Valparaiso (20-11, 10-4 Horizon)
at Horizon League Championship - Nov. 16-18 - Cleveland, Ohio
This Week in Crusader Volleyball: The Valparaiso volleyball team travels to the Horizon League Championship this weekend in Cleveland, Ohio as the tournament’s third seed. The Crusaders will open tournament play against #6 Youngstown State on Friday evening, and will need to win three matches in three days to capture the league title and the automatic berth to the NCAA Tournament.
Previously: Valpo closed the regular season on a high note, sweeping both Green Bay and Milwaukee at the ARC last weekend to finish up the league campaign at 10-4. The win over the Panthers on Sunday also was the Crusaders’ 20th of the season, their 11th consecutive 20+ win season.
Following the Crusaders: Live video for all matches from the tournament will be available through the Horizon League Network. Links to the live video, as well as to live stats for all matches, can be found at www.valpoathletics.com.
Head Coach Carin Avery: Over her 10-plus years as head coach, Carin Avery has won 261 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 316 career victories overall.
Series Notes: Youngstown State - 20-6 all-time - 2-0 this season (W 3-1 at Valpo Oct. 6; W 3-1 at YSU Nov. 2)
UIC - 23-22 all-time - 1-1 this season (L 3-1 at UIC Sept. 21; W 3-1 at Valpo Oct. 20)
Cleveland State - 15-13 all-time - 0-2 this season (L 3-2 at Valpo Oct. 5; L 3-2 at CSU Nov. 3)
Loyola - 15-26 all-time - 1-1 this season (W 3-1 at Loyola Sept. 22; L 3-2 at Valpo Oct. 19)
Green Bay - 20-9 all-time - 2-0 this season (W 3-0 at Green Bay Oct. 12; W 3-0 at Valpo Nov. 10)
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.
The Tournament Bracket: Friday’s other quarterfinal in the Horizon League Championship features #4 Loyola vs. #5 Green Bay. With a Crusader win, Valpo would be guaranteed to take on #2 UIC in the second semifinal on Saturday evening, while the winner of the first quarterfinal would take on top seed and host Cleveland State. The championship match will be held Sunday afternoon.
11 Straight 20-Win Seasons: Sunday’s win over Milwaukee continued Valpo’s impressive streak of 20-win campaigns. The Crusaders have now won 20 matches this season, and have won 20 or more matches every year since 2002, Avery’s first at the helm of the Crusader program. Valpo was 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, and is the ninth member of that group to reach 20 wins in 2012.
3x Defensive Player of the Year: Senior Taylor Root made Horizon League history as the postseason awards were announced earlier this week, becoming the first player to ever capture three Defensive Player of the Year honors. Root, who won the defensive honor in each of her last three seasons, also earned All-League accolades and is just the third player in league history to be named to the All-League squad in each of her four seasons.
Continuing to Move Up: Root moved into fourth place in NCAA history in career digs last weekend, as she enters the Horizon League Championship with 2,713 career digs. She needs 67 more digs to move into third place and would need 78 more digs for the second position. On the season, Root is averaging 5.75 digs/set, among the top-10 in the nation, while her 696 total digs this season are third-most in a single season in team history. Within league play, Root was even more prolific, averaging 6.58 digs/set to lead all Horizon League players.
Vanden Berg Earns Honor: Junior Ellen Vanden Berg was named to the All-League Team after excelling on both sides of the net this season. The junior averaged a team-high 2.45 kills/set on .282 hitting, good for eighth in the league. Defensively, she tallied 1.15 blocks/set to rank fourth in the league, while her 137 total blocks are sixth-most in a single season in program history. Vanden Berg led the Horizon League in league-only matches with an average of 1.49 blocks/set, while she also increased her offensive numbers to 2.88 kills/set on .298 hitting within league action.
Beil Repeats on All-League Squad: Sophomore Morgan Beil was named to the All-League team for a second consecutive season after teaming with Vanden Berg to form a formidable duo of middles. The sophomore finished the regular season just behind Vanden Berg for team-high honors for kills, averaging 2.44 kills/set on .260 hitting and posting 79 blocks as well. Beil also increased her output within the league, tallying 2.70 kills/set and swinging at a .267 clip.
Berrington Named to All-Newcomer Team: Freshman Kelsey Berrington earned a spot on the All-Newcomer Team after joining the Crusader rotation as one of its setters during her rookie season. The freshman averaged 5.98 assists/set on the year, a mark which she increased to 6.53 assists/set in Horizon League play. She also tallied a team-high 32 service aces and ranked fifth on the league in service aces/set.
Crusaders Picked Third in Preseason Poll: The Horizon League head coaches 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.