Valparaiso (7-8, 0-3 Missouri Valley)
Crusaders continue road stretch with quick trip to Loyola
Sunday, Oct. 1 - 2 p.m. - Chicago, Ill. - at Loyola (1-13, 0-3 Missouri Valley)
This Week in Crusader Volleyball: The Valparaiso University volleyball team continues a string of four consecutive road matches on Sunday afternoon as the Crusaders make the short trip to Chicago to face off with Loyola.
Previously: The Crusaders started MVC play with three matches in four days last week, falling to #22 UNI (3-1), Drake (3-0) and at Southern Illinois (3-1).
Looking Ahead: Valpo will spend next weekend away from home as well, as the Crusaders travel to Bradley on Friday, Oct. 6 and Illinois State on Saturday, Oct. 7.
Following the Crusaders: Sunday's match at Loyola will be broadcast live on The Valley On ESPN3, on WatchESPN and the ESPN app. The match will also have live stats available through ValpoAthletics.com.
Head Coach Carin Avery: In her 16th season as head coach at Valparaiso, Carin Avery has won 361 matches (361-159, .694) 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 416 career victories overall as a head coach.
Series Notes: Loyola holds a 27-15 edge in the all-time series over the Crusaders, including a 3-0 victory for the Ramblers in September of 2015 - the lone meeting since Loyola left the Horizon League. When the two programs previously shared league membership from 2007 through 2012, Valpo held a 10-2 advantage in the series.
Scouting the Opposition: The Ramblers enter Sunday's match with a 1-13 record on the year, including an 0-3 start to MVC play with losses to Drake, UNI and Missouri State.
Digging Deep: For the fourth consecutive week, Valpo leads the nation in digs per set, and it comes by the widest margin of the season this week. The Crusaders are averaging 21.33 digs/set over their first 12 matches, far out-pacing Notre Dame, which ranks second nationally with 19.57 digs/set. Valpo has a long tradition of strong defensive play, as the program has ranked among the top-20 nationally in digs/set in each of the last seven seasons - including a sixth-place placement in 2015 and a fourth-place finish in 2010. Freshman Rylee Cookerly continues to pace Valpo with an even 6.00 digs/set, good for sixth nationally.
Graboski Reaches Milestone: Senior Taylor Graboski became just the 15th player in program history to reach 1,000 career kills last time out, ending the third set at SIU with her 12th kill of the match to hit the milestone. Graboski now owns 1,009 career kills, just 88 away from cracking Valpo's all-time top-10, while with 308 career blocks, she is only 17 rejections away from making that top-10 list as well. Graboski has stood out so far in MVC play, averaging 3.91 kills/set on .407 hitting as well as 1.45 blocks/set.
Ketcham Moves Up As Well: Redshirt junior Allison Ketcham is poised to join a top-10 of her own in the coming weeks, as she continues to move up the Crusaders' all-time digs chart. Last week, she jumped two spots and currently ranks 15th in program history with 1,180 career digs. Ketcham is just 128 digs shy of the Crusaders' all-time top-10 and remains on pace to become the leading non-libero in program history in the category.
McCarthy Steps Right In: Freshman Peyton McCarthy was called upon to step in and start at middle Saturday night against Drake and immediately produced, matching her season best with seven kills on .267 hitting and also posting a season-high four blocks. Two nights later at SIU, Coach Avery called McCarthy's number again, and again she came through, this time tallying seven kills on just 11 swings as she hit at a .545 clip. McCarthy has now tallied seven kills in three of Valpo's last five matches.
Youth Movement: With the addition of McCarthy to the starting lineup against Drake, the Crusaders started four freshmen and played a good bit of the match with four rookies on the court. McCarthy joined classmates Ally Cummings (right side), Brittany Anderson (setter) and Rylee Cookerly (libero) among the starters on Saturday night. The quartet comprise two-thirds of Valpo's six-player freshman class.
Multiple Tournament Titles: Valpo claimed an in-season tournament title in each of the last two weekends of pre-conference play, closing out the tournament slate with the crown at Western Illinois’ Buffalo Wild Wings Invitational. It marked the program’s 24th in-season tournament title over the last 16 years, while the team has now won multiple in-season titles in nine of the last 15 years. The Crusaders also shared the tournament title the previous weekend at the Cornell Invitational.
Picking Up Honors: Brittany Anderson and Rylee Cookerly have each picked up Freshman of the Week honors from the MVC office once apiece this season, and are two of five players who earned at least one All-Tournament Team accolade in early-season action. Anderson and Cookerly each were All-Tournament at Notre Dame, while Anderson was joined by Sydney Bronner (MVP) and Taylor Graboski on the All-Tournament Team at WIU. Bronner was also an All-Tournament selection at Cornell, and Ally Cummings represented Valpo on the All-Tournament Team at SDSU.
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.