Valparaiso (0-0, 0-0 Missouri Valley)
Crusaders open 2017 season with first of four early-season tournaments
at Golden Dome Invitational - Notre Dame, Ind.
Friday, Aug. 25 – 6 p.m. CT – at Notre Dame (0-0, 0-0 ACC)
Saturday, Aug. 26 – 9 a.m. CT – vs. New Mexico State (0-0, 0-0 WAC)
Saturday, Aug. 26 – 3 p.m. CT – vs. Rhode Island (0-0, 0-0 A-10)
This Week in Crusader Volleyball: The Valparaiso University volleyball team kicks off the 2017 season this weekend with its first of four early-season tournaments, making the short trip east on the Indiana Toll Road to Notre Dame for the Golden Dome Invitational. Valpo will face the host Fighting Irish on Friday evening at 6 p.m. CT before taking on New Mexico State and Rhode Island on Saturday at 9 a.m. and 3 p.m., respectively.
Looking Ahead: The second weekend of play sees Valpo head north to Brookings, S.D.. to take part in the Jackrabbits Invitational, hosted by South Dakota State. The Crusaders take on Cal State Bakersfield and Northern Arizona in Brookings in addition to the hosts.
Following the Crusaders: All three matches this weekend will have live stats available through ValpoAthletics.com. In addition, the match versus Notre Dame will be streamed on ACC Network Extra/WatchESPN as well.
Head Coach Carin Avery: In her 16th season as head coach at Valparaiso, Carin Avery has won 354 matches (354-151, .701) at the helm of the Crusaders 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 49 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.
Series Notes: Valpo is 5-21 all-time against Notre Dame, most recently taking on the Fighting Irish in 2011 - a 3-0 win for Notre Dame. Valpo's last win in the series came in the opening weekend of the 2008 season, when the Crusaders took down the Irish, 3-1.
The Crusaders fell to New Mexico State last season on Sept. 2, 3-0, in the only matchup in the all-time series. Valpo and Rhode Island have met just once on the volleyball court in program history as well, a 3-0 Crusader victory in September of 2013 at the ARC.
Crusaders Picked Seventh in Preseason Poll: Valpo has been picked to finish in seventh place in the Missouri Valley Conference during the 2017 season, according to preseason polling of the league’s head coaches. The Crusaders totaled 32 points in the polling to place seventh. Defending champion Missouri State received nine of 10 first-place votes and sat atop the poll, while UNI picked up the other first-place nod and placed second. This year is the first time in the last 15 seasons Valpo has been picked lower than third in a conference preseason poll.
Looking Back at 2016: Battling through adversity, the Crusader volleyball team finished the 2016 campaign 15-19, including a 6-10 mark in Horizon League play. It was the first season Valpo had failed to reach the 20-win milestone since 2001. Valpo was hit by a multitude of injuries, including ailments which sidelined both of the squad’s setters. But Avery implemented an unprecedented strategy, utilizing libero Morganne Longoria as the team’s setter simultaneously with her role as libero. Over the season’s final 13 matches, with Longoria playing as both libero and setter, the Crusaders went 7-6. Longoria was named an Honorable Mention All-American by Volleyball Magazine and was the Horizon League Defensive Player of the Year, while fellow graduated senior Emily Campbell was an Honorable Mention All-League selection.
Valpo In The Valley: The 2017-18 school year is a significant season for the Valpo athletics department as a whole, as on July 1, Valparaiso University became a member of the Missouri Valley Conference following a decade of membership in the Horizon League. The Valley, which has sent at least three teams to the NCAA Tournament in seven of the last 10 seasons, is celebrating 25 years of women's competition in the conference this season.
Lots of New Faces: After graduating six seniors from last year's squad, fans will be forgiven if they need a program to ID the Crusaders at the start of the season. Valpo returns just seven letterwinners while adding six incoming freshmen to the 2017 squad. However, among the returnees are Valpo’s top two in total kills from 2016 (Taylor Graboski, Katherine Carlson), its leader in assists (Lizzie Zaleski), its leader in service aces (Carlson) and two of its top three in blocks (Sydney Bronner, Graboski).
Looking to Start a New Streak: After winning at least 20 matches in a 14-year stretch from 2002 through 2015, the Crusaders ended last season with just 15 victories as they struggled with injuries all season long. Valpo was one of just nine programs in the nation to win 20 or more contests in each of those 14 seasons - a group which included Colorado State, Florida, Hawai'i, Nebraska, Ohio, Penn State, Stanford and Western Kentucky.
Returning Award Winners: While Valpo's lone two award winners from last year's squad - Longoria and Campbell - both graduated following the 2016-17 school year, the Crusaders have plenty of players back who have earned recognition at the league level. Redshirt junior Allison Ketcham - an All-Horizon League selection in 2015 - returns after being limited to just 28 sets last season due to injury. Ketcham is also one of four current Crusaders (Graboski, Carlson, Currier) who were named to the Horizon League All-Newcomer Team in their respective rookie seasons at Valpo.