Valparaiso (6-1, 0-0 MVC)
Tuesday, Sept. 4 - at #20 Michigan (5-0, 0-0 Big 10)
at Amy Svoboda Memorial Classic
Friday, Sept. 7 - at Air Force (4-2, 0-0 Mountain West)
Saturday, Sept. 8 - vs. CSU Bakersfield (2-4, 0-0 WAC)
vs. Cal Baptist (6-1, 0-0 WAC)
This Week in Valpo Volleyball: The Valparaiso University volleyball team briefly steps away from tournament play with a Tuesday night matchup at nationally-ranked Michigan before heading to Colorado for the Amy Svoboda Memorial Classic at Air Force.
Previously: Valpo claimed yet another in-season tournament title last weekend at the Chippewa Invitational, sweeping DePaul and La Salle and defeating host Central Michigan in four sets.
Looking Ahead: Valpo’s final non-conference tournament will be at home at the ARC, as the Crusaders welcome Cornell, Western Illinois and Wright State Sept. 14-15.
Following the Action: Live stats will be available for all four matches this week, with live video streaming of all matches at Air Force available as well.
Head Coach Carin Avery: In her 17th season as head coach at Valparaiso, Carin Avery has won 377 matches (377-168, .692) 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 55 All-League recipients over her tenure at Valpo. She is Valpo’s all-time leader in both victories and winning percentage, and owns 432 career victories overall as a head coach.
Series History: Valpo has faced Michigan twice, dropping a 3-1 decision in Ann Arbor in 2003 and falling at the ARC, 3-0, in 2004. In an odd twist, this is the third straight season Valpo and CSU Bakersfield have matched up at an early-season tournament, and a second at a military academy. Valpo won at West Point in 2016, 3-1, while CSU Bakersfield earned a 3-1 win last year at South Dakota State. Valpo will match up for the first time against both Air Force and Cal Baptist this week.
Valpo Picked Fifth in Preseason Poll: Entering its second season of MVC play, Valpo has been selected to finish in fifth place in the conference in 2018, according to preseason polling of the conference’s head coaches. Valpo totaled 53 points in the preseason polling to outpace Indiana State for the fifth position in the poll. UNI was picked to win the conference and earned seven first-place votes, while Missouri State garnered the other three first-place votes.
Looking Back at 2017: Valpo posted a 17-16 record last season and went 8-10 in its first season of action in the Missouri Valley Conference, finishing in a tie for fifth place. The Crusaders led the nation in digs/set, paced by the work of freshman libero Rylee Cookerly in the back row. Cookerly was tabbed the AVCA Midwest Region Freshman of the Year, while senior middle Taylor Graboski was a First Team All-Conference selection.
An Experienced Squad Returns: 11 letterwinners in all return from the 2017 squad, including five starters and the libero. The only players from last year’s team who do not return this year are Graboski and Kayla Currier, who is medically unable to compete and will serve her final season as a student assistant for Valpo.
Another Tournament Title: Valpo’s four-set win over Central Michigan on Saturday secured the Chippewa Invitational tournament championship, continuing a long run of tournament success for the Crusader program. In Carin Avery’s 17th year as head coach at Valpo, the program has now claimed 25 in-season tournament titles. Dating back to last year, Valpo has won three of the last four in-season tournaments it has competed in.
On a Roll: With its three wins last weekend, Valpo has now won six straight matches since dropping its season opener. The six-match winning streak is the program’s longest since the 2015 team opened that season with nine consecutive victories.
Facing Ranked Opposition: Valpo heads to Cliff Keen Arena in Ann Arbor this week to face a nationally-ranked Michigan squad, something it has become familiar with over the last year. In its first season of MVC play in 2017, Valpo had three matches against top-25 teams, hosting #22 UNI and #25 Missouri State and traveling to #25 UNI in a match it took to five sets. Valpo’s last non-conference matchup against a top-25 team on Sept. 16, 2016 against #19 Ohio State in a tournament at Ball State.
Ketcham Reaches a Milestone: Senior Allison Ketcham has quite simply been the most prolific non-libero in the back row, no matter the conference Valpo has been in, throughout her career, and she reached another milestone last weekend. Ketcham surpassed 1,500 career digs in Valpo’s win over DePaul, just the eighth player in program history to reach the mark. She is now just 132 digs away from becoming the highest-ranking non-libero in digs in Crusader history.
Talk About Efficient: For a program renowned for its defense and which led the nation last year in digs/set, Valpo’s attack has been strong through the first two weekends of the season - never more so than in Saturday’s win over Central Michigan. Valpo hit at a .396 clip for the match, finishing with 64 kills and just 11 hitting errors on 134 total attacks. The .396 hitting percentage is the best mark for a four-set match by a Valpo squad in the rally-scoring era, and second-best overall in a four-set match in program history. It also marked Valpo’s best hitting percentage in any length match since the Brown and Gold hit .419 versus Chicago State in September of 2015.
All-Tournament Honors: With the tournament title at CMU came a trio of All-Tournament honors, including the first career Tournament MVP accolade for senior Lizzie Zaleski. Fellow seniors Sydney Bronner and Allison Ketcham joined Zaleski as All-Tournament Team members at CMU, while sophomores Brittany Anderson and Peyton McCarthy racked up All-Tournament awards at EIU in the season’s first weekend.
Digging Deep: Valpo led the nation last year in digs/set nearly all season long, ending the year averaging 20.03 digs/set to lead the nation, out-pacing UNI by 0.33 digs/set. Valpo’s 2017 campaign was only the second since the move to 25-point rally scoring in 2008 where a team averaged at least 20 digs/set, coming in behind only Penn’s 2012 season. The Crusaders have a long tradition of strong defensive play, as they have ranked among the top-20 nationally in digs/set in each of the last eight seasons - including a sixth-place placement in 2015 and a fourth-place finish in 2010 in addition to last year’s statistical championship.