Valparaiso (23-6, 9-3 Horizon)
Crusaders look to secure #2 seed on the road
Friday, Nov. 15 - at Wright State (6-24, 0-12) - 3 p.m. CT
Saturday, Nov. 16 - at Oakland (13-14, 7-5) - 3 p.m. CT
This Week in Crusader Volleyball: Valparaiso looks to secure the #2 seed for the upcoming Horizon League Championship this weekend as the Crusaders close out the regular season at Wright State and Oakland in 3 p.m. CT matchups Friday and Saturday. Valpo will clinch the second seed with one victory.
Previously: Valpo closed out its home slate last weekend at the ARC, sweeping Cleveland State in three sets before falling to Youngstown State in a hard-fought five-set battle. The split of the final home weekend gave Valpo a 9-2 record at the ARC this season.
Following the Crusaders: Live stats and live video for both of this weekend’s matches will be available through ValpoAthletics.com. Every Horizon League match, home and away, will have free live video via the Horizon League Network.
Head Coach Carin Avery: In her 12th season as head coach at Valpo, Carin Avery has won 285 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 340 total career victories in her 14th season overall as a head coach.
Series Notes: Wright State - The Crusaders hold a slight 15-14 edge in the all-time series over the Raiders, but Valpo has won 11 consecutive matchups. Most recently, the Crusaders earned a 3-0 victory at the ARC against WSU earlier this season, led by a seven-kill, six-block effort from Ellen Vanden Berg.
Oakland - Valpo is 18-3 all-time against the Horizon League newcomers, including a win earlier this year at the ARC, 3-1. Sarah Dooms hit .364 with 18 kills in that win and surpassed 1,000 career kills in the match.
Scouting the Opposition: WSU - The Raiders enter the weekend at 6-24 overall and are in search of their first Horizon League win. Heidi Splinter leads WSU with 2.88 kills/set and also averages 2.77 digs/set.
Oakland - The Golden Grizzlies are 13-14 overall and 7-5 in league play entering this weekend and will take on UIC Friday evening. Four different Oakland players average at least two kills/set, led by 2.90 kps from Cassie Pelloni. Amanda Baker and Brooke Wadsworth both are just shy of 100 blocks on the season.
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.
Model of Consistency: Valparaiso has ensured it will remain in an elite group of volleyball programs. The Crusaders have won 20 or more matches every year since 2002, Avery’s first at the helm of the 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. Valpo was the first program to reach the mark this year.
The League Race: Valpo still has a very outside shot of sharing the league regular season title with Milwaukee should the Crusaders win two matches and Milwaukee lose both this weekend, but the Panthers would still be the tournament host and #1 seed via tiebreaker. Valpo clinches outright second place with at least one win this weekend, which assures it of a bye into the tournament semifinals. It would mark the Crusaders’ fourth second-place finish since joining the Horizon League (2008, 2009, 2012).
Just Win, Baby, Win: Valpo enters the final weekend of regular season play already with 23 wins on the year, poised to possibly finish with one of the winningest seasons in program history. A pair of wins this weekend would give the Crusaders 25 victories, matching the 2008 team’s total number of wins for the second-most since Valpo joined the Horizon League. Only the 2010 team (27 wins) has won more matches since the Crusaders swapped leagues.
Record Book Watch (Career): A number of Crusaders are making their marks on Valpo’s career record book as the 2013 season hits the home stretch. Sarah Dooms ranks among the all-time top-10 in attacks (3,710 - 3rd), digs (1,603 - 4th and Valpo’s all-time best non-libero) and kills (1,097 - tied for 7th). Ellen Vanden Berg has tallied 400 blocks, fifth-most in program history and just four rejections shy of fourth, while her career hitting pct. of .255 would tie for sixth all-time. Morgan Beil would rank second in Crusader history with her .275 hitting percentage as well. Meanwhile, Ariel Cudney has totaled 135 career service aces, fourth-most all-time, while Kelsey Berrington ranks 10th with 1,420 career assists, just 36 away from ninth position.
Record Book Watch (Single Season): With the season winding to a close, a few Crusaders are also taking runs at cracking the program’s single-season top-10 lists. Ellen Vanden Berg has already tallied 131 blocks, eighth-most in a single season and two shy of seventh position. Morgan Beil is hitting at a .287 clip so far this year, a mark which would rank sixth on the Crusaders’ single-season chart. Meanwhile, Morganne Longoria finds herself 27 digs shy in that category, a mark easily attainable with at least three matches remaining. As a team, Valpo has tallied 270.5 blocks on the season, tenth-most in a single season and just 13.5 rejections shy of fifth place.
Winning Streaks: When the Crusaders lost at Green Bay two Saturdays ago, the loss snapped a season-best nine match winning streak. The streak was the second lengthy such stretch of the season, as Valpo opened the season on an eight-match winning streak as well. Only the 2003 (W8, W8) and 2004 (W14, W9) squads, both of which went to the NCAA Tournament, have previously had multiple eight-match winning streaks within the same season.