Valparaiso (4-2, 0-0 Horizon)
Crusaders host the Popcorn Classic
Friday, Sept. 9 - 12:30 p.m. - SE Missouri State (1-6, 0-0 OVC)
7 p.m. - Central Michigan (2-4, 0-0 MAC)
Saturday, Sept. 10 - 12:30 p.m. - South Dakota State (1-7, 0-0 Summit)
7 p.m. - Duquesne (6-2, 0-0 A-10)
This Week in Crusader Volleyball: The Valparaiso University volleyball team will host its ninth in-season tournament in the last 15 years this weekend, as the Crusaders welcome SE Missouri State, Central Michigan, South Dakota State and Duquesne to the ARC for the Popcorn Classic. The two-day, eight-match event begins Friday morning at 10 a.m., with Valpo's first match beginning at 12:30 p.m.
Previously: The Crusaders went 2-1 last weekend at the Trojan Invitational in Troy, Ala. Valpo fell in straight sets to New Mexico State to open tournament action, but rebounded with 3-1 victories over both Troy and Austin Peay to close out the weekend.
Looking Ahead: Valpo plays its first non-league, non-tournament match of the season on Tuesday evening, Sept. 13, as the Crusaders make the trip to Bowling Green. They then finish out early season tournament action next weekend at the Ball State Invitational, where the Crusaders take on Ohio State and UNC Greensboro in addition to the host Cardinals.
Following the Crusaders: All four matches this weekend will be broadcast on ESPN3, as the Crusaders' entire 12-match home slate will be streamed live and also accessible via WatchESPN and the ESPN app. WVUR (95.1 FM, Valparaiso), Valpo's campus radio station, will provide coverage as well of the SE Missouri State and Duquesne matches, while live stats will be available for all four matches. Links for all the live coverage can be found at ValpoAthletics.com.
Head Coach Carin Avery: In her 15th season as head coach at Valparaiso, Carin Avery has won 343 matches (343-134) 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 40 All-League recipients over her tenure as Crusader head coach. She is Valpo’s all-time leader in both victories and winning percentage, and owns 398 career victories overall as a head coach.
Series Notes: SE Missouri State - A series which dates back to 1991, the Crusaders own a slight 4-3 advantage. In the last meeting, which opened the 2012 season, the Redhawks earned a 3-1 win in Iowa City. This marks SEMO's second visit to the Popcorn Classic, as it defeated the Crusaders 3-2 in the 1994 tournament, while the Redhawks also downed Valpo, 3-1, in 1996 in an NCAA Tournament play-in match.
Central Michigan - The Crusaders lead the series with CMU, 3-1, with all four prior meetings coming between the 2000 and 2005 seasons. The last meeting opened the 2005 campaign, with Valpo earning a three-set sweep in Kalamazoo, Mich.
South Dakota State - Valpo and SDSU have split their four meetings all-time. The last matchup was a three-set sweep in favor of the Crusaders early in the 2014 campaign at the Jackrabbit Invitational.
Duquesne - The only prior meeting between the two programs came at Bowling Green in 2007, when the Crusaders swept the Dukes.
Scouting the Opposition: SE Missouri State - The Redhawks enter this weekend at 1-6 overall, most recently dropping a five-set matchup mid-week at Evansville. SEMO posted a 10-20 overall record last year and went 6-10 in OVC play.
Central Michigan - Facing a strong tournament field last weekend, the Chippewas were swept by #7 Florida and Michigan State before defeating Morgan State, and enter Valpo with a 2-4 record. Last season, CMU went 6-10 within MAC play and finished at 11-18 overall.
South Dakota State - SDSU comes into tournament play with a 1-7 mark on the year, including a three-set loss to Green Bay. The Jackrabbits are looking to improve upon a 2015 campaign in which they went 7-25 overall and 4-12 in Summit League action.
Duquesne - The Dukes enter Valpo with five consecutive victories and are 6-2 overall, including a five-set victory over Youngstown State. Last season saw Duquesne finish one game under .500 at 14-15 and post a winning record of 8-6 in A-10 play.
Crusaders Picked Second in Preseason Poll: Valpo has been picked to finish in second place in the Horizon League during the 2016 season, according to preseason polling of the league’s head coaches. The Crusaders received four first-place votes, matching Cleveland State for the most first-place votes received. The Vikings edged out the Crusaders for the top spot in the poll, tallying 60 points to Valpo’s 57. Oakland picked up the final first-place vote and totaled 52 points.
Looking Back at 2015: Last year’s Crusader team matched the second-most wins in a single season in program history, posting a 27-8 overall record. Valpo finished in third place in Horizon League play, going 11-5 in league action, and advanced to the Horizon League Championship title match for the fourth time since joining the league prior to the 2007 season. Along the way, the Crusaders set a new program best to start the season, winning each of their first nine matches, while Emily Campbell and Allison Ketcham were named All-Horizon League honorees.
In Search of 20 More Wins: The Valpo volleyball program finds itself among a prestigious group of programs nationwide, as last year’s 27-win campaign was the 14th straight season the Crusaders captured at least 20 victories – all under head coach Carin Avery. Only nine Division I volleyball programs have won at least 20 matches in each of the last 14 years, a group which includes Colorado State, Florida, Hawai'i, Nebraska, Ohio, Penn State, Stanford and Western Kentucky.
Plenty of Experience Returns: 12 of 14 letterwinners return from last year’s 27-win squad, including all but one starter. The only losses from last year’s team were starting setter Kelsey Berrington, who finished her career third in program history in assists, and defensive specialist Catherine Ament, who was forced to step away from playing due to being medically unable to compete. On the flip side, the Crusaders welcome just one newcomer to this year’s team – defensive specialist Alana Brown, out of Vintage [Calif.] H.S.
Putting Up a Wall: The Crusaders' block has been strong through the first two weekends of action, posting 2.16 blocks/set - a mark which, if maintained for the full season, would be the program's second-best average in the last decade. Valpo has already posted 14 blocks in a match twice this season, including most recently last time out versus Austin Peay - the program's highest single-match total since Oct. 17, 2014. In that match versus APSU, Emily Campbell set a new career high, as she was in on seven of the Crusaders' 14 rejections.
Bronner Blocks The Way: Sophomore Sydney Bronner led Valpo's effort defensively at the net last weekend, averaging 1.40 blocks/set. The sophomore recorded six blocks apiece in the wins over Troy and APSU, coming up just one rejection shy of her career best. Bronner now owns 19 blocks through two weekends of play after tallying 32 total as a freshman last season.
Zaleski Excelling: Sophomore Lizzie Zaleski has continued to be a strong presence in her first full-time action as the Crusader setter this year. On each of the first four match days this season, Zaleski has tied or broken her own career best for assists, capped by a 38-assist performance last time out in the win over Austin Peay. She also set a new career high with 13 digs in the victory against APSU and already owns four double-doubles through Valpo's first six matches of the season.
Longoria Runs the Back Row: Senior Morganne Longoria put together a solid performance at libero last weekend for the Crusaders, reaching double figures in digs in all three matches. Her weekend, in which she averaged 5.27 digs/set, was highlighted by a 24-dig performance against New Mexico State. The 24-dig effort in three sets was the second-highest mark of her career in a three-set match.
All-Tournament Honors: Both Zaleski and Longoria received All-Tournament Team honors at Troy, with the honor for Zaleski being the first of her career. Longoria earned an All-Tournament Team nod for the fourth time. Through the first two weekends of the year, four different Crusaders have received All-Tournament accolades, as senior Emily Campbell and junior Taylor Graboski represented the Crusaders on the All-Tournament Team at the Black Knights Invitational.
Last Year’s Award Winners: Valpo had four players honored by the Horizon League for their play last season. Senior Emily Campbell (4.25 kills/set, 2.94 digs/set) and junior Allison Ketcham (3.53 digs/set, 2.72 kills/set) both earned All-League honors, Campbell doing so for the second straight year. Meanwhile, sophomores Katherine Carlson (2.36 kills/set, 2.57 digs/set) and Kayla Currier (1.86 kills/set, 0.90 blocks/set) both earned spots on the All-Freshman Team. Valpo has had multiple All-League honorees each of its nine years in the Horizon League and in every season dating back to the Mid-Con in 2001. The Crusaders have also had multiple All-Freshman team honorees in each of the last three years.
Record Book Watch: Early on in the 2016 season, a pair of Crusaders rank among the program’s all-time best in their respective statistical categories. Senior Emily Campbell enters this weekend with 1,222 career kills, moving past Lauren Moulton for fifth in program history in kills last weekend. Meanwhile, fellow senior Morganne Longoria owns 1,668 career digs entering this weekend, moving past Sarah Dooms last weekend into fourth position in program history in the category.