Valparaiso (18-5, 5-3 MVC)
Friday, Oct. 19 - Evansville (8-14, 2-7 MVC) - 7 p.m.
Saturday, Oct. 20 - Indiana State (8-13, 1-8 MVC) - 7 p.m.
This Week in Valpo Volleyball: The Valparaiso University volleyball team passes the halfway mark of the MVC slate this weekend as it hosts the conference’s other two Indiana institutions. Friday night brings Evansville to the ARC, while Saturday night, Valpo will face Indiana State in the program’s annual Pink Match, where it will be raising money for the American Cancer Society.
Previously: Hurt by injuries in the middle, Valpo dropped back-to-back road matches last weekend for its first consecutive losses of the year, losing 3-1 at Illinois State and 3-0 at Bradley.
Looking Ahead: Next weekend brings three matches in a four-day stretch, as Valpo hits the road to face UNI (10/26) and Drake (10/27) before returning home for a Monday evening (10/29) contest with Missouri State.
Following the Action: Both matches this weekend will be broadcast as part of the season-long package with The Valley on ESPN, as both contests will air on ESPN+. Live stats will be available as well.
Head Coach Carin Avery: In her 17th season as head coach at Valparaiso, Carin Avery has won 389 matches (389-172, .693) 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 444 career victories overall as a head coach.
Series History: Evansville - 8-10 overall; 6-0 under Coach Avery; 3-0 in MVC play; 3-0 Valpo on Sept. 22 (Ketcham 14 kills, 14 digs; Carlson 12 kills, .345, 12 digs; McCarthy 5 blocks)
Indiana State - 11-14 overall; 6-3 under Coach Avery; 1-2 in MVC play; 3-0 Valpo on Sept. 21 (Ketcham 11 kills, 12 digs; Carlson 10 kills, 10 digs)
Valpo Picked Fifth in Preseason Poll: Entering its second season of MVC play, Valpo was 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.
Back-to-Back Defeats: The consecutive losses last weekend at Illinois State and at Bradley marked the first time Valpo has dropped back-to-back matches this season. It also is just Valpo’s second 0-2 weekend since joining The Valley, and the first since opening Valley play last year with home losses to Drake and UNI.
Hart Steps In: With senior middle Sydney Bronner sidelined last weekend due to injury, freshman Haley Hart made her first two career starts at Illinois State and at Bradley, tallying 12 kills and four blocks over the two matches.
RPI Ranks: Despite dropping both matches last weekend, Valpo still sits in strong position in the latest NCAA RPI release, coming in at 60th nationally. Valpo is one of three MVC squads in the top-60, joined by UNI (22nd) and Illinois State (47th). Valpo has posted a top-100 RPI finish just three times in the tenure of head coach Carin Avery, and not since 2008 (67th). Valpo’s best-ever RPI finish came in 2004, when it clocked in at 55th position.
Among the Nation’s Best: Coming into this week, only North Dakota has racked up more total digs than Valpo, as the team sits at 1,537 digs through 23 matches. Valpo is also eighth in digs/set, ninth in total kills, 12th in total assists, 22nd in opponents’ hitting percentage and 28th in win/loss percentage. Individually, Brittany Anderson sits 42nd in assists/set, Peyton McCarthy 47th in blocks/set, and Rylee Cookerly 49th in digs/set.
McCarthy Shuts Down Hitters: After registering just 16 blocks in 48 sets played last season as a freshman, sophomore middle Peyton McCarthy has come into her own this season as a defensive force at the net, entering the weekend leading the MVC and ranking 47th nationally with 1.25 blocks/set. McCarthy, who is just five blocks shy of hitting 100 for the season, tallied a career-best nine rejections in Valpo’s five-set come-from-behind win over Loyola in the last home outing.
Milestones Reached: Valpo has had numerous players reach statistical milestones this season:
Allison Ketcham - 1,000 career kills (Sept. 21 at Indiana State) - eighth member of Valpo’s 1,000-kill/1,000-dig club; top-five all-time at Valpo in career digs (Sept. 28 Drake) - highest-ranking non-libero
Katherine Carlson - 1,000 career digs (Aug. 25 vs. Iona); 1,000 career kills (Sept. 21 at Indiana State) - ninth member of Valpo’s 1,000-kill/1,000-dig club; top-10 all-time at Valpo in career aces (Oct. 5 Loyola)
Brittany Anderson - 2,000 career assists (Sept. 29 UNI) - fastest Valpo player to 2,000 assists in rally-scoring era [53 matches]
Rylee Cookerly - 1,000 career digs (Sept. 28 Drake) - tied for fastest Valpo player to 1,000 digs in program history [52 matches; tied with Taylor Root]
Top-Ten Within Reach: The head-to-head battle for the most career kills between seniors Katherine Carlson and Allison Ketcham is rapidly approaching a battle for positioning on Valpo’s career top-10 chart in the category as well. Carlson and Ketcham, who both already rank among the top-10 in program history in another statistical category (Carlson - aces; Ketcham - digs), could both surpass the current holder of 10th place - Morgan Beil; 1,099 kills - this weekend, as Ketcham enters the weekend with 1,075 kills and Carlson 1,073 kills. Once both hit 1,134 career kills, which is the current ninth-place mark of Sarah Dooms, they will both be within the top-10, making them the only classmates to both sit in the top-10 of the category.
Capturing Tournament Titles: Valpo won its third consecutive in-season tournament title 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.
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.