathletics.com.
Head Coach Carin Avery: Over her 10-plus years as head coach, Carin Avery has won 249 matches and has led Valpo to three league regular season and tournament titles, as well as three NCAA Tournament appearances. A two-time league Coach of the Year, Avery has coached 42 All-League recipients over her tenure as Crusader head coach. She is Valpo’s all-time leader in both victories and winning percentage, and now owns 304 career victories overall.
Series Notes: The Crusaders are facing a pair of squads this weekend that they took all 15 sets from a year ago, defeating UIC on three occasions and Loyola twice. Valpo owns a slim 22-21 edge in the all-time series against the Flames and has won eight straight matchups. Meanwhile, the Crusaders are just 14-25 all-time against the Ramblers, but are 9-1 versus them since joining the Horizon League.
Scouting the Opposition: UIC enters this weekend at 6-8 on the season, most recently going 2-2 at Memphis’ Tiger Invitational. The Flames get a team-best 2.91 kills/set from Kelsey Safranek, while Janise Dismuke ranks among the league’s top-ten in both blocking (0.98, 3rd) and hitting percentage (.271, 10th). Loyola enters the weekend at 8-5 and won the Rambler Challenge last weekend with victories over Chicago State, USC Upstate and DePaul. Anna Eytchison ranked second in the league with 4.19 kills/set, while in the back row, Stephanie Kinane tallies 5.34 digs/set, also second in the league.
Looking Back at 2011: The 2011 season saw Valparaiso again reach the 20-win plateau, as it finished the year with a 20-15 record, including a 9-7 mark to finish in fourth place in the Horizon League standings. Junior Taylor Root repeated as the Horizon League Defensive Player of the Year and was joined on the All-League team by senior Jenny Pokorny and freshman Morgan Beil, who also earned All-Newcomer Team accolades.
Ten Straight 20-Win Seasons: The Crusaders’ 20 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 ten years, a group which also includes Colorado State, Dayton, Florida, Hawai’i, Missouri State, Nebraska, Ohio, Penn State, Stanford, UNI and Western Kentucky.
Crusaders Picked Third in Preseason Poll: The Horizon League head coaches have selected Valparaiso to finish in third place in the league this season according to the preseason poll. The Crusaders trailed only Milwaukee and Cleveland State in the polling.
Tournament Title: Valpo captured the Hoosier Classic crown last weekend after defeating host Indiana, Miami (Ohio) and UT-Chattanooga in its final weekend of pre-league tournament play. The championship was the Crusaders’ first in an in-season tournament since capturing the Bradley Invitational in 2010, the last of three straight titles. It marks the 15th in-season tournament title for Valparaiso in Coach Avery’s 11th season at the helm.
Downing the Big Ten: The Crusaders earned their first win in program history over a Big Ten school with the victory over the Hoosiers last Friday. Valpo was previously 0-16 against current Big Ten institutions.
Tournament MVP: Redshirt sophomore Kelsey Victor picked up not just the first All-Tournament Team honor of her career last weekend, but was named Tournament MVP of the Hoosier Classic. Victor hit .365 with 26 kills over the three matches and averaged nearly a block per set. The sophomore led the Crusaders in kills in both sweeps, hitting over .400 both times.
Player of the Week: Junior Ellen Vanden Berg also earned a pair of honors last week. Vanden Berg was named to the All-Tournament Team at the Hoosier Classic, and then on Monday was selected the Horizon League Defensive Player of the Week, her first career weekly honor from the league. Vanden Berg registered 13 blocks in 11 sets, including six blocks apiece against Indiana and UT-Chattanooga, and also hit .361 with 28 kills over the three matches.
All-Tournament Honors: Six Crusaders in all have now earned All-Tournament Team honors so far in 2012. Dooms, Vanden Berg and Victor all were named to the All-Tournament squad at the Hoosier Classic last weekend. Previously, sophomore Morgan Beil earned All-Tournament accolades at the MSU Eagle Challenge, junior Janelle Hobbs was honored for the first time in her career at Saint Louis’ Active Ankle Challenge, and Vanden Berg and senior Taylor Root both received All-Tournament honors at Iowa’s Hawkeye Challenge.
Down a Set? No Problem: Four of Valpo’s eight victories in the early part of this season have come via sweep, but the other four have all required Crusader rallies. Valpo dropped the first set to both Illinois State and South Alabama before winning 3-1, and was down 2-1 after losing sets two and three to South Dakota State before earning a 3-2 win. Most recently, the Crusaders were down 2-0 to Indiana before rallying for a 3-2 win. But, on the flip side, three of the Crusaders’ four non-sweep losses have seen Valpo lose either a 1-0 (SEMO, Iowa) or 2-1 (Morehead State) lead.
Root on Record Watch: While senior libero Taylor Root already owns the Horizon League career digs record, she is still chasing Brittany Malicoat for Valpo’s career record in the category. Root, who picked up 46 digs last weekend, has now tallied 249 digs this year, bumping her career total to 2,266, just 43 digs shy of Malicoat’s record. Looking ahead, Root is also just 190 digs shy of the NCAA’s all-time top-10 in the category.