Valparaiso made it four straight wins to open the 2013 campaign, earning the championship at the UCF Invitational in Orlando, Fla. with 3-0 sweeps of Alabama State (25-16, 25-18, 25-22) and North Florida (25-15, 25-19, 25-13). Senior Sarah Dooms (Greenwood, Ind./Center Grove) was named tournament MVP, while senior Ellen Vanden Berg (Little Chute, Wis./Little Chute) and freshman Morganne Longoria (Burlington, Wis./Burlington) joined Dooms on the All-Tournament Team.
For the Crusaders, it marks their 16th in-season tournament title under the guidance of head coach Carin Avery, as they have now brought home at least one tournament crown in nine of her 12 seasons at the helm. The 4-0 start also is the program's second-best with Avery as head coach, trailing just the 2003 team which started 8-0 en route to a 27-8 campaign and a berth in the NCAA Tournament.
It was a consistent Crusader squad over Saturday's six sets, as Valpo only allowed its opponents to get past 20 points once and sided out at least 60% of the time in all six frames, helping to avoid giving up big runs. The opener against Alabama State saw the Crusaders put together key runs to create separation in all three sets. Tied at 12 with the Hornets in the opening set, Valpo put together a 10-2 run to gain control, featuring a pair of service aces apiece from Longoria and fellow rookie Rachel Bruinsma (New Era, Mich./Western Michigan Christian), as well as three kills by Vanden Berg.
The second set saw Alabama State close to within 15-14 before the Crusaders scored eight of the next ten points, including two kills from Vanden Berg and aces by Bruinsma and senior Ariel Cudney (LaPorte, Ind./LaPorte), to help make it a 2-0 lead in the match. Then, the final frame would be the tightest of the day for the Crusaders, as Alabama State (1-2) actually led at 21-20 until a kill by junior Kelsey Victor (Logansport, Ind./Logansport), an ace from Longoria and an ASU error gave Valpo a 23-21 edge. The Hornets picked up a kill to close back to within one point, but the Crusaders recorded back-to-back kills, as first freshman Emily Campbell (Grand Rapids, Mich./Forest Hills Central) and then Dooms terminated to close out the sweep.
13 Crusaders in all saw action in the sweep of the Hornets, with Dooms, Vanden Berg and Victor sharing team-high honors with seven kills apiece. The trio each hit at least .353 as well. Cudney handed out 15 assists, while sophomore Kelsey Berrington (Britton, Mich./Tecumseh) dished out 17 helpers.
The service game was a highlight for Valpo against Alabama State, as the Crusaders totaled 12 service aces as a team, just one shy of cracking the program's top-five all-time in a sweep. Picking up a team-high five aces was Longoria, as the freshman moved into a tie for fifth individually for aces in a three-set match in program history. Longoria also paced the Valpo effort in the back row with 11 digs, while Berrington picked up 10 digs as well for a double-double. Victor tallied a pair of solo blocks for the Crusaders' only rejections of the contest.
Valpo started and finished the match against UNF about as well as a team can, putting together a 16-2 run very early in the opening set and closing the third set of the sweep on a 12-3 run. In between, the Crusaders and Ospreys were tied at 19-all in the second frame before Valpo finished off the set with six consecutive points, including a pair of kills from Campbell and capped by a termination from Victor.
The Crusaders stood out on both sides of the ball in the sweep of the Ospreys. Offensively, Valpo hit .337 with 41 kills in the win, led by 10 kills on .429 hitting from junior Morgan Beil (St. Louis, Mo./Marquette). Campbell chipped in nine kills, while Victor added eight as well. Berrington picked up 16 assists and Cudney tallied 13 helpers in the sweep.
Defensively, Dooms led all players with 16 digs while Longoria picked up 14 digs of her own as the Crusaders out-dug UNF, 50-37. The Crusaders also enjoyed their strongest blocking match of the weekend, totaling 12 blocks in just three sets as Vanden Berg led the way with seven rejections.
Dooms earned her first career tournament MVP award, as well as the second All-Tournament Team accolade of her time at Valpo, after finishing the weekend with team highs of 3.10 kills/set (on .320 hitting) and 3.40 digs/set. Vanden Berg picked up the third All-Tournament Team award of her career after totaling 22 kills and 11 blocks over the four matches, while Longoria earned the honor in her first collegiate tournament for posting 3.17 digs/set as the Crusaders' libero.
Valparaiso (4-0) returns home to host the Valpo Popcorn Classic next Friday and Saturday, September 6-7. The tournament features eight matches over the two days, with the Crusaders playing all four visitors – Army, Eastern Michigan, Rhode Island and Iowa. Live stats will be available through ValpoAthletics.com for all eight matches, while live video via the Horizon League Network will be available for all four of Valpo's contests.