Valparaiso (18-14, 10-8 MVC)
NIVC First/Second Rounds (Greeley, Colo.)
Thursday, Nov. 30 - at Northern Colorado (17-11, 12-4 Big Sky) - 7 p.m. CT
Friday, Dec. 1 - vs. Wyoming (20-9, 9-9 Mountain West) OR South Dakota (18-10, 12-4 Summit League) - 7 p.m. CT
Next Up For Valpo Volleyball: For the third straight year and the fourth time in the last six seasons, the Valpo volleyball program heads to postseason play after earning an at-large bid to the 2023 NIVC. The Beacons will travel to Greeley, Colo. for the tournament's first two rounds, taking on host Northern Colorado in opening-round action on Thursday before a potential second-round matchup against either Wyoming or South Dakota on Friday.
Previously: Valpo took the opening set from Belmont in its first-round matchup at the MVC Tournament, but the Bruins claimed the next three sets as the Beacons fell, 3-1. Mallory Januski represented Valpo on the All-Tournament Team.
Looking Ahead: The winner out of Northern Colorado will meet the winner out of Sacramento State (Sacramento State, UNLV, Pacific, Montana State) in the quarterfinals at a date and location to be determined following the first two rounds.
Following the Beacons: Valpo's first two tournament matches will both be broadcasted live on ESPN+ and have live stats available via ValpoAthletics.com.
Head Coach Carin Avery: In her 22nd season as head coach at Valparaiso, Carin Avery is the all-time winningest head coach across all sports in the history of Valpo Athletics. She has won 489 matches (489-242, .669) at the helm of the program and has led Valpo to three league regular season and tournament titles. The program has made seven postseason appearances under Avery, including three NCAA Tournament appearances, and advanced to the championship match of the 2021 NIVC. Avery has coached 62 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 544-266 (.672) record overall as a head coach.
Series History: Northern Colorado - First meeting
Wyoming - First meeting
South Dakota - 1-1 overall; 1-1 under Coach Avery; 1-1 at neutral sites
Last meeting - Aug. 31, 2019 at Indianapolis, Ind. - South Dakota wins 3-1 (Ravotto 1 ace, 2 digs)
Guess Who's Back, Back Again: Valpo makes its third consecutive appearance in the NIVC this year and its fourth trip to the tournament in the last six years. Valpo's history with the NIVC is highlighted by the program's run to the title match in 2021, when it swept Butler, Toledo, Evansville and UConn in succession at the ARC before falling to UNLV in the championship match. The program's first appearance in 2018 featured a trip to the quarterfinals, as Valpo defeated Ball State and Miami (Ohio) before losing to Tulane. Last season, the Beacons suffered a first-round defeat for the first time, falling at Ohio.
Postseason History: The run of NIVC berths over the last few years isn't the first taste of the postseason for the Valpo volleyball program. Under Coach Avery's guidance, Valpo went to the NCAA Tournament three consecutive years 2003-2005, falling in first-round action to Nebraska, Notre Dame and California. The program also appeared in an NCAA Tournament play-in match three straight years 1994-1996, losing all three.
MVC In the Postseason: Valpo is one of four MVC programs carrying the conference's banner into postseason play. UNI earned the Valley's automatic bid to the NCAA Tournament and will face Miami in the opening round. The Beacons are joined in the NIVC by Drake, which earned the MVC's automatic berth and will play Chicago State in its first-round match, and Southern Illinois, which opens the NIVC against DePaul.
Winning Tradition Continues: Valpo secured a winning 2023 season when it defeated Bradley on the road in early November, securing the 20th winning season in 22 years under head coach Carin Avery. The Beacons are also just two wins shy of the 20-win milestone, which would be the 18th 20-win campaign in Avery's 22 seasons.
Top Half Finishes: The Beacons ended the regular season in a tie for fifth-place finish in the final MVC regular season standings. Valpo has now finished in the top-half of the Valley standings in each of its seven years in the conference, the only MVC program to accomplish that feat. Going back further, Valpo has posted top-half conference finishes in 21 of Avery's 22 seasons - as well as qualifying for the conference tournament in each of her 22 seasons - and 30 of the last 31 years overall.
Top of the Charts: With Valpo's win over Purdue Fort Wayne to close out nonconference action, head coach Carin Avery surpassed Valpo Athletics Hall of Fame member Emory Bauer for the most wins by a Valpo head coach across all sports in department history.
Bauer amassed his victories over three different sports, collecting 361 wins in 28 seasons as head coach of the baseball program, 109 victories in 22 years guiding the football team and eight wins in one season as men’s basketball head coach.
Avery’s record total, meanwhile, has obviously come all at the helm of the Valpo volleyball program. In her 22nd season as head coach, Avery’s teams have averaged better than 22 wins per year in her first 21 years guiding the program. Under Avery, Valpo has posted the six winningest seasons in program history, including a program-best 29 wins in 2004.
Road Warriors: Being away from home is nothing new for the Beacons, as they enjoyed great success in true road matches in the second half of the regular season. The loss at UIC in the regular season finale snapped a six-match road winning streak for the Beacons, as they had reeled off consecutive road victories over Indiana State, Evansville, Southern Illinois, Missouri State, Bradley and Illinois State. It was the program’s first time winning any six true road matches in a row since the 2014 season. It was also the first time Valpo has won six consecutive conference road matches since the 2004 team went a perfect 7-0 away from home in Mid-Continent Conference play.
Digging Deep: Valpo continued its long tradition of strong back row play last fall, finishing 10th nationally and leading the MVC with 17.27 digs/set. The program has ranked among the top-30 nationally in digs/set in each of the last 12 seasons, highlighted by the 2017 campaign in which it led the nation with 20.03 digs/set. Other top finishes include third nationally in the spring 2021 season (20.37/set), 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. This year's team has again done well to keep rallies alive, entering the NIVC atop the MVC and ranked ninth nationally with 17.37 digs/set, while individually, Emma Hickey sits 14th nationally with 5.25 digs/set.
All-MVC Honorees: Valpo had its pair of middles both recognized as All-MVC honorees when the conference announced its postseason awards. Miranda Strongman was a First Team All-MVC selection - one of only three middles selected to the First Team - while Mallory Januski was a Second Team All-MVC choice. For both players, it was their first All-Conference honor at Valpo, as Strongman was previously a Second Team All-NEC honoree during the spring 2021 season while she was playing for LIU.
Efficient Middles: Valpo's middle duo of Mallory Januski and Miranda Strongman both cracked the program's single-season top-10 in hitting percentage last season (Januski .353, 1st; Strongman .308, 4th), and both are poised to do so again this season, as Januski enters the NIVC hitting .316 and Strongman .302. Prior to last season, there were just four seasons in program history where an individual had hit at better than a .300 clip. Januski and Strongman will close their collegiate careers ranked 1-2 on Valpo's career hitting percentage chart as well.
Four in the Club: This year's Valpo squad has an incredible four players who have amassed at least 1,000 career digs, all four of whom are in different classes. Fifth-year outside hitter Bella Ravotto entered this season already well past the milestone. Sophomore Emma Hickey became the first Beacon to surpass the milestone this year, doing so in late September. Senior Victoria Bulmahn notched her 1,000th career dig in late October, and junior Elise Swistek joined the club in mid-November. Valpo now has 26 players all-time with 1,000 or more digs - Swistek and Ravotto are two of 13 outside hitters in program history to reach the mark, Hickey is one of six liberos and Bulmahn is one of seven setters.
Climbing the Digs Chart: Both fifth-year outside Bella Ravotto and sophomore libero Emma Hickey continue to climb the program's career digs chart. Ravotto, who moved into the top-10 in program history for career digs in October, enters the NIVC eighth all-time at Valpo with 1,641 career digs - just 12 shy of Sarah Dooms in seventh position. Meanwhile, Hickey - who became the fastest player in program history and MVC history to 1,000 career digs earlier this season, and is the only current D-I sophomore already over 1,000 digs - now owns 1,355 career digs, already up to 14th in program history.
All-Tournament Team Honorees: Six different Valpo players combined for ten All-Tournament Team honors this season:
MVC Tournament - Mallory Januski
Purdue Fort Wayne Invitational - Emma Hickey, Januski
Stacheville Challenge - Januski, Miranda Strongman
Popcorn Classic - Bella Ravotto (MVP), Olivia Blackketter, Januski
EIU Volleyball Invitational - Strongman, Sam Warren
Four Times the Fun: Parse the previous list and you'll see senior middle Mallory Januski picking up a quartet of All-Tournament Team honors this season. Januski is the first player in the Carin Avery era to earn four All-Tournament Team awards in a single season, and the first under Avery to earn three such honors in early-season tournament action.
A Balanced Attack: Last year's Valpo team was notable for its balance on the attack, and this year's squad has been no different. Elise Swistek's 2.45 kills/set leads the Beacons, but ranks just 23rd overall among Valley players. Five regulars are averaging between 1.80 and 2.45 kills/set.
Capturing Crowns: The Beacons' triumph in the Popcorn Classic added yet another crown to the program's trophy case. Valpo has now won 34 in-season tournament titles in head coach Carin Avery's time at the helm of the program. The team has won at least one tournament in 17 of her seasons, and multiple tournaments 11 times. Those tournament titles have come in 14 different states.
Strong Scholars: Three Beacons were honored this week for their work in the classroom and on the volleyball court. Miranda Strongman (4.00 GPA, health administration master's) was an MVC Scholar-Athlete First Team selection, while Bella Ravotto (3.96 GPA, health administration master's) and Emma Hickey (3.93 GPA, civil engineering) both earned spots on the MVC Scholar-Athlete Second Team.
Valpo Picked Sixth in Preseason Poll: Valpo was picked to finish in sixth place in the Missouri Valley Conference in 2023, according to preseason polling of the conference’s head coaches. For the sixth time in Valpo's seven seasons in the Valley, the program met or exceeded the preseason prognostication.