Valparaiso (6-0, 0-0 Horizon)
Crusaders host the Popcorn Classic
Friday, Sept. 11 - 12:30 p.m. – Kennesaw State (6-0, 0-0 Atlantic Sun)
7 p.m. - Elon (2-6, 0-0 CAA)
Saturday, Sept. 12 - 11:30 a.m. - Savannah State (0-8, 0-0 MEAC)
7 p.m. - Loyola (4-2, 0-0 Missouri Valley)
This Week in Crusader Volleyball: Valparaiso plays at the ARC for the first time this season, as the Crusaders welcome Elon, Kennesaw State, Loyola and Savannah State for the Popcorn Classic. The Crusaders have won back-to-back in-season tournament titles to open the 2015 season and are just two victories from matching the best start to a season in program history.
Previously: Valpo never trailed in any of its three matches at the Terrier Invitational last weekend in Brooklyn en route to claiming the tournament title. The Crusaders defeated Rider, 3-1, and then swept both NJIT and host St. Francis Brooklyn to finish the weekend unbeaten. Senior setter Kelsey Berrington was named Tournament MVP.
Following the Crusaders: All four matches this weekend will be broadcast live on ESPN3.com. The matches versus Kennesaw State and Loyola will also be carried on WVUR, while live stats will also be available for all four matches. Over the course of the 2015 season, all 15 home matches and most league road matches will be broadcast live on ESPN3.com, while WVUR, Valpo’s student radio station, will also be broadcasting select matches.
Head Coach Carin Avery: In her 14th season as head coach at Valparaiso, Carin Avery has won 318 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 373 career victories overall as a head coach.
Series Notes: Valpo has never faced Elon on the volleyball court, and has faced both Kennesaw State and Savannah State just once apiece - sweeping the former on Sept. 15, 2006 and sweeping the latter on Sept. 7, 2012. The series between the Crusaders and Ramblers sees Loyola holding a 26-15 advantage, but the two teams haven't faced off since 2012, when they split a pair of Horizon League matchups.
Scouting the Opposition: Kennesaw State - Coming off a 10-19 record in 2014, the Owls are off to a strong 6-0 start in 2015, winning four of their matchups via sweep. Former Crusader assistant coach Keith Schunzel is in his third season as head coach at KSU. Freshman outside hitter Sydni Shelton leads the Owls so far, hitting .457 while averaging 3.00 kills/set, while sophomore libero Katarina Morton records 4.16 digs/set.
Elon - The Phoenix enter this weekend with a 2-6 record on the year, most recently downing Davidson in straight sets. Senior outside hitter Megan Gravley averages 3.27 kills/set, but is the only Elon player posting better than two kills per frame.
Savannah State - The Lady Tigers come into the ARC with an 0-8 record in 2015. Junior Caitlynn Masoe and freshman Briana Littlejohn have split time at setter so far this season for SSU, while junior Alexis Washington averaging a team-high 2.79 digs/set.
Loyola - Former Horizon League foes of the Crusaders, the Ramblers will begin the Popcorn Classic with a 4-2 record this season, having just captured the tournament title at Bowling Green's Hampton Inn Invitational last weekend. Junior Sami Hansen is hitting .362 with 2.21 kills/set and is leading Loyola with 1.29 blocks/set.
Crusaders Picked Third in Preseason Poll: The Crusaders have been picked to finish in third place in the Horizon League in the 2015 season. Valpo totaled 50 points in the voting to finish in third place in the poll, just behind second choice Milwaukee, which finished with 53 points and one first-place vote. Oakland, which captured the league title last season, was a unanimous choice atop the league, with eight first-place votes and 64 points.
Looking Back at 2014: Last season saw the Crusaders propel themselves out of the gate to start the season with the best start in program history, as Valpo opened the season with a 14-1 record en route to 25 victories. Valpo won three in-season tournament titles and earned 13 straight wins to match the second-longest winning streak in program history. Along the way, head coach Carin Avery won her 300th game as Valpo head coach. The Crusaders boasted the Horizon League co-Player of the Year and an Honorable Mention All-Region honoree in Emily Campbell - the program's first Player of the Year since 2008 - and also earned two other All-League and a pair of All-Freshman Team selections.
This Is How We Roll: The Valparaiso volleyball team is not only on pace for the best start in program history, but is also well on its way to maintaining one of the nation's elite streaks. The Crusaders are now 6-0 through two weekends, just two wins shy of matching the most wins before a loss in team history - a mark it could break Saturday morning. In addition, Valpo is already 30% of the way to 20 wins - last year’s 25-win campaign was the 13th straight season the Crusaders captured at least 20 victories. Only 10 Division I volleyball programs have won at least 20 matches in each of the last 13 years, a group which includes Colorado State, Florida, Hawai'i, Nebraska, Ohio, Penn State, Stanford, UNI and Western Kentucky.
Get Your Shine On (pt. 1): The Crusaders have continued their tradition of picking up hardware early in the season in 2015, as the two titles this year at UT Chattanooga and St. Francis Brooklyn mark 21 in-season tournament titles in the 14-year tenure of head coach Carin Avery. With the victory last weekend at the Terrier Invitational, Valpo has now captured five consecutive in-season tournament championships - a new program record. Valpo has now brought home at least one in-season championship in 11 of the last 14 years as well.
Get Your Shine On (pt. 2): Senior setter Kelsey Berrington was named the MVP of the Terrier Invitational last weekend, marking the fourth All-Tournament Team honor and the second MVP performance of her career. Berrington becomes the fourth different Crusader to earn All-Tournament honors this season, as sophomore Taylor Graboski was named MVP the first weekend at the Chattanooga Classic and was joined on the All-Tournament Team by juniors Emily Campbell and Morganne Longoria.
Cruise: Four of Valpo's first six victories this season have come via three-set sweep, continuing a trend from last season. Half of the Crusaders' regular season matches last year ended in three sets, with Valpo owning a perfect 16-0 record in sweeps [out of 25 wins] - the Crusaders' only loss via sweep last season came in the postseason. In fact, the last time Valpo dropped a three-set match in the regular season came back on Oct. 5, 2013.
Round Here: Valpo has especially excelled at the ARC under Carin Avery. In her 13-year tenure at the helm of the Crusaders, they own a 114-30 record (.792) in home matches. Valpo's in-season home tournaments have gone even better, as in seven prior home in-season tournaments under Avery, the Crusaders have won five championships and have posted an overall record of 21-2. Overall this season, Valpo will play 15 home matches - the most home contests in a single season since 2001.
Anything Goes: Six wins in six matches so far this year, and Avery has run out seemingly a different lineup every set for the Crusaders as they've gone undefeated so far. Valpo has played 21 sets, and libero Morganne Longoria is the only player to have played in every set, while 13 different Crusaders have seen action in at least eight sets. Three players have led Valpo in kills through the first six contests, while four have at least tied for team-high honors in blocks in a match.
Every Night: The Crusaders' service game has been a key to their success so far in 2015, match in and match out. Valpo has tallied at least five service aces in all six matches and has been in double figures three times, posting a season-best 11 aces in the wins over Eastern Kentucky and Rider. Valpo ranks fifth nationally in aces/set, averaging 2.29 aces/set, while freshman Katherine Carlson is posting 0.67 aces/set, good for sixth in the nation.