Valparaiso (11-3, 0-0 Horizon)
Crusaders open league play with Saturday matinee
Saturday, Sept. 28 - at UIC (5-9, 0-0 Horizon) - 2 p.m.
This Week in Crusader Volleyball: The Valparaiso volleyball team kicks off Horizon League play this weekend as the Crusaders make the short trip to Chicago to take on UIC Saturday afternoon. Valpo closes out pre-league play with a pair of tournament championships and an 11-3 record.
Previously: Facing a challenging tournament field at the Blue & White Classic in Buffalo, N.Y., the Crusaders posted a 1-2 record. Valpo fell in four sets to undefeated host Buffalo and were swept by undefeated #13 Ohio State before closing out tournament play with a sweep of Maryland Eastern Shore. Ellen Vanden Berg represented the Crusaders on the All-Tournament Team.
Following the Crusaders: Live stats and live video for the Crusaders’ league opener at UIC will be available through ValpoAthletics.com. Every Horizon League match will have free live video via the Horizon League Network.
Head Coach Carin Avery: Over her 11-plus years as head coach, Carin Avery has won 273 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 328 total career victories in 13-plus seasons overall as a head coach.
Series Notes: The Crusaders and Flames have split 46 all-time meetings, but under Carin Avery, Valpo holds a 14-4 advantage in the series. UIC claimed two of three matchups last season, however, and eliminated Valpo in the Horizon League Championship semifinals, 3-2. Mary Dent and Ellen Vanden Berg tied for team-high honors with 14 kills, with the latter also picking up five blocks.
Scouting the Opposition: UIC enters the week at 5-9 on the 2013 campaign, with a mid-week contest against DePaul prior to opening league play. The Flames are allowing opponents to hit .231 against them and also pick up 2.75 blocks/set. MaryKate Imrie leads all Horizon League players, averaging 10.56 assists/set, while Justine Garcia ranks second in the league with 0.33 service aces/set.
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.
Entering Horizon League Play: Through its first six years as a Horizon League member, the Crusaders have finished above .500 all six seasons, posting a record of 62-32 (.660) in league play since 2007. Valpo has also finished second in the league standings in three of those six years.
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, as Valpo claimed the tournament crown at UCF and followed by winning its own Popcorn Classic. Under Carin Avery, the Crusaders now own 17 in-season tournament championships.
A Balanced Effort: The Crusaders have showcased their balance so far in 2013, both on the stat sheet and in their honors. Five different players have tallied between 109 and 123 kills, with Sarah Dooms pacing the squad at 123 terminations. Meanwhile, seven different Crusaders earned All-Tournament honors during pre-league play: Dooms, Morganne Longoria, Ellen Vanden Berg (x2), Morgan Beil (x2), Kelsey Victor, Kelsey Berrington and Emily Campbell. Dooms and Victor have also earned weekly awards from the Horizon League office as well.
Among the League’s Best: While with their balance, the Crusaders don’t have any players leading the league in any statistical category, as a team, Valpo paces the circuit in both opponent hitting percentage (.148) and digs (17.35/set), the latter mark ranking 11th nationally. Valpo also sits second in the league as a team in hitting percentage, kills and assists.
Beating the Big Ten: Entering last season, the Crusaders had never earned a win over a Big Ten squad. But following the Popcorn Classic, 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 tournament title. The volleyball team was one of three Valpo teams (men’s/women’s soccer) to earn a win over a Big Ten program in a span of four days.