Valparaiso (13-9, 5-2 Horizon)
Friday, Oct. 19 - 7 p.m. - Loyola (13-7, 5-2 Horizon)
Saturday, Oct. 20 - 7 p.m. - UIC (12-10, 5-2 Horizon)
This Week in Crusader Volleyball: Valparaiso starts up the second half of Horizon League play this weekend as the Crusaders host Loyola and UIC at the ARC. Valpo enters the second half of league play in a tie for second place in the league standings with the two squads it will face this weekend.
Previously: Valpo earned two road wins on the regular season road trip through the state of Wisconsin for the first time since joining the Horizon League. The Crusaders swept Green Bay on Friday evening before earning a hard-fought five-set win over Milwaukee on Saturday afternoon.
Next Up: The Crusaders remain home for the second part of a four-match homestand next weekend, stepping out of league play to take on IUPUI Tuesday evening before closing out the homestand against Wright State Friday night.
Following the Crusaders: Live video for both of this weekend’s matches will be available through the Horizon League Network, with the audio available on WVUR, 95.1 FM, Valparaiso. Links to the live video and audio, as well as to live stats for both matches, can be found at www.valpoathletics.com.
Head Coach Carin Avery: Over her 10-plus years as head coach, Carin Avery has won 254 matches 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 42 All-League recipients over her tenure as Crusader head coach. She is Valpo’s all-time leader in both victories and winning percentage, and now owns 309 career victories overall.
Series Notes: Valpo is just 15-25 all-time against the Ramblers of Loyola, but are 10-1 versus them since joining the Horizon League, including a 3-1 victory on the road earlier this season. Both Crusader middles hit .417, with Morgan Beil posting 18 kills and Ellen Vanden Berg 12 kills and seven blocks. Meanwhile, Valpo and UIC have split 44 all-time meetings, 22-22, with the Flames winning in the matchup in Chicago earlier this year (3-1) to snap eight straight victories by the Crusaders. Sarah Dooms paced the Crusaders in that contest with 15 kills.
Scouting the Opposition: Loyola enters the weekend at 13-7 overall and 5-2 in Horizon League play, but is coming off a loss to UIC last weekend. Anna Eytchison averages 4.35 kills/set and also leads the team with a .239 hitting percentage, while Stephanie Kinane picks up better than five digs per set in the back. UIC is 12-10 overall, entering the weekend on a four-match winning streak, and also 5-2 within the league. The Flames’ balanced offense sees five players averaging at least two kills/set, led by 3.08 from Kelsey Safranek. Janise Dismuke swings at a team-best .335 clip and posts over a block per frame as well.
Looking Back at 2011: The 2011 season saw Valparaiso again reach the 20-win plateau, as it finished the year with a 20-15 record, including a 9-7 mark to finish in fourth place in the Horizon League standings. Junior Taylor Root repeated as the Horizon League Defensive Player of the Year and was joined on the All-League team by senior Jenny Pokorny and freshman Morgan Beil, who also earned All-Newcomer Team accolades.
Sweeping the Wisconsin Trip: Valpo swept both Wisconsin schools on the road last weekend for the first time since joining the Horizon League, including its first-ever win at Milwaukee during the regular season. The previous five seasons, the Crusaders had split the two matches three times and lost both on two occasions. Valpo does own a pair of wins at Milwaukee in the Horizon League Championship semifinals (2007, 2010).
Into the Top-10: Senior libero Taylor Root vaulted into the top-10 in NCAA history in career digs early in the third set against Green Bay on Friday with her 2,457th career dig, and ended the weekend with 2,483 digs, currently placing her ninth in NCAA history. Root is 100 digs shy of eighth place, and looking ahead, would need to tally 199 digs the remainder of this year to crack the top-five. She is already the highest-ranked player to have played her entire career under 25-point rally scoring, as opposed to 30-point rally or 15-point sideout.
Another Week, Another Record: One week after setting Valpo’s record for digs in a five-set match, Root broke her own mark for digs in a sweep, tallying 34 in the victory over Green Bay. The 34 digs was the most by any player in the nation this season in a three-set match, topping the previous high of 31.
Ellen on the Attack: Junior middle Ellen Vanden Berg has stepped her game up to the next level over the last few weeks, and took another leap forward last weekend. Vanden Berg did not commit an error in the sweep of Green Bay, hitting .615 with 16 kills on 26 attacks while also posting six blocks. Then against Milwaukee the next day, the junior helped the Crusaders to the five-set win, tallying a career-high and Valpo season-high 23 kills on .391 hitting while again totaling six blocks. Over the last five matches, Vanden Berg is averaging nearly four kills per set on .421 hitting, and defensively is registering 1.32 blocks/set.
Earning League Awards: Root, who also picked up 24 digs in the win over Milwaukee to go with her record-setting performance at Green Bay, was named the Horizon League co-Defensive Player of the Week for the second time this year and a league-record tenth time for her career on Monday, while Vanden Berg earned Offensive Player of the Week accolades following the pair of wins. Vanden Berg, who was previously Defensive Player of the Week on Sept. 17, became the first HL player in five seasons to earn weekly honors on both sides of the ball within the same season.
Honorees: Six Crusaders in all earned All-Tournament honors in 2012. Sarah Dooms, Ellen Vanden Berg and Kelsey Victor all were named to the All-Tournament squad at the Hoosier Classic, with Victor being tabbed tournament MVP. Morgan Beil earned All-Tournament accolades at the MSU Eagle Challenge, Janelle Hobbs was honored for the first time in her career at Saint Louis’ Active Ankle Challenge, and Vanden Berg and Taylor Root both received All-Tournament honors at Iowa’s Hawkeye Challenge.
Ten Straight 20-Win Seasons: The Crusaders’ 20 victories last year helped the program continue a tremendous streak of success. Valparaiso has won 20 or more matches every year since 2002, Avery’s first at the helm of the Crusader program. Valpo is one of just 12 programs nationwide to have won at least 20 matches in each of the last ten years, a group which also includes Colorado State, Dayton, Florida, Hawai’i, Missouri State, Nebraska, Ohio, Penn State, Stanford, UNI and Western Kentucky.
Crusaders Picked Third in Preseason Poll: The Horizon League head coaches have selected Valparaiso to finish in third place in the league this season according to the preseason poll. The Crusaders trailed only Milwaukee and Cleveland State in the polling.