Valparaiso (13-2, 0-0 MVC)
Friday, Sept. 21 - at Indiana State (7-5, 0-0 MVC)
Saturday, Sept. 22 - at Evansville (6-7, 0-0 MVC)
Monday, Sept. 24 - Southern Illinois (4-9, 0-0 MVC)
This Week in Valpo Volleyball: Coming off a strong close to the non-conference campaign, the Valparaiso University volleyball team jumps right into Missouri Valley Conference play with three matches in four days. Valpo faces the Indiana State/Evansville road swing this weekend before returning home for the first of four consecutive home matches, hosting Southern Illinois on Monday evening. Both Katherine Carlson and Allison Ketcham are poised to hit the 1,000-kill milestone this weekend.
Previously: Valpo claimed the title at the Crusader Classic last weekend with victories over Cornell (3-1), Western Illinois (3-0) and Wright State (3-1). The Brown and Gold then closed out its non-conference slate with a 3-2 victory at Purdue Fort Wayne on Tuesday.
Looking Ahead: Homecoming weekend brings two opportunities to catch Valpo Volleyball at the ARC, as Drake and UNI come to town next Friday and Saturday.
Following the Action: All three of Valpo’s matches this weekend will be The Valley on ESPN broadcasts, with Friday’s match at Indiana State available on ESPN+ and the Saturday and Monday contests available on ESPN3. All three matches will have live stats as well.
Head Coach Carin Avery: In her 17th season as head coach at Valparaiso, Carin Avery has won 384 matches (384-169, .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 55 All-League recipients over her tenure at Valpo. She is Valpo’s all-time leader in both victories and winning percentage, and owns 439 career victories overall as a head coach.
Series History: Indiana State - 10-14 overall; 5-3 under Coach Avery; 0-2 in MVC play
Evansville - 7-10 overall; 5-0 under Coach Avery; 2-0 in MVC play
Southern Illinois - 1-4 overall; 1-3 under Coach Avery; 1-1 in MVC play
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.
Continuing the Strong Start: Valpo enters MVC play at 13-2 on the year, the fourth time in program history it has won at least 13 of its first 15 matches. The 2014 team was 14-1 through 15 contests, while the 2010 and 2015 squads were both 13-2 as well at the same point of the season.
Going Streaking: Valpo’s win over Purdue Fort Wayne was its seventh straight victory, the program’s longest winning streak since opening the 2015 campaign with nine straight victories. Valpo has now had 13 winning streaks of seven matches or longer in the tenure of head coach Carin Avery.
Capturing Tournament Titles: Valpo won its third consecutive in-season tournament title last weekend with the Crusader Classic victory. This marks the fourth time in the tenure of head coach Carin Avery that Valpo has won three in-season tournaments. Oddly enough, it’s been exactly four years between each occurrence – 2006, 2010, 2014, and now 2018. It also marks the sixth time in 10 in-season home tournaments hosted under Avery that Valpo has won its own tournament championship.
Defensive Stands: While the offense has been the headliner through the first few weekends of action for the Crusaders, the defense was what stood out in Valpo’s last four wins. Valpo limited its opponents to just 8.91 kills/set on .109 hitting in winning the Crusader Classic. Then, against Purdue Fort Wayne, Valpo recorded 17 blocks - third-most in a five-set match in the 25-point era - and also set a season high with 105 digs.
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 so far this season. After hitting just .189 as a team last season, Valpo is swinging at an MVC-best .251 clip so far this year. The Brown and Gold has hit .300 or better in five 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.
Anderson Sets Things Up: Sophomore two-sport standout Brittany Anderson has been the catalyst for Valpo’s offense this season, playing every point at setter and averaging 10.95 assists/set, good for second among MVC setters. The volleyball and softball star has registered eight double-doubles on the year, including most recently 46 assists and a career-best 21 digs in the win at Purdue Fort Wayne. Here’s how Anderson performed against this week’s opponents last season in both sports:
INS - 10.29 assists, 2.57 digs per set; 1-for-3, 2B, R in MVC Tournament win
UE - 11.00 assists, 3.57 digs per set; 3-for-9, 2 2B, R, 3 RBIs over three games
SIU - 10.86 assists. 1.57 digs, 0.71 blocks per set; 2-for-4, 2B, R, RBI over two games
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 as soon as Friday night. Entering the weekend, both Katherine Carlson and Allison Ketcham own over 1,000 career digs and are approaching the 1,000-kill milestone: Ketcham is currently at 994 career kills, and Carlson at 991.
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.
Out-Digging the Other Side: While last year’s team led the nation in digs/set, it was consistently out-dug by the opposition, as Valpo’s opponents averaged 20.74 digs/set collectively last year. So far this year, while Valpo’s digs average is down to 17.86/set, its opponents have posted just 16.18 digs/set. Looked at another way, last year’s team out-dug its opponents just 13 times while leading the nation in digs/set, while this year’s squad has already out-dug the opposition 11 times through 15 matches.