Valparaiso (9-2, 0-0 MVC)
Friday, Sept. 14 - Cornell (4-3, 0-0 Ivy League)
Saturday, Sept. 15 - Western Illinois (1-9, 0-0 Summit)
Wright State (6-3, 0-0 Horizon)
Friday, Sept. 14 - Wright State vs. Western Illinois, 4:30 p.m.
Valparaiso vs. Cornell, 7 p.m.
Saturday, Sept. 15 - Cornell vs. Wright State, 10 a.m.
Valparaiso vs. Western Illinois, 12:30 p.m.
Western Illinois vs. Cornell, 4:30 p.m.
Valparaiso vs. Wright State, 7 p.m.
This Week in Valpo Volleyball: The Valparaiso University volleyball team returns home to the ARC for the first time in regular season play this weekend, as it hosts the Crusader Classic on Friday and Saturday. Cornell, Western Illinois and Wright State make up the tournament field as Valpo looks for its third tournament title in as many weekends.
Previously: After falling in mid-week action at #20 Michigan, Valpo went out west to Air Force and won the Amy Svoboda Memorial Classic, beating Air Force and Cal Baptist 3-1 and CSU Bakersfield 3-0.
Looking Ahead: Valpo’s final non-conference match comes next Tuesday at Purdue Fort Wayne before the Crusaders open MVC play next weekend at Indiana State and at Evansville.
Following the Action: All three of Valpo’s matches this weekend will be broadcast live on ESPN+, with Brian Jennings and Renee’ Turpa on the call. All six tournament matches will have live stats available as well.
Head Coach Carin Avery: In her 17th season as head coach at Valparaiso, Carin Avery has won 380 matches (380-169, .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 435 career victories overall as a head coach.
Series History: This is the second straight year that Valpo and Cornell have faced off in early-season tournament action, with Valpo earning a 3-1 win at Cornell last season. It is also the second straight season that Valpo and longtime Mid-Con rival Western Illinois have met - Valpo holds a 30-6 advantage in the series, including a three-set sweep last year. Valpo also shared conference affiliation in the Horizon League with Wright State for a decade and is 21-15 all-time against the Raiders.
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 Weekend, Another Title: Valpo’s four-set win over Cal Baptist on Saturday clinched the program’s second straight tournament title, as Valpo brought the hardware home from Air Force last weekend. Valpo has now won four of its last five in-season tournaments dating back to last season. It also marks the 26th in-season tournament crown in the 17th season at the helm of the Valpo program for head coach Carin Avery.
Strong Starts: The three wins last weekend put Valpo’s record at 9-2 through 11 matches to open the 2018 campaign. It marks the seventh time under Avery that the Brown and Gold have needed 11 matches or fewer to win its first nine matches, and the first time since 2015, when Valpo won nine straight matches to start the season.
Home Tournaments: This weekend marks the 10th time in the last 17 seasons that Valpo has hosted an early-season tournament, and the program has enjoyed marked success in the previous home events. Valpo has earned the tournament title in five of the previous nine home tournaments and owns a 26-5 record in those events.
Offense On a Roll: For a program which has been renowned for its defense the last few years, including leading the nation in digs/set last season, Valpo has shined on the attack through the first three weeks of the season. After hitting just .189 as a team last season, Valpo is swinging at a .268 clip offensively so far this year. The Brown and Gold has hit .300 or better in four matches already this season after doing so just once all last year. Offensive highlights so far including hitting .396 in the four-set win at CMU - the second-best mark in a four-set match in program history - and tallying 54 kills in the sweep of CSU Bakersfield, matching the most in a three-set match since November of 2009.
1,000/1,000 Club: It’s a group which includes Valpo volleyball greats from throughout program history: Lori Barton, Emily Campbell, Sarah Dooms, Marion Hansen, Cheri Hughes, Angie Nordquist and Angie Porché. Those seven are the only players all-time at Valpo who have compiled at least 1,000 career kills and 1,000 career digs, but that group is poised to grow by two in the coming weeks. Entering this weekend, both Katherine Carlson and Allison Ketcham own over 1,000 career digs and are approaching the 1,000-kill milestone: Ketcham currently sits at 955 career kills, and Carlson at 953.
All-Tournament Honors: Valpo’s strong start to the season can be attributed to strong play from everybody on the roster, and that’s been reflected in the team’s All-Tournament honors, as seven different players have received at least one All-Tournament Team accolade so far this year. Most recently at Air Force, Allison Ketcham was tabbed Tournament MVP and was joined by Katherine Carlson and Rylee Cookerly on the All-Tournament Team. Lizzie Zaleski was Tournament MVP at Central Michigan, while Ketcham and Sydney Bronner earned All-Tournament honors. The opening weekend of the season saw Brittany Anderson and Peyton McCarthy rack up All-Tournament awards at Eastern Illinois.
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.