Valparaiso (7-9, 1-1 Horizon)
Crusaders return home for first time in three weekends
Friday, Sept. 30 - Youngstown State (6-10, 0-2 Horizon) - ARC - 6 p.m.
Saturday, Oct. 1 - Cleveland State (10-4, 1-1 Horizon) - ARC - 4 p.m.
This Week in Crusader Volleyball: The Valparaiso University volleyball team returns home to the ARC as Horizon League play continues this weekend. The Crusaders will host Youngstown State on Friday evening before taking on defending league champion Cleveland Saturday afternoon. The first 200 students to Friday night's match will receive free Valpo volleyball t-shirts, while Saturday's match against the Vikings will serve as the volleyball program's TOCO fundraiser match, in conjunction Saturday night with men's soccer.
Previously: Valpo split a pair of matches to open Horizon League play on the road last weekend. The Crusaders dropped a four-set decision at Green Bay before rallying from down two sets to none to earn a 3-2 win at UIC.
Looking Ahead: The Crusaders will be on the road for their next four matches, starting Tuesday evening with a non-league match at Western Illinois. Valpo then heads to Northern Kentucky next Friday (Oct. 7) and Wright State next Saturday (Oct. 8).
Following the Crusaders: Both of this weekend's matches will be streamed live on ESPN3, and also are accessible via WatchESPN and the ESPN app. Valpo's student radio station, WVUR (95.1 FM, Valparaiso), will carry both matches as well. Links for the live video and audio, as well as live stats, can be found at ValpoAthletics.com.
Head Coach Carin Avery: In her 15th season as head coach at Valparaiso, Carin Avery has won 346 matches (346-141) 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 401 career victories overall as a head coach, reaching the 400-win milestone with the victory over South Dakota State Sept. 10.
Series Notes: Youngstown State - Valpo owns a 27-7 advantage in the all-time series against the Penguins, including an impressive 17-3 mark since joining the Horizon League. Last season saw the Crusaders take down YSU in a hard-fought five-set match in Youngstown and earn a three-set sweep at the ARC.
Cleveland State - The Vikings are 20-15 all-time versus the Crusaders and own an 13-8 edge since Valpo joined the Horizon League prior to the 2007 season. Last season, Valpo dropped a five-set decision in Cleveland and closed out the regular season with a four-set win at the ARC before the Vikings swept the Crusaders in the championship match of the Horizon League Tournament.
Scouting the Opposition: Youngstown State - The Penguins enter Friday's match at 6-10 overall and 0-2 in Horizon League play, falling to Oakland in five sets and Cleveland State in three sets last weekend. Lori Vanbeek leads YSU, averaging 3.28 kills/set on .288 hitting while also recording a team-high 59 blocks.
Cleveland State - The Vikings enter the weekend at 10-4 overall and 1-1 in Horizon League action, with a Friday night match at Northern Kentucky before stepping foot in the ARC. CSU kicked off league play with a split last weekend, sweeping YSU after falling in five sets to Oakland. Grace Kauth is averaging 3.72 kills/set to pace the Vikings and also ranks second on the team with 2.92 digs/set, while Aaliyah Slappy leads CSU with 1.14 blocks/set.
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 returned in 2016 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 welcomed just one newcomer to this year’s team – defensive specialist Alana Brown, out of Vintage [Calif.] H.S.
Crusaders Working With TOCO: The Crusader volleyball program is partnering with the men's soccer program to fund a future international service trip, bringing the student-athletes of these two teams to the Caribbean to get on the ground with TOCO and work directly with children the charity supports. This Saturday's match will benefit TOCO, with donations being accepted throughout the match and the teams' special blue jerseys being sold after the match - blue representing the island of St. Lucia,the home base of TOCO. All proceeds will go towards TOCO and the service trip.
Avery Reaches 400: Posting at least 20 wins year after year, head coach Carin Avery reached the 400-win milestone for her career on Sept. 10 with the Crusaders' win over South Dakota State. The program's all-time winningest head coach, Avery is one of just 51 active Division I head coaches with 400 career wins, and is one of just two (Bobbi Petersen - UNI) who currently own at least 400 career wins and have been a head coach for 17 seasons or fewer.
League Success: The Crusaders are looking to maintain their tradition of being one of the top squads in the Horizon League in 2016. Valpo has finished among the top-four in the league every season since joining the league prior to the 2007 campaign, including four second-place finishes in the last eight seasons. In addition, the Crusaders are the only team to progress to at least the league tournament semifinals each season since they joined the league, including four appearances in the league title match. Valpo owns a .664 (93-47) winning percentage in Horizon League play since 2007.
Graboski Blows Away Previous Career Best: Junior Taylor Graboski entered Saturday's match at UIC with a single-match career high of 15 kills. But Graboski stepped up big offensively when the Crusaders needed her most against the Flames, tallying 10 kills in the third set alone to start Valpo's rally for the five-set win. Graboski finished the match with 24 kills on .378 hitting in the win. She leads the team with a .243 hitting percentage and ranks second with 2.52 kills/set.
Offense Comes Alive: It wasn't just Graboski who was having a big offensive match in the come-from-behind win over UIC, as two other Crusaders matched their career highs for kills. Sophomore Katherine Carlson tied her best with 16 kills while hitting .306, while senior Jamie Lacheta hit .364 with a career high-tying 12 kills. As a team, Valpo hit at a .290 clip, just outside the program's top-five marks all-time for a five-set match.
Rallying For The Win: Valpo came back from two sets down for the win over the Flames, something a Crusader team had not accomplished in nearly four years. The last time a Valpo squad had faced a 2-0 deficit in an eventual 3-2 victory came in Horizon League play at Wright State on Sept. 28, 2012.
Success at Home: Opening its league home schedule, the Crusaders look to continue their success at the ARC under Carin Avery. Including the one tournament match earlier this year that was played at the ARC, Valpo ownsa 126-34 record (.788) in Avery's 14-year tenure in home matches.
All-Tournament Honors: Junior Taylor Graboski was named to the All-Tournament Team at Ball State as the Crusaders wrapped up their early-season tournament schedule, one of four Valpo players to earn All-Tournament honors this year. Senior Morganne Longoria earned All-Tournament accolades both at Valpo and at Troy, while sophomore Lizzie Zaleski joined Longoria on the All-Tournament Team at Troy. The opening weekend of play saw both Graboski and senior Emily Campbell represent the Crusaders on the All-Tournament Team at Army West Point's 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: At the midway point of the 2016 season, a pair of Crusaders rank among the program’s all-time best in their respective statistical categories. Senior Emily Campbell currently owns 1,226 career kills, good for fifth in program history. Meanwhile, fellow senior Morganne Longoria enters this week with 1,853 career digs entering this week to rank fourth in program history, just 34 digs shy of the third spot.