Valparaiso (24-9, 11-7 MVC)
Thursday, Nov. 22 - at Missouri State (17-14, 10-8 MVC) - 7:30 p.m.
Friday, Nov. 23 - Semifinal vs. UNI - 7:30 p.m. | Saturday, Nov. 24 - Final - 4 p.m.
This Week in Valpo Volleyball: The Valparaiso University volleyball team heads to the Missouri Valley Conference Tournament as the fourth seed this week. Valpo will face the host in the opening round, fifth-seeded Missouri State, and needs to win three matches to claim the tournament title. This is the second straight season Valpo has taken on the host in its tournament opener.
Previously: Valpo closed the regular season with a pair of road victories last weekend, taking down Missouri State in a five-set battle before finishing off Southern Illinois in four sets.
Looking Ahead: Valpo will await word of a potential postseason berth in either the NCAA Tournament or the NIVC.
Following the Action: All of the tournament matches will be available on ESPN+, with live stats available for all five tournament matches as well.
Head Coach Carin Avery: In her 17th season as head coach at Valparaiso, Carin Avery has won 395 matches (395-176, .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 450 career victories overall as a head coach.
Series History: Missouri State - 1-5 overall; 1-4 under Coach Avery; 1-3 since joining MVC; MSU won 3-1 in Valpo on Oct. 29, Valpo won 3-2 in Springfield on Nov. 9
UNI - 0-10 overall; 0-4 under Coach Avery; 0-4 since joining MVC; UNI won 3-1 in Valpo on Sept. 29, UNI won 3-2 in Cedar Falls on Oct. 26
Illinois State - 2-7 overall; 2-7 under Coach Avery; 0-5 since joining MVC; ILS won 3-1 in Normal on Oct. 12, ILS won 3-1 in Valpo on Nov. 10
Bradley - 9-9 overall; 5-2 under Coach Avery; 2-2 since joining MVC; BU won 3-0 in Peoria on Oct. 13, BU won 3-2 in Valpo on Nov. 9
Drake - 7-3 overall; 6-2 under Coach Avery; 3-1 since joining MVC; Valpo won 3-0 in Valpo on Sept. 28, Valpo won 3-0 in Des Moines on Oct. 27
Top Performers This Season: Missouri State - Haley Hart: 2.67 kills/set, .364
UNI - Lizzie Zaleski: 2.71 kills/set, .300; Rylee Cookerly: 6.11 digs/set, 0 RE
Illinois State - Katherine Carlson: 3.12 kills/set, .253
Bradley - Allison Ketcham: 3.25 kills/set, 4.50 digs/set
Drake - Brittany Anderson: 11.33 assists/set, 2.50 digs/set; Lizzie Zaleski: 3.67 kills/set, .425; Allison Ketcham: 3.67 kills/set, .292, 4.50 digs/set; Rylee Cookerly: 6.00 digs/set, 0 RE
Valpo In The Postseason: In 13 of head coach Carin Avery’s 16 seasons, Valpo has advanced to at least its conference tournament semifinal match. Last season, in its MVC Tournament debut, Valpo fell to Illinois State in the opening round. In 10 years in the Horizon League, the Crusaders were 11-10 in the HL Tournament and advanced to the semifinals nine times - including four berths in the title match. Prior to that, the Crusaders went 7-2 in their final five years in the Mid-Continent Conference in the Mid-Con Tournament, winning three tournament titles.
Outperforming the Preseason Poll: For the second time in as many seasons as an MVC member, Valpo outperformed its preseason pick in the coaches poll. This year, Valpo closed the regular season in fourth position after being picked fifth in the preseason. Last season, Valpo was picked seventh before finishing in a tie for fifth place.
Success Away From Home: The pair of wins in the final weekend of the regular season just reflect the strength of this year’s Valpo team away from the ARC this season. Playing 21 of its 33 regular season matches away from home, Valpo posted a 16-5 record - going 10-4 in true road matches and 6-1 on neutral courts.
Spreading the Wealth: With no player among the top-10 in the Valley in kills/set, it has truly been a team effort on the attack this year for Valpo. Four different players are averaging at least two kills/set, with another trio clocking in above 1.5 kills/set. The offensive diversity can be seen in Valpo’s match-by-match leaders in kills, as seven different players have led the Crusaders in kills this season: 19 times by outsides (Ketcham 10, Carlson 8, Bulmahn 1); 7 times by right sides (Cummings 5, Zaleski 2); 6 times by middles (Bronner 3, McCarthy 3).
All-Tournament Honors: Another way Valpo’s depth can be showcased is by looking at the players who claimed All-Tournament Team awards in the four early-season tournaments this year. A total of eight Crusaders earned 11 All-Tournament honors, with no player earning more than two. In the three tournaments Valpo won, three different players were named Tournament MVP (Peyton McCarthy-Valpo; Allison Ketcham-Air Force; Lizzie Zaleski-Central Michigan).
Just Win, Baby, Win: Valpo enters the MVC Tournament with 24 victories on the season, the 15th time in Avery’s 17 seasons that Valpo has won 20 or more matches. Seven of those teams have won at least 25 matches, a mark which is still well within reach for the 2018 squad. 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.
RPI Ranks: Valpo still sits in strong position in the latest NCAA RPI release. Valpo currently sits at 72nd in the RPI and is one of three MVC squads in the top-75, joined by UNI (22nd) and Illinois State (31st). 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.
Weekly Honors: Senior outside Allison Ketcham picked up the final Defensive Player of the Week award from the MVC office on Monday, as she surpassed 20 digs in both of Valpo’s road victories to close out the regular season. Ketcham was the third Valpo player to earn a weekly honor from the MVC this year, as sophomore libero Rylee Cookerly was named Defensive Player of the Week on Oct. 29 and sophomore right side Ally Cummings was named Player of the Week Oct. 22.
Outside Tandem: Seniors Katherine Carlson and Allison Ketcham have been the most productive pair of classmates on the outside in program history. They are the only set of classmates to both rank among Valpo’s all-time top-10 in kills (Carlson 7th, Ketcham 9th), and are two of just nine members of Valpo’s 1,000-kill/1,000-dig club. Carlson also ranks fifth in program history in career service aces, while Ketcham is fifth all-time at Valpo in career digs. Carlson ranks 17th among all active D-I players in aces and Ketcham is 25th among active D-I players in digs.
Setting Things Up: Sophomore setter Brittany Anderson has played every set at the position since stepping on campus, and this season has produced one of the top assist totals in program history. Anderson currently ranks ninth in a single season in program history in assists, and is one match away from sixth on that chart, as well as potentially just two matches away from second. This comes with her playing the last third of the season with extra blocking responsibilities playing with just one middle. For her career, she is already 10th in program history in assists and will move up to eighth in Valpo’s next match, owns the second-most assists through two seasons in program history and the most in the rally-scoring era, and ranks 17th nationally among active D-I players in career assists/set (10.58).
Two-Sport Star: Even more impressively, Anderson is a two-sport athlete at Valpo. Once volleyball season is over, Anderson transitions to softball, where she appeared in 35 games for Valpo as a freshman and made 25 starts - 13 at first base and 12 at designated player. Anderson hit .250 in MVC play last year while starting 18 conference games, and ranked second on the team in on-base percentage (.333) and fourth in slugging percentage (.385) in conference play.
Leading the Back Row: Much like Anderson, sophomore Rylee Cookerly has played every set at libero since coming to Valpo. She currently ranks third among active D-I players in career digs/set with 5.42 digs/set. Cookerly has already picked up 632 digs this season, eighth-most in a single season in program history and quickly moving up that chart. With 1,318 career digs through two seasons, Cookerly is only 22 digs shy of Taylor Root’s total through her first two years - Root went on to set Valpo’s career record in the category and currently ranks fourth in NCAA history in career digs.
Milestones Reached: Valpo has had numerous players reach statistical career 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; top-10 all-time at Valpo in career kills (Nov. 9 Bradley)
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-five 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 three consecutive in-season tournaments in the pre-conference schedule, claiming titles at Central Michigan and Air Force before defending the home court to claim the Crusader Classic crown. 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 2018. Valpo has now won 27 in-season tournament titles over the last 17 years, including multiple in-season crowns in 10 of those seasons.
Digging Deep: Valpo led the nation in 2017 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. That streak looks set to extend to nine seasons this year, as Valpo currently ranks 11th nationally in digs/set.
Champions in Classroom: Valpo’s success extends beyond the court to the classroom as well, as five Crusaders have recently earned academic awards:
Brittany Anderson - MVC Honorable Mention Scholar-Athlete
Sydney Bronner - MVC Honorable Mention Scholar-Athlete
Katherine Carlson - MVC Scholar-Athlete First Team
Rylee Cookerly - Second Team Academic All-District; MVC Scholar-Athlete First Team
Allison Ketcham - First Team Academic All-District; MVC Scholar-Athlete First Team
Valpo’s three MVC Scholar-Athlete First Team selections led the conference.