Valparaiso (24-7, 10-4 Horizon)
Crusaders take aim at Horizon League Championship
Saturday, Nov. 23 - HL Semifinal - 7 p.m.
Sunday, Nov. 24 - HL Final - 1 p.m.
This Week in Crusader Volleyball: Valparaiso enters the Horizon League Championship needing just two victories to claim the tournament title and advance to the NCAA Tournament. The Crusaders, the second seed for the tournament, will open tournament play in Milwaukee Saturday evening in the second semifinal, facing the best remaining seed from Friday’s pair of quarterfinals.
Previously: Valpo closed out the regular season with a road split last weekend, beating Wright State in four sets before falling to Oakland in five sets.
Following the Crusaders: Live stats and live video via the Horizon League Network for the entirety of Valpo’s tournament run will be available through ValpoAthletics.com.
Head Coach Carin Avery: In her 12th season as head coach at Valpo, Carin Avery has won 286 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 341 total career victories in her 14th season overall as a head coach.
Series Notes: Oakland: Valpo leads 18-4; 1-1 this year (W 3-1 H; L 3-2 A)
Green Bay: Valpo leads 21-10; 1-1 this year (W 3-2 H; L 3-2 A)
Youngstown State: Valpo leads 22-7; 1-1 this year (W 3-0 A; L 3-2 H)
Cleveland State: Valpo leads 17-13; 2-0 Valpo this year (W 3-2 A; W 3-0 H)
Milwaukee: Milwaukee leads 19-16; 1-1 this year (L 3-0 H; W 3-1 A)
The Tournament Field: Friday’s quarterfinals will open with a matchup between #5 Youngstown State and #4 Green Bay, followed by a matchup between #3 Oakland and #6 Cleveland State. #1 seed and host Milwaukee will then face the worst remaining seed in Saturday’s first semifinal, while Valpo will take on the other surviving team from Friday.
Crusaders Picked Atop Preseason Poll: For the first time since joining the Horizon League, Valparaiso was 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.
Finishing Second: With their win over Wright State on Friday, the Crusaders secured an outright second place finish in the league standings, their fourth-such finish since joining the Horizon League. Valpo previously placed second in 2008, 2009 and 2012.
Valpo in the HL Championship: The Crusaders are in search of their first Horizon League tournament title and automatic bid to the NCAA Tournament since joining the league prior to the 2007 campaign. Valpo is 7-6 all-time in the Horizon League Championship and advanced to the title match in 2007 and 2010. Against possible opponents this weekend, Valpo is 2-0 against Green Bay, 1-0 versus Youngstown State, 0-2 against Cleveland State and 2-2 versus Milwaukee.
All-League Honorees: For the third straight year, the Crusaders had three members on the Horizon League All-League Team, as Ellen Vanden Berg, Sarah Dooms and Morgan Beil all earned postseason honors. It was Vanden Berg’s second consecutive year earning the honor, while Beil has been named All-League in each of her three seasons. In addition, Emily Campbell and Morganne Longoria both earned spots on the All-Freshman Team, the first time since joining the Horizon League the Crusaders have placed multiple players on that squad.
Record Book Watch (Career): A number of Crusaders are making their marks on Valpo’s career record book as the 2013 season hits the postseason. Sarah Dooms ranks among the all-time top-10 in attacks (3,782 - 3rd, 20 shy of 2nd), digs (1,626 - 4th and Valpo’s all-time best non-libero) and kills (1,112 - 7th). Ellen Vanden Berg has tallied 413 blocks, fourth-most in program history and just four rejections shy of third, while her career hitting pct. of .259 would rank fifth all-time. Morgan Beil would rank second in Crusader history with her .276 hitting percentage as well. Meanwhile, Ariel Cudney has totaled 138 career service aces, fourth-most all-time and two shy of third, while Kelsey Berrington ranks ninth with 1,482 career assists.
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 matched her 2012 output with 144 blocks, fifth-most in a season in program history and just six rejections shy of fourth. Morgan Beil is hitting at a .290 clip so far this year, a mark which would be tied for fifth on the Crusaders’ single-season chart. Meanwhile, Morganne Longoria finds herself with 536 digs, tenth-most in a single season and just seven shy of ninth place. As a team, Valpo has tallied 288.5 blocks on the season, fifth-most in a single season and just 10.5 blocks shy of fourth.