Wednesday, October 5, 2005
VALPARAISO (14-3) AT #10 NOTRE DAME (11-1)

Wednesday, October 5, 7:00 p.m. at Notre Dame.

At Joyce Center (Notre Dame, Ind.).

RADIO: Live coverage on WVUR-FM, 95.1 FM, and on the web at Ken LaVicka will be handling the play-by-play with Josh Weinhold providing color commentary.

TV: None.

SERIES RECORD: The Irish lead the all-time series over Valpo 18-4. The Crusaders won the first three matchups in 1979-1980 before Notre Dame captured 17 straight matches. Last season, the two clubs split two matchups, as the Brown and Gold prevailed 3-2 during regular season play at the Joyce Center, while the Irish took a 3-1 decision in the first round of the NCAA Tournament.

HEAD COACH CARIN AVERY: Crusader Head Coach Carin Avery enters her fourth season at the helm as one of the all-time winningest coaches in school history. 17 matches in, Avery has improved her career record to 90-26, winning a dazzling 78 % of the time. Her 90 wins are second most in school history, and just two behind the all-time leader, Cindy Harris, who won 92 matches from 1990-94.

ON A ROLL: Valparaiso enters tonight's match having won five straight matches, including three sweeps last week. The Crusaders hosted the Flames of UIC last Tuesday and dismissed them in three games, 30-24, 30-25, 30-25. Liz Mikos hit .667 (13-1-18) and recorded a solo block in the third game, making her Valpo's career solo blocks leader. On Friday, Valpo took care of business against Chicago State, winning 30-16, 30-19, 30-23. Jessi Novak led the way for the Brown and Gold, hitting .476 (11-1-21) while registering seven digs, four aces, and three blocks. Saturday saw the Crusaders score the first twelve points of the match on their way to defeating the Jaguars of IUPUI 30-13, 30-26, 30-19. Lauren Moulton hit .500 (15-3-24) with four blocks in the winning effort.

WILL YOU PROTECT THIS HOUSE? : The Crusaders have dominated opposition on the court of the Athletics-Recreation Center since Carin Avery took over as head coach prior to the 2002 season. Valpo has accumulated a 38-4 record at home under Avery, including a current streak of 17 straight victories dating back to last season. In addition, the Crusaders are 24-1 at home against Mid-Con opponents since 2002, including the 2003 Mid-Con Tournament title.

TOP-NOTCH OFFENSE: Valpo currently sits atop the Mid-Con and ranks eighth in the nation, notching 16.90 kills/game. The Crusaders have spread the wealth, as six players have registered at least 100 kills, led by 189 from Amy Palash. Valpo also leads the Mid-Con with 15.05 assists/game, good for 20th in the country, and a .224 hitting percentage.

DEFENSE WINS CHAMPIONSHIPS: The Crusaders are playing defense with authority so far in 2005. The team has recorded 3.03 blocks/game, good for 23rd in the nation and tops in the Mid-Con. Valpo has registered double-digit blocks in eleven matches, and tied a school record for blocks in a match with 21 earlier this season against UCLA. Additionally, Valpo is racking up the digs, as the Brown and Gold sit 15th in the nation with a Mid-Con best 18.43 digs/game.

QUEEN OF BLOCKS: Senior middle blocker Liz Mikos is leaving her mark on the record books during her final season at Valpo. Mikos has become Valpo's career record-holder in total blocks and solo blocks in 2005. She also leads the Mid-Con in career blocks per game with 1.54/game. Mikos has been a consistent presence in the middle over the course of the season, recording at least three total blocks in all but one match, including ten blocks against UCLA and Villanova. Not to be overlooked is her offense, as she is hitting .263 with 2.78 kills/game in 2005. Mikos was especially efficient offensively last week, hitting .490 with 3.33 kills/game over the three matches.

AVOIDING THE SOPHOMORE SLUMP: Amy Palash has been a stellar presence at outside hitter for the Crusaders this season. Palash, who was a member of the 2004 Mid-Con All Freshman Team, currently leads Valpo with 3.50 kills/game and is second-best on the team with 3.41 digs/game. She has received Mid-Con Player of the Week honors twice, most recently for her work in the first weekend of conference day, registering two double-doubles while leading Valpo to road victories over UMKC and Western Illinois.

SETTING THE PACE: Valpo captain Katie Bova has done an exceptional job guiding the Crusaders in 2005. Bova leads Valpo and the conference with 12.12 assists/game in her effort to capture a second straight Mid-Con Setter of the Year award. Bova has also assumed an expanded role in the Crusader attack, averaging 1.83 kills/game while hitting .311. Not to be overlooked are her efforts on the defensive end, where she is averaging 3.33 digs/game. Bova has used her all-around game to rack up 12 double-doubles in 2005. Included in that total are three triple-doubles, which places her among the nation's leaders in the category.

BACK FOR MORE: 2004 Mid-Con Player of the Year Lauren Moulton has returned for her final year with the Crusaders playing as good as ever. Moulton ranks among the Valpo leaders in kills/game (3.23/game, 2nd), hitting percentage (.315, 1st), solo blocks (10, 3rd), and total blocks (53, 3rd). With 171 kills in 2005, Moulton has moved into seventh on Valpo's career kills chart and sits just 50 kills out of the top five. Moulton has been busy racking up honors, receiving co-MVP accolades at the Popcorn Classic and earning a spot on the All-Tournament Team at the InnTowner Invitational. She has been a consistent presence from the right side for Valpo, recording double-digit kills on ten occasions while hitting over .200 14 times. Last week, Moulton was a stellar presence on offense and defense, hitting .489 with 3.71 kills/game and 1.57 blocks/game.

FILLING SOME LARGE SHOES: Sophomore Heidi Hammond has assumed a much larger role for Valpo in 2005. After appearing in just nine matches during her debut campaign with the Crusaders, Hammond was anointed as the starting libero prior to the season following the graduation of Sara Silcox, who left as Valpo's single-season and career digs leader. Hammond has proved a more than competent replacement at libero, as she currently leads the Crusaders with 4.06 digs/game, which ranks fifth in the Mid-Con. Hammond has put up double-digit digs in 11 of her matches, including a career-high 21 apiece in wins over Eastern Michigan, Villanova, and Western Illinois.

IRISH NOTES: Notre Dame sits tenth in the latest AVCA Top 25 poll. The Irish have been as high as eighth in the poll this season, one off of the all-time high for the program, when Notre Dame was ranked seventh in 1996.

Notre Dame's non-conference schedule has been a tough test, as they have faced three opponents in the top-11 in the nation. The Fighting Irish have proven themselves up to the task, sweeping #6 Florida, winning in four games over #8 USC, and defeating #11 Texas in five games.

Middle blocker Lauren Brewster returns for her senior season after being named a third-team All-American last season by the AVCA. The BIG EAST preseason player of the year currently leads Notre Dame with 4.14 kills/game and 1.52 blocks/game.