Valparaiso (7-11, 1-3 Horizon)
Crusaders face three road matches this week
Tuesday, Oct. 4 - at Western Illinois (4-16, 1-4 Summit) - Macomb, Ill. - 6 p.m.
Friday, Oct. 7 - at Northern Kentucky (7-8, 1-3 Horizon) - Highland Heights, Ky. - 6 p.m. CT
Saturday, Oct. 8 - at Wright State (7-10, 2-2 Horizon) - Dayton, Ohio - 3 p.m. CT
This Week in Crusader Volleyball: The Valparaiso University volleyball team hits the road this week for a trio of matches. The Crusaders will briefly step away from Horizon League play with a mid-week contest at Western Illinois on Tuesday before heading south to face Northern Kentucky Friday night and Wright State on Saturday afternoon.
Previously: The shorthanded Crusaders gamely battled in a pair of league home matches last weekend, but dropped a pair of hard-fought decisions, falling to Youngstown State in five sets and Cleveland State in four sets.
Looking Ahead: The Crusaders will conclude their stretch of four consecutive road matches Wednesday evening, Oct. 12, at Oakland. Valpo then returns to the ARC to host Milwaukee Saturday evening, Oct. 15.
Following the Crusaders: Both of this weekend's Horizon League matches will be streamed live on ESPN3, and also are accessible via WatchESPN and the ESPN app. Tuesday night's match at Western Illinois will have live video as well. Links for the live video for all three matches, as well as live stats, can be found at ValpoAthletics.com.
Head Coach Carin Avery: In her 15th season as head coach at Valparaiso, Carin Avery has won 346 matches (346-143) 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 401 career victories overall as a head coach, reaching the 400-win milestone with the victory over South Dakota State Sept. 10.
Series Notes: Western Illinois - Longtime rivals when both programs were members of the Mid-Continent Conference, Valpo holds an impressive 28-6 advantage in the all-time series over WIU. Last season marked the first meeting between the two squads since Valpo departed the Mid-Con and resulted in a 3-1 Crusader victory at Indiana State's tournament.
Northern Kentucky - Valpo is just 1-2 all-time versus the Norse. 2015 was NKU's first as a Horizon League member, and the Crusaders and Norse split two matchups last year - Valpo winning in four sets at NKU, and the Norse returning the favor in five sets at the ARC.
Wright State - Valpo is 20-14 in program history against the Raiders, but has dominated the series of late, winning the last 16 meetings - in fact, the Crusaders are 17-1 versus WSU since joining the Horizon League. The last four matchups in the series have been 3-0 sweeps in the Crusaders' favor, including last year's pair of meetings.
Scouting the Opposition: Western Illinois - The Leathernecks are 4-16 overall and 1-4 in the Summit League entering Tuesday night's match, most recently falling in four sets to North Dakota State. Shalyn Greenhaw leads WIU, averaging 3.19 kills/set, but is hitting just .131 on the season. Kaili Simmons ranks among the nation's leaders in digs and averages 4.97 digs/set.
Northern Kentucky - The Norse sit at 7-8 overall and 1-3 in Horizon League play heading into this weekend's action, dropping a five-set match to Cleveland State and sweeping Oakland last weekend. Haley Libs and Keely Creamer pace NKU, averaging 2.78 and 2.76 kills/set, respectively.
Wright State - The Raiders are currently 7-10 overall and 2-2 within Horizon League action, falling to Oakland in four sets and sweeping Youngstown State last weekend. Defending Horizon League Offensive Player of the Week Katie Klusman leads WSU with 3.62 kills/set, while Jessie Thornton paces the Raiders' back line play with an average of 5.00 digs/set.
Crusaders Picked Second in Preseason Poll: Valpo has been picked to finish in second place in the Horizon League during the 2016 season, according to preseason polling of the league’s head coaches. The Crusaders received four first-place votes, matching Cleveland State for the most first-place votes received. The Vikings edged out the Crusaders for the top spot in the poll, tallying 60 points to Valpo’s 57. Oakland picked up the final first-place vote and totaled 52 points.
Looking Back at 2015: Last year’s Crusader team matched the second-most wins in a single season in program history, posting a 27-8 overall record. Valpo finished in third place in Horizon League play, going 11-5 in league action, and advanced to the Horizon League Championship title match for the fourth time since joining the league prior to the 2007 season. Along the way, the Crusaders set a new program best to start the season, winning each of their first nine matches, while Emily Campbell and Allison Ketcham were named All-Horizon League honorees.
In Search of 20 More Wins: The Valpo volleyball program finds itself among a prestigious group of programs nationwide, as last year’s 27-win campaign was the 14th straight season the Crusaders captured at least 20 victories – all under head coach Carin Avery. Only nine Division I volleyball programs have won at least 20 matches in each of the last 14 years, a group which includes Colorado State, Florida, Hawai'i, Nebraska, Ohio, Penn State, Stanford and Western Kentucky.
Plenty of Experience Returns: 12 of 14 letterwinners returned in 2016 from last year’s 27-win squad, including all but one starter. The only losses from last year’s team were starting setter Kelsey Berrington, who finished her career third in program history in assists, and defensive specialist Catherine Ament, who was forced to step away from playing due to being medically unable to compete. On the flip side, the Crusaders welcomed just one newcomer to this year’s team – defensive specialist Alana Brown, out of Vintage [Calif.] H.S.
Dealing With Injuries: The Crusaders have been competitive in all four Horizon League matches so far despite being ravaged by injuries up front. Senior outside hitter Emily Campbell - out since Sept. 9 - returned against YSU (posting 17 digs and nine kills), but then missed the match the next night versus CSU. Junior outside hitter Allison Ketcham, who was playing at less than 100% earlier in the year, has not seen action since Sept. 17. Then, senior outside hitter Jamie Lacheta did not dress against Cleveland State due to injury as well. In addition, sophomore middle Kayla Currier has not taken the court since Sept. 13.
Moving On Up: Senior libero Morganne Longoria moved up another spot last week on the Crusaders' career digs chart, surpassing Sara Silcox late in the match against Cleveland State for third in program history in the category. Longoria now owns 1,896 career digs, just 104 shy of being the third libero in program history to reach the 2,000-dig milestone. The senior is averaging a career-best 4.74 digs/set this season and has posted at least 20 digs on nine occasions this year, including a career-high 30 digs against UNC Greensboro.
Zaleski Approaches Triple-Double: Sophomore Lizzie Zaleski, being used mostly at setter this year but also getting some opportunitys to hit in the front row, has stuffed the stat sheet and nearly posted a triple-double last time out against Cleveland State. Zaleski finished Saturday’s match with 25 assists, 12 digs and eight kills as she approached a triple-double, last accomplished by a Valpo player in 2010 (Jenny Pokorny). Zaleski picked up her eight kills on just 15 swings, hitting at a .467 clip. On the year, she is averaging 6.35 assists/set and 2.44 digs/set and owns 12 assist/dig double-doubles.
Graboski Blows Away Previous Career Best: Junior Taylor Graboski entered the Crusaders' match at UIC with a single-match career high of 15 kills. But Graboski stepped up big offensively when the Crusaders needed her most against the Flames, tallying 10 kills in the third set alone to start Valpo's rally for the five-set win. Graboski finished the match with 24 kills on .378 hitting in the win. She leads the team with a .232 hitting percentage and ranks second with 2.54 kills/set.
Avery Reaches 400: Posting at least 20 wins year after year, head coach Carin Avery reached the 400-win milestone for her career on Sept. 10 with the Crusaders' win over South Dakota State. The program's all-time winningest head coach, Avery is one of just 51 active Division I head coaches with 400 career wins, and is one of just two (Bobbi Petersen - UNI) who currently own at least 400 career wins and have been a head coach for 17 seasons or fewer.
League Success: The Crusaders are looking to maintain their tradition of being one of the top squads in the Horizon League in 2016. Valpo has finished among the top-four in the league every season since joining the league prior to the 2007 campaign, including four second-place finishes in the last eight seasons. In addition, the Crusaders are the only team to progress to at least the league tournament semifinals each season since they joined the league, including four appearances in the league title match. Valpo owns a .664 (93-47) winning percentage in Horizon League play since 2007.
All-Tournament Honors: Junior Taylor Graboski was named to the All-Tournament Team at Ball State as the Crusaders wrapped up their early-season tournament schedule, one of four Valpo players to earn All-Tournament honors this year. Senior Morganne Longoria earned All-Tournament accolades both at Valpo and at Troy, while sophomore Lizzie Zaleski joined Longoria on the All-Tournament Team at Troy. The opening weekend of play saw both Graboski and senior Emily Campbell represent the Crusaders on the All-Tournament Team at Army West Point's Black Knights Invitational.
Last Year’s Award Winners: Valpo had four players honored by the Horizon League for their play last season. Senior Emily Campbell (4.25 kills/set, 2.94 digs/set) and junior Allison Ketcham (3.53 digs/set, 2.72 kills/set) both earned All-League honors, Campbell doing so for the second straight year. Meanwhile, sophomores Katherine Carlson (2.36 kills/set, 2.57 digs/set) and Kayla Currier (1.86 kills/set, 0.90 blocks/set) both earned spots on the All-Freshman Team. Valpo has had multiple All-League honorees each of its nine years in the Horizon League and in every season dating back to the Mid-Con in 2001. The Crusaders have also had multiple All-Freshman team honorees in each of the last three years.