Valparaiso (21-8, 12-6 MVC)
at MVC Championship - Normal, Ill.
Thursday, Nov. 25 - vs. Evansville (19-10, 9-9 MVC)
Friday, Nov. 26 - vs. Loyola (21-9, 14-4 MVC)
Saturday, Nov. 27 - MVC Title Match
This Week in Valpo Volleyball: The Valpo volleyball team heads to the MVC Championship after finishing in a tie for third place in the final regular season standings. The Beacons will be the fourth seed for the tournament and will open play Thanksgiving afternoon against fifth-seeded Evansville, needing three victories to claim the title.
Previously: Valpo closed the regular season with a strong weekend of play in Iowa, taking down both UNI and Drake in four sets apiece to finish in a tie for third place. Haley Hart and Maddy Boyer stood out, as each combined for 15 blocks over the two victories.
Looking Ahead: The winner of the tournament earns the MVC's automatic bid to the 2021 NCAA Tournament. The NIVC is also a potential postseason landing spot for Valley teams.
Following the Beacons: Every tournament match will be broadcast live on ESPN+. Links for the live video, as well as live stats for all matches, are available via ValpoAthletics.com.
Head Coach Carin Avery: In her 20th season as head coach at Valparaiso, Carin Avery has won 444 matches (444-215, .674) at the helm of the program 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, which has spanned three different conferences. She is Valpo’s all-time leader in both victories and winning percentage, and owns a 499-239 (.676) record overall as a head coach.
Series History: Evansville - 13-12 overall; 11-2 under Coach Avery; 8-2 since joining MVC; 2-0 this year (W 3-1 Oct. 2 at Valpo; W 3-1 Oct. 29 at UE)
Loyola - 21-31 overall; 18-9 under Coach Avery; 6-4 since joining MVC; 1-1 this year (L 3-0 Oct. 8 at LUC; W 3-0 Nov. 5 at Valpo)
Illinois State - 3-12 overall; 3-12 under Coach Avery; 1-10 since joining MVC; 0-2 this year (L 3-2 Oct. 16 at ILS; L 3-1 Nov. 12 at Valpo)
Bradley - 13-12 overall; 9-5 under Coach Avery; 6-5 since joining MVC; 1-1 this year (L 3-1 Oct. 15 at BU; W 3-1 Nov. 13 at Valpo)
Indiana State - 16-16 overall; 11-5 under Coach Avery; 6-4 since joining MVC; 1-1 this year (W 3-0 Oct. 1 at Valpo; L 3-1 Oct. 30 at INS)
Valpo in the MVC Tournament: Valpo has qualified for the MVC Tournament in each of its five seasons in the conference and owns a 2-3 record in tournament play. Notably, Valpo has faced the tournament host in all three tournaments it has participated in.
Spring 2021 - 5 seed, n/a (forced to withdraw due to COVID protocols)
2019 - 5 seed, 1-1 (W 3-2 vs. Bradley; L 3-1 at UNI)
2018 - 4 seed, 1-1 (W 3-2 at Missouri State; L 3-1 vs. UNI)
2017 - 6 seed, 0-1 (L 3-1 at Illinois State)
Valpo In the Postseason: In 15 of head coach Carin Avery’s 18 seasons (not counting last season’s tournament withdrawal), Valpo has advanced to at least its conference tournament semifinal match. Valpo is 2-3 as an MVC member in the conference tournament and has advanced to the semifinals in each of the last two tournaments it has participated in. In 10 years in the Horizon League, Valpo was 11-10 in the HL Tournament and advanced to the semifinals nine times - including four berths in the title match. Prior to that, Valpo went 7-2 in its final five years in the Mid-Continent Conference in the Mid-Con Tournament, winning three tournament titles.
Looking to Go 3-0: Valpo’s matchup with Evansville is an opportunity for the Beacons to go 3-0 against the Purple Aces this season, as Valpo claimed 3-1 victories in both regular season matchups. While the old adage says it’s tough to beat the same team three times in one season, that hasn’t been the case for Valpo under Coach Avery. The program has had 10 matchups in conference tournament play in her tenure against teams it beat twice in the regular season, and Valpo posted a 9-1 record in the third matchups — including a perfect 3-0 record when Valpo was the fourth seed facing the fifth seed in a first-round meeting.
Clinching the Best Finish: The Beacons’ win at Drake on Saturday secured the program’s best finish since joining the MVC, as Valpo finished in a tie with Bradley for third place at 12-6. Valpo’s 12-6 record is also its best record in conference play since joining the MVC. After opening conference play 4-4 through the first eight matches, the Beacons closed the MVC slate with an 8-2 record over its last 10 matches.
Outperforming the Preseason Poll: For the fifth time in as many seasons as an MVC member, Valpo outperformed its preseason pick in the coaches poll. This year’s squad finished the regular season tied for third place after being picked to finish seventh. Each of the previous two seasons saw the Brown and Gold finish in fifth place after being projected seventh in the preseason. In 2018, Valpo closed the regular season in fourth position after being picked fifth in the preseason. Valpo was picked seventh in its first season as a conference member in 2017 before finishing in a tie for fifth place.
Another Top Half Finish: The Beacons clinched a finish in the top half of the MVC standings on Nov. 13 with their win over Bradley. Valpo has now finished in fifth place or better in each of its five years in the Valley, joining Illinois State as the other two programs who have finished in the top half each of the last four years. Going back further, Valpo has enjoyed a top-half finish in its league standings in 28 of the last 29 seasons.
Looking Back at the Spring: The spring 2021 campaign saw Valpo post an 11-9 record and finish fifth in the MVC standings with a 10-8 mark in conference action. Rylee Cookerly repeated as MVC Libero of the Year, was named the MVC Scholar-Athlete of the Year and was an AVCA All-Region honoree, while Victoria Bulmahn was tabbed the MVC Freshman of the Year. Included among Valpo’s 11 wins were the program’s first victory over Illinois State since joining the MVC and the first wins in program history over traditional power UNI.
Look at the RPI: Valpo came in at #50 in the NCAA’s initial release of the 2021 volleyball RPI on Oct. 4, and the Beacons have maintained a spot in the top-100 ever since. In the most recent RPI release on Nov. 22, Valpo checked in at #70 — tops among all MVC programs.
Standards Maintained: Posting winning records and winning 20 matches in a season have been standards for the Valpo volleyball program under Coach Avery, and this year’s team has maintained those standards. The Beacons secured a winning season with their Oct. 23 win against Southern Illinois, the program’s 18th winning season in Avery’s 20 seasons at the helm. Last Friday’s win at UNI was Valpo’s 20th of the season, the 16th time in the last 20 years the program has won at least 20 matches.
Digging Deep: Valpo continued its long tradition of strong back row play in the spring 2021 season, finishing the season ranked third nationally and second in the Valley with 20.37 digs/set. Valpo has ranked among the top-30 nationally in digs/set in each of the last 10 seasons, including leading the nation with 20.03 digs/set in 2017 to go along with a fourth-place rank in 2010 and a sixth-place finish in 2015. Since the move to 25-point scoring, only seven teams have averaged more than 20 digs/set over the course of a season, and Valpo is the only program to have done it twice. 2018 saw Valpo lead the nation with 2,613 total digs - a mark which set a program single-season record and a Division I record in the 25-point era. Valpo currently sits 26th nationally in digs/set with an MVC-best 16.79 digs/set.
Winning With Defense: Valpo had a number of standout performances defensively as it passed the 20-win mark and secured a tie for third place in the final weekend of regular season play. Haley Hart was named the MVC Defensive Player of the Week, but it could have easily gone to Maddy Boyer as well, as both players combined for 15 blocks over the two matches. Both Boyer and Hart recorded six blocks in the win at UNI, and then each set career highs with nine blocks in the win at Drake — tied for the fourth-most blocks in a four-set match by a Valpo player in the 25-point era. As a team, Valpo recorded 15 blocks in the victory over the Bulldogs — a season high and the program’s most in a four-set match since September 2017. Meanwhile, Elise Swistek was named MVC Freshman of the Week as she posted a pair of double-doubles, highlighted by a season-high 27 digs at Drake.
Chasing .300: Only four players in program history have posted a hitting percentage of .300 or better for a full season, and only two of those efforts have come in the rally-scoring era. But both of Valpo’s middles this year are currently on pace to challenge that mark. Haley Hart has boosted her hitting percentage to .306 this year, which would rank fourth in a season in program history, while Peyton McCarthy comes in just under the .300 mark at .292.
Players of the Week: Valpo had four different players combine for six weekly awards from the MVC office this season. Both Peyton McCarthy and Haley Hart earned a pair of awards — McCarthy was Player of the Week Sept. 7 and Defensive Player of the Week Oct. 25, while Hart was Player of the Week Oct. 4 and Defensive Player of the Week Nov. 22. Meanwhile, Rylee Cookerly was Defensive Player of the Week Oct. 4 and Elise Swistek was Freshman of the Week Nov. 22.
All-Tournament Honors: Seven different Valpo players received All-Tournament Team accolades over its four early-season tournaments this season. Juniors Bella Ravotto (MVP) and Gretchen Kuckkan picked up awards for their play at the SIUE Cougar Classic. Senior Jillie Grant represented the Beacons on the All-Tournament Team at Toledo in the third weekend of action. In the second weekend of play at Tennessee Tech, fifth-year middle Peyton McCarthy was named Tournament MVP (and went on to be named MVC Player of the Week) and was joined on the All-Tournament Team by fifth-year setter Brittany Anderson and sophomore setter Victoria Bulmahn. In the opening weekend at Milwaukee, McCarthy and senior middle Haley Hart earned spots on that All-Tournament Team.
Cookerly Continues to Dig: Fifth-year libero Rylee Cookerly has checked numerous milestones off her lists of things to chase this season. First, she broke Valpo’s career digs record, previously held by Taylor Root, on Sept. 24 at Southern Illinois. One week later, on Oct. 1 against Indiana State, Cookerly surpassed former Illinois State standout Courtney Pence as the MVC’s career digs record holder. Finally, the next night against Evansville, Cookerly moved past Minnesota’s Paula Gentil for second place in NCAA history in career digs. Most recently, the two-time MVC Libero of the Year reached the 3,000-career dig milestone on Senior Night in the win over Bradley. Cookerly currently ranks 39th nationally with an MVC-best 4.83 digs/set and sits at 3,055 career digs entering the tournament.
McCarthy Stands Out: Fifth-year middle Peyton McCarthy has had a standout season on both sides of the ball for Valpo this year. Offensively, she is swinging at a .292 clip – seventh in the MVC - with a team-high 2.62 kills/set and has improved her career hitting percentage to .252, among the top-10 in program history. Her career total of 1,147 kills ranks 11th in program history and is just 17 away from the top-10. Meanwhile, on the block, McCarthy ranks 10th in the Valley with 0.96 blocks/set. With 437 career blocks, McCarthy is just six away from second place in program history.
Hart Racks Up the Points: Whether it’s been on the attack or on the block, senior middle Haley Hart has been prolific at ending rallies this season for Valpo. After entering this year having led Valpo in kills just five times over her first three seasons, Hart has paced Valpo in kills nine times and has been in double figures in the category 16 times. She also finds herself leading the Beacons with over a block per set. Hart especially stood out within MVC-only play, as she hit .316 with 3.00 kills/set and 1.09 blocks/set – all team-high marks. She was the only player within Valley play to rank among the top-10 in the conference in both kills and blocks.
Moving On Up: Fifth-year setter Brittany Anderson tallied 41 assists over last week's pair of matches, pushing her career total to 4,478 helpers. With one of her final assists against Drake, Anderson — who ranks third in program history in the category — ascended into 14th place in MVC history in career assists. She also ranks 17th in program history with 1,233 career digs.