Valparaiso (21-7, 8-5 MVC)
Friday, Nov. 2 - at Loyola (15-10, 7-6 MVC) - 7 p.m.
This Week in Valpo Volleyball: Coming off a stretch of three matches over four days, the Valparaiso University volleyball team faces a light slate this weekend, but the lone match is an important one, as Valpo heads up to Chicago to face a Loyola squad Friday night which it currently sits one game ahead of in the MVC standings.
Previously: Again playing most of the weekend with a one-middle lineup, Valpo pushed a UNI squad on the brink of the top-25 to five sets before falling 3-2. Valpo then came back with a road sweep at Drake Saturday night before returning home Monday evening, where it fell to Missouri State by a 3-1 final.
Looking Ahead: Valpo’s final weekend of home action awaits next weekend, as the Brown and Gold host Bradley on Friday, Nov. 9 and Illinois State on Saturday, Nov. 10.
Following the Action: This weekend’s match against Loyola can be seen live on ESPN3. Live stats will be available as well.
Head Coach Carin Avery: In her 17th season as head coach at Valparaiso, Carin Avery has won 392 matches (392-174, .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 447 career victories overall as a head coach.
Series History: The third-most common opponent in program history, Valpo is 18-27 all-time versus Loyola. But recent history has trended Valpo’s direction, as since 2005, the Brown and Gold enjoy a 15-3 edge in the series. That mark includes wins in both matches (3-1 at Loyola; 3-0 at Valpo) last season in Valpo’s first year as an MVC member, and a memorable come-from-behind earlier this year at the ARC, a contest which Valpo trailed 2-0 before rallying for a 3-2 win.
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.
The Different Lineup: With the exception of the final two sets at UNI Friday night, Valpo continued to play with a one-middle, two-right side lineup in all three matches last weekend. Freshman middle Haley Hart got the starts against UNI and Drake, and in the sweep of the Bulldogs in the latter match, set a new career high with five blocks to lead all players. Sophomore middle Peyton McCarthy returned to action for two sets at UNI after missing the previous weekend, and then played all four sets against Missouri State.
Cookerly Earns Recognition: For the first time in her career, sophomore libero Rylee Cookerly earned MVC Defensive Player of the Week honors on Monday after averaging a conference-best 5.50 digs/set in Valpo’s matches at UNI and Drake. After being named the honoree on Monday afternoon, Cookerly went out and tallied a match-high 27 digs against Missouri State, passing the 500-dig milestone for the season and the 1,200-dig mark for her career. Cookerly was Valpo’s second consecutive MVC award winner, as Ally Cummings was named Player of the Week the previous weekend after averaging 4.29 kills/set on .520 hitting in a pair of wins.
Just Win, Baby, Win: Valpo now has 21 victories on the season, the 15th time in Avery’s 17 seasons that Valpo has won 20 or more matches. This year marks the seventh time out of Avery’s 15 20-win teams that the program reached the 20-win mark within the season’s first 25 matches. Valpo also already owns eight MVC wins to match its conference total from last year with five conference matches left on the docket.
The Conference Race: While thw top two spots in the MVC standings are likely out of reach for Valpo, the Brown and Gold are in the midst of a five-team battle for 3rd through 7th place - with the 7th-place team missing out on the conference tournament. Valpo enters this weekend at 8-5 in MVC play, in 4th place and one game behind Bradley for 3rd place, and is currently 2.5 games up on Drake in 7th place, while also owning the tiebreaker with the Bulldogs by virtue of the season sweep. Friday’s match against Loyola is vital - with a win, Valpo would be two games up on the Ramblers and own the tiebreaker, while with a loss, the two teams would be even in the standings and would have split the season series.
RPI Ranks: Valpo still sits in strong position in the latest NCAA RPI release, coming in at 62nd nationally. Valpo is one of three MVC squads in the top-65, joined by UNI (15th) and Illinois State (41st). 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: Entering this weekend, no team in Division I has tallied more total digs than Valpo’s 1,882 digs this year. Valpo also ranks eighth nationally in digs/set, looking for its ninth straight season of placing among the top-20 in the nation in the latter category. As a team, Valpo also sits 26th in opponents’ hitting percentage. Individually, Rylee Cookerly ranks 37th in digs/set and Brittany Anderson ranks 47th in assists/set.
Moving Up the Charts: Senior Katherine Carlson moved in Valpo’s career top-10 in kills last weekend at UNI and currently ranks 10th with 1,122 kills, while Allison Ketcham is right behind her in 11th with 1,114 kills. Once both surpass the current ninth-place total of 1,134 kills (Sarah Dooms), they will be the first set of classmates to rank among Valpo’s career top-10 in the category. Carlson also moved into fifth in program history on Monday in career service aces, and owns the second-most aces by a Valpo player in the last 25 years.
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); top-10 at Valpo in career kills (Oct. 26 at UNI); top-5 in career aces (Oct. 29 Missouri St.) - second-highest total in the last 25 years
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]
Capturing Tournament Titles: Valpo won its final three in-season tournament titles of the year, 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.