Valparaiso (8-0, 0-0 Horizon)
at Evansville Tournament (Evansville, Ind.)
Friday, Sept. 13 - vs. Memphis (4-2) - 5 p.m.
Saturday, Sept. 14 - vs. SIU Edwardsville (2-4) - 10 a.m.
at Evansville (3-4) - 6 p.m.
This Week in Crusader Volleyball: Already having matched the best start in program history, Valparaiso looks to extend its season-opening win streak this weekend at Evansville’s tournament. The Crusaders are scheduled to face Memphis and SIU Edwardsville before closing the tournament against the host Purple Aces.
Previously: For the fourth time in six attempts under head coach Carin Avery, the Crusaders captured the title at their home tournament, going 4-0 at last weekend’s Popcorn Classic. Valpo downed Army (3-1), Eastern Michigan (3-2), Rhode Island (3-0) and Iowa (3-1) to earn the crown. Morgan Beil was named Tournament MVP, while Kelsey Victor and Kelsey Berrington joined her on the All-Tournament Team.
Following the Crusaders: Live stats for all three matches down at Evansville will be available through ValpoAthletics.com.
Head Coach Carin Avery: Over her 11-plus years as head coach, Carin Avery has won 270 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 37 All-League recipients over her tenure as Crusader head coach. She is Valpo’s all-time leader in both victories and winning percentage, and owns 325 total career victories in 13-plus seasons overall as a head coach.
Series Notes: Valpo has faced Memphis and SIU Edwardsville one time apiece in program history, falling to Memphis in a sweep way back in 1988 and winning at SIU Edwardsville in October of 2010. The Crusaders have taken on Evansville 14 times, with the Purple Aces holding a 10-4 edge in the all-time series. But Valpo has won both matchups under Avery, including a 3-1 victory at the ARC in September of 2011.
Crusaders Picked Atop Preseason Poll: For the first time since joining the Horizon League, Valparaiso has been selected to win the league in preseason polling of the league’s head coaches. The Crusaders received four of the eight first-place votes and edged out Cleveland State by two points and Milwaukee by three points, with the other two squads splitting the remaining four first-place votes.
Looking Back at 2012: The 2012 season saw Valparaiso again reach the 20-win plateau, as it finished the year with a 21-12 record, including a 10-4 mark in league play to finish in second place in the Horizon League standings. Included among the 21 wins was a win over Indiana, the Crusaders’ first-ever victory over a Big Ten opponent. Taylor Root earned her third straight HL Defensive Player of the Year nod and was joined by Ellen Vanden Berg and Morgan Beil on the All-League squad, while Kelsey Berrington earned All-Newcomer Team honors.
11 Straight 20-Win Seasons: The Crusaders’ 21 victories last season 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 11 programs nationwide to have won at least 20 matches in each of the last 11 years, a group which also includes Colorado State, Dayton, Florida, Hawai’i, Nebraska, Ohio, Penn State, Stanford, UNI and Western Kentucky.
Best Start Ever: Valpo’s 8-0 start to the 2013 campaign matches the best start in program history, as 10 seasons ago, the Crusaders also started 8-0. The 2003 squad also won two straight tournaments to open the year, including a home tournament at the ARC, and would go on to a 27-8 season, the Mid-Con title and a berth in the NCAA Tournament.
Back-to-Back Champs: This year’s team joined the 2003 and 2010 Valpo teams as the only teams in program history to start the season with wins in back-to-back in-season tournaments. The 2010 squad would win three early-season tournaments, a mark this year’s Crusaders will look to match the next two weekends.
Spreading Out the Honors: Perhaps the most impressive part of the Crusaders’ undefeated start to the season is the fact that six different players have already received All-Tournament Team honors in the first two weekends. At UCF, Sarah Dooms was named Tournament MVP, while Ellen Vanden Berg and Morganne Longoria picked up All-Tournament accolades. Then last weekend, Morgan Beil claimed MVP honors at home, while Kelsey Victor and Kelsey Berrington also received recognition.
Beating the Big Ten: Entering last season, the Crusaders had never earned a win over a Big Ten squad. But following this past weekend, Valpo has now done so in back-to-back years, as the Crusaders defeated Indiana last season and then Iowa this year to secure the Popcorn Classic championship. The volleyball team was one of three Valpo teams (men’s/women’s soccer) to earn a win over a Big Ten program last week.
League Awards: Through two weeks, two members of the Valpo roster have already claimed Horizon League weekly accolades. Sarah Dooms was tabbed Offensive Player of the Week after her MVP performance in the opening weekend at UCF, her first career weekly honor from the league office. Then this past Monday, Kelsey Victor was chosen as Defensive Player of the Week, the second weekly award of her career.
Among the League Leaders: Valpo has dominated all over the stats early on this year, ranking as the Horizon League’s best in hitting percentage, opposing hitting percentage, assists and digs, second in kills and aces, and third in blocks. Individually, Longoria leads the league in aces and Berrington is fifth in the same category. Victor ranks fourth in blocking and Vanden Berg tenth, while the latter also is eighth in hitting percentage. Dooms and Longoria both rank in the top-five in digs, while Berrington and Ariel Cudney are each in the top-nine in assists.