Valparaiso (15-18, 6-10 Horizon)
Crusaders head to Horizon League Championship
Friday, Nov. 18 - vs. Northern Kentucky (17-10, 11-5 Horizon) - Cleveland, Ohio - 2 p.m. CT
Saturday, Nov. 19 - Horizon League Championship semifinal
Sunday, Nov. 20 - Horizon League Championship title match
This Week in Crusader Volleyball: The Valparaiso University volleyball team heads to Cleveland, Ohio for the 2016 Horizon League Championship this weekend. The Crusaders, who are the tournament's sixth seed, will face off against third-seeded Northern Kentucky in the first round on Friday.
Previously: Valpo closed the regular season with a split of its final two Horizon League matches of the year, taking down Oakland in four sets at the ARC last Wednesday before being swept by Milwaukee on the road Saturday.
Looking Ahead: The winner of the Horizon League Championship will earn the league's automatic bid into the NCAA Tournament.
Following the Crusaders: All of the tournament matches will be streamed live on ESPN3, and also are accessible via WatchESPN and the ESPN app. Links for the live video, 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 354 matches (354-150) 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 42 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 409 career victories overall as a head coach, reaching the 400-win milestone earlier this season with the Crusaders' win over South Dakota State.
Series Notes: Northern Kentucky - 0-2 this season; 1-3 since NKU joined the Horizon League; 1-4 overall
Cleveland State - 0-2 this season; 8-15 since joining the Horizon League; 15-22 overall
Green Bay - 0-2 this season; 15-7 since joining the Horizon League; 24-13 overall
Oakland - 2-0 this season; 5-4 since Oakland joined the Horizon League; 22-7 overall
Milwaukee - 0-2 this season; 8-19 since joining the Horizon League; 18-26 overall
The Tournament Field: The sixth-seeded Crusaders face third-seeded Northern Kentucky in the first quarterfinal Friday, followed by fourth-seeded Oakland versus fifth-seeded Milwaukee. Top-seeded Cleveland State will play the worst remaining seed in the first semifinal Saturday, while second-seeded Green Bay plays the other quarterfinal winner in the second semifinal.
Valpo In the Horizon League Championship: The Crusaders are in search of their first Horizon League tournament title and automatic bid to the NCAA Tournament since joining the league in 2007. Valpo is 11-9 all-time in the HL Championship and has advanced to the title match four times, including most recently last season. Since joining the Horizon League, the Crusaders have advanced to at least the semifinals every season - the only league program who can make that claim.
Defensive Player of the Year: Senior Morganne Longoria earned the Horizon League's top defensive honor as the league announced its postseason awards earlier this week, as she was named the Horizon League Defensive Player of the Year. The senior tops the Horizon League and ranks among the nation’s best with 5.23 digs/set, while her 649 total digs are sixth-most in a single season in program history. Longoria, who has also moved into third place in career digs at Valpo, has especially stood out over the past month-plus, as she has taken on the role of primary setter in addition to her libero play and has averaged 5.36 assists/set over the last 12 matches.
Tradition of Libero Success: Longoria's Defensive Player of the Year honor continues a long string of successful liberos earning postseason recognition at Valpo. She becomes the third consecutive Valparaiso libero to finish her career by earning the Horizon League Defensive Player of the Year award, as both Brittany Malicoat and Taylor Root did so previously. The trio has combined for six of the last 10 league Defensive Player of the Year honors.
Campbell Earns Recognition: Senior outside hitter Emily Campbell received Honorable Mention All-League honors after battling back from injury earlier in the season to lead the Valpo offense. The senior posted a team-high 3.06 kills/set overall and 3.12 kills/set in Horizon League play, while also contributing an even three digs per set in league action in the back row. For Campbell, she has earned postseason honors in each of her four seasons, as she was an All-Newcomer choice in 2013, the league’s co-Player of the Year in 2014 and an All-League honoree in 2015.
Unorthodox Offense: Over the last 12 matches, the Crusaders have played primarily without a traditional setter, instead using Longoria as their primary setting option. In that stretch, Valpo has gone 7-5 - including a 5-5 mark within Horizon League play. While opponents have tallied 64 more kills than the Crusaders in this run of matches, Valpo has also forced opponents into 61 more attack errors and has actually slightly out-hit the opposition, .178-.177. Longoria has averaged 5.82 digs and 5.36 assists per set over the stretch as well.
A Record-Setting Contest: The Crusaders' five-set victory over Wright State at the ARC was something unprecented in D-I volleyball this year. As a team, the Crusaders totaled 270 attacks, the most by any Division I team in a single match in at least the last three years. The 270 swings were easily a program high in the rally-scoring era and also marked the second-most in a single match in program history, with the record being set way back in 1990. Valpo finished the victory with 129 digs as a team, the second-most by a D-I team this season – only trailing Wright State’s Friday total of 143 digs. For the Crusaders, the total was the fifth-highest dig mark in a single match in program history – setting a new rally scoring high – and was the highest total since 1994.
Look at the Individual Record Book: Campbell took 79 swings in the win over the Raiders, setting a new Valpo single-match record, which she had shared previously with Kathy Harrison at 77. For her career, Campbell has registered 4,213 total attacks - second-most in program history - while she currently owns 1,404 career kills, tied with Cheri Hughes for fourth place in Valpo history and just 17 kills shy of Kathy Harrison in third position. Meanwhile, Longoria ranks third in program history with 2,218 career digs and has picked up 649 of those this season - sixth-most in a single season in program history.
Milestone Saturday: Valpo's match against Milwaukee Oct. 15 featured a pair of milestones reached in a three-point span. A bit past the midway point of the fourth set, Longoria registered her 24th dig of the match, giving her 2,000 career digs. Longoria joined past four-year Crusader liberos Taylor Root and Brittany Malicoat with over 2,000 digs for her career, and ranks among the top-five active players in the category as well. Then, just two points after Longoria reached her milestone, Campbell proceeded to record a special mark as well. Campbell picked up her 1,000th career dig against the Panthers in the fourth set of that contest, after having already surpassed 1,000 career kills last season. The senior is one of just eight players in program history to record quadruple figures in both kills and digs for a career.
Let's Have a Block Party: With the unconventional offensive attack, the need for the defense to step up has been amplified, and the Crusaders did that in the match against Milwaukee - coming within a half-block of matching a program record for blocks in a match. Valpo tallied 20.5 blocks versus the Panthers, the fourth-best effort in program history, as it picked up at least four blocks in all four sets. The total was the program’s highest single-match block total in the 25-point era and was the highest block total since tallying 21 against UCLA in 2005. Individually, senior Rachel Bruinsma led the way with a new career high of nine rejections. Right behind her was senior Jamie Lacheta, who doubled her previous career best of four blocks as she finished the night with eight. Both sophomore Kayla Currier and Campbell finished just one off their respective career highs in blocks as well, posting six blocks apiece.
Returns to Action: Valpo's lengthy injury report has finally been pared down in recent weeks. Campbell returned Sept. 30 after missing three weeks with an ankle injury, while Lacheta and Currier each came off the bench for their first action in some time against Milwaukee Oct. 15 - Lacheta had not appeared since Sept. 30, while Currier took the court for the first time since Sept. 13. Tarrah Lasky returned at Chicago State after missing two and a half weeks, but has only seen off-and-on action since as she still is not 100%. Among those still sidelined are Lizzie Zaleski and Allison Ketcham - the latter has undergone season-ending surgery and is expected to seek a medical redshirt.
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.
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.
20 Wins, Year After Year: 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.