Valparaiso (17-10, 7-3 Horizon)
Friday, November 2 - 6 p.m. CDT - at Youngstown St. (14-11, 4-7 Horizon)
Saturday, November 3 - 3 p.m. CDT - at Cleveland St. (18-6, 10-1 Horizon)
This Week in Crusader Volleyball: Winners of a season-best four straight matches and seven of its last eight, the Valparaiso volleyball team hits the road to northeastern Ohio this weekend, taking on Youngstown State Friday night and Cleveland State Saturday afternoon.
Previously: The Crusaders extended their winning streak to four matches with a pair of victories over the last week. Valpo swept Wright State at home to close out a four-match homestand last Friday night before going on the road on Tuesday evening and defeating Chicago State, 3-1.
Next Up: Valpo closes out the regular season next weekend at home at the ARC with a pair of league matches. The Crusaders take on Green Bay on Saturday, Nov. 10 at 7 p.m. before ending the regular season against Milwaukee on Sunday, Nov. 11 at 2 p.m.
Following the Crusaders: Live video for both matches this weekend will be available through the Horizon League Network. Links to the live video, as well as to live stats for both matches, can be found at www.valpoathletics.com.
Head Coach Carin Avery: Over her 10-plus years as head coach, Carin Avery has won 258 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 313 career victories overall.
Series Notes: Valpo is just 13-14 all-time against Wright State, but holds a 10-1 advantage since joining the Horizon League, including nine straight victories over the Raiders. Earlier this season, the Crusaders had to rally from down two sets in Dayton to down WSU, 3-2. Ellen Vanden Berg led the way with 16 kills on .351 hitting, while Kelsey Victor set a career-high with 10 blocks. The Crusaders are 38-1 all-time against Chicago State, including a 3-0 win at the Hawkeye Challenge earlier this year. Janelle Hobbs paced Valpo with eight kills in the win, while Taylor Root posted 18 digs.
Scouting the Opposition: Youngstown State enters Friday 14-11 overall and 4-7 in Horizon League play, fighting for a spot in the league tournament. The Penguins get a team-best 3.33 kills/set from Missy Hundelt, while Jenna Cavanaugh hits at a .285 clip and also leads YSU with 1.22 blocks/set. Cleveland State enters the weekend atop the Horizon League at 10-1 and owns an 18-6 overall record. The Vikings are led offensively by Kara Koch, who leads the Horizon League and ranks sixth in the nation with an average of 4.70 kills/set.
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.
Moving On Up: Senior libero Taylor Root continued her move up the NCAA career chart in digs over the last two matches, gaining one spot in each match. Root now ranks seventh in NCAA history with 2,612 career digs and is 44 digs shy of the sixth position. Looking ahead, Root would need 70 more digs for fifth place and 82 more digs for the fourth position. She is already the highest-ranked player to have played her entire career under 25-point rally scoring, as opposed to 30-point rally or 15-point sideout.
More League Awards: Root earned her third Defensive Player of the Week honor from the league office on Monday after averaging 7.5 digs/set over the previous week’s two matches, including a 31-dig effort in a sweep of Wright State, matching the second-most digs in a three-set match in Crusader history. Junior middle Ellen Vanden Berg has also earned a pair of weekly awards from the league, picking up both an Offensive and a Defensive Player of the Week nod.
Balanced Offense: One hallmark of the Crusader team all season long has been its balanced offense, with four players averaging better than two kills/set and six in all posting at least 1.6 kills/set. Over its last five matches, which include the latest four-match winning streak, Valpo has had five different attackers lead the team in kills, including Kelsey Victor (11) in the sweep of Wright State and most recently Mary Dent (12) in Tuesday’s win at Chicago State. All six Crusader attackers have paced the team in kills in at least two matches this year.
Stepping Up the Block: Over Valpo’s first 21 matches this season, the Crusaders had reached double digits in blocks only five times. But over its last six, Valpo has stepped up its defense at the net, posting at least 10 blocks in five of the six contests. The recent blocking performance was highlighted by the Crusaders’ effort two weekends back, when they tallied 20 blocks against Loyola, one shy of the program record for blocks in a match and the most by a Crusader squad in over seven years. Then, as a follow-up, Valpo totaled 15 blocks in the four-set win over UIC, matching the most in a four-set match by a Valpo team since the move to 25-point rally scoring.
Ten Straight 20-Win Seasons: With four regular-season matches left, Valpo is three wins shy of continuing an impressive streak of 20-win campaigns. The Crusaders won exactly 20 matches in 2011 and have 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.