Valparaiso (0-0, 0-0 Horizon)
at NCCU Invitational (Durham, N.C.)
Friday, Aug. 29 - vs. Wofford (0-0) - 3 p.m. CT
Saturday, Aug. 30 - vs. Campbell (0-0) - 2 p.m.
at North Carolina Central (0-0) - 6 p.m.
This Week in Crusader Volleyball: In search of a 13th straight 20-win season, Valparaiso opens the 2014 campaign this weekend at the NCCU Invitational in Durham, N.C., taking on Campbell and Wofford in addition to the host Eagles. Valpo returns five starters from last season's 25-win team, which finished second in the Horizon League.
Following the Crusaders: Live audio for the NCCU match will be available through ValpoAthletics.com. The Horizon League Network will carry free live video of each of the Crusaders' league matches and all home non-league matches, while select matches will be covered by Valpo's student radio station, WVUR [95.1, Valparaiso], as well. In addition, most matches will have live stats available online.
Head Coach Carin Avery: Over her first 12 seasons as head coach at Valparaiso, Carin Avery has won 287 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 40 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 342 career victories overall as a head coach.
Series Notes: Valpo has never faced any of its three opponents this weekend prior to this season.
Scouting the Opposition: All four teams this weekend are opening the 2014 season. Wofford is coming off a 13-19 season, including a 7-9 mark in SoCon play. Campbell went 14-17 in 2013, including a 10-7 mark outside of league play, but went just 4-10 within the Big South. NCCU earned three wins last season as well.
Crusaders Picked Second in Preseason Poll: The Crusaders been picked to finish in second place in the Horizon League standings this season, according to preseason polling of the league’s head coaches. Valpo claimed one first-place vote and 39 points, trailing only Milwaukee, which tallied 47 points, including six first-place nods. The Crusaders edged out Oakland by two points for second position.
Looking Back at 2013: It was another successful season for the Crusader volleyball program last year. The program matched the best-ever start in team history, winning each of its first eight matches, including tournament wins at the UCF Invitational and the Popcorn Classic, capping the latter tournament with a win over Big Ten foe Iowa. Valpo would end the season with 25 wins, finishing in second place in the Horizon League standings and earning a berth in the league title match. Along the way, three Crusaders earned All-League honors and two others were named to the Horizon League All-Freshman Team.
12 Straight 20-Win Seasons: The Crusaders’ 25 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 10 programs nationwide to have won at least 20 matches in each of the last 12 years, a group which also includes Colorado State, Florida, Hawai’i, Nebraska, Ohio, Penn State, Stanford, UNI and Western Kentucky.
Lifting Tournament Trophies: Valpo is taking aim at a second straight season-opening tournament victory, as last season saw the Crusaders begin the year with a victory at the UCF Invitational. Valpo claimed a pair of tournament championships in 2013, lifting the program's total under Avery to 17 in-season tournament titles. The Crusaders have brought home at least one in-season tournament crown in nine of the last 12 years.
Visiting the Tar Heel State: While the Crusaders have not played any of this weekend's opponents previously, they do have history in the state of North Carolina. Valpo played in-season tournaments in North Carolina in both 2006 (at Western Carolina) and 2010 (at Appalachian State), winning both tournament titles. Fifth-year seniors Lindsey Hauch and Kelsey Victor were both members of the Crusader team that captured the latter tournament.
Preseason All-League Honoree: Senior Morgan Beil was honored Thursday as one of seven members of the Horizon League’s preseason All-League team, and if that’s a harbinger of things to come, Beil will join a select group. The St. Louis native has earned postseason All-League accolades in each of her first three seasons, and if she were to do the same again this year, would join former Crusader Taylor Root as the only Horizon League players to be four-time All-League honorees since the league moved to a single, 12-player team in 2004. Beil ranked fourth in the league and led the Crusaders in hitting percentage last season, posting the fourth-best single-season mark in program history. She is on pace to challenge for the Crusaders' career hitting percentage record and end up among the program's all-time top-10 in kills.
Returning Honorees: Beil is one of three Crusaders returning in 2014 who earned postseason accolades from the Horizon League last season. Emily Campbell and Morganne Longoria are both back for their sophomore campaigns after being named to the league's All-Freshman Team in 2013. Campbell averaged 2.10 kills and 2.26 digs per set as a rookie, ranking third on the team in the latter category. Meanwhile, Longoria stepped straight into the starting libero role, a position which boasts a tradition of excellence in the Crusader volleyball program, and fit in perfectly. Longoria paced the league with 569 total digs, the second-most digs by a freshman ever at Valpo and ninth-most in a single season overall in program history.