Valparaiso (16-2, 3-0 MVC)
Friday, Sept. 28 - Drake (12-4, 1-1 MVC) - 7 p.m.
Saturday, Sept. 29 - UNI (8-6, 2-0 MVC) - 7 p.m.
This Week in Valpo Volleyball: The Valparaiso University volleyball team continues a four-match homestand with a pair of stiff tests at the ARC for Homecoming weekend. A 12-4 Drake squad comes to town Friday night to start off the weekend, and then perennial power UNI visits on Saturday evening as Valpo looks to extend a 10-match winning streak and the best start in program history.
Previously: Valpo started out Missouri Valley Conference play strong last weekend, with three sweeps in a four-day span. Road wins at Indiana State and Evansville opened the Valley slate before Valpo returned home to the ARC and defeated Southern Illinois in straight sets.
Looking Ahead: A light week is on the docket next week for the Brown and Gold, as Valpo’s only match is against Loyola on Friday, Oct. 5 to conclude the four-match homestand.
Following the Action: Both of Valpo’s matches this weekend will be The Valley on ESPN broadcasts, as both will be available on ESPN+. Both matches will have live stats as well.
Head Coach Carin Avery: In her 17th season as head coach at Valparaiso, Carin Avery has won 387 matches (387-169, .696) at the helm of the Crusaders 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 55 All-League recipients over her tenure at Valpo. She is Valpo’s all-time leader in both victories and winning percentage, and owns 442 career victories overall as a head coach.
Series History: Drake - 5-3 overall; 4-2 under Coach Avery; 1-1 in MVC play
UNI - 0-8 overall; 0-2 under Coach Avery; 0-2 in MVC play
Valpo Picked Fifth in Preseason Poll: Entering its second season of MVC play, Valpo has been selected to finish in fifth place in the conference in 2018, according to preseason polling of the conference’s head coaches. Valpo totaled 53 points in the preseason polling to outpace Indiana State for the fifth position in the poll. UNI was picked to win the conference and earned seven first-place votes, while Missouri State garnered the other three first-place votes.
Looking Back at 2017: Valpo posted a 17-16 record last season and went 8-10 in its first season of action in the Missouri Valley Conference, finishing in a tie for fifth place. The Crusaders led the nation in digs/set, paced by the work of freshman libero Rylee Cookerly in the back row. Cookerly was tabbed the AVCA Midwest Region Freshman of the Year, while senior middle Taylor Graboski was a First Team All-Conference selection.
An Experienced Squad Returns: 11 letterwinners in all return from the 2017 squad, including five starters and the libero. The only players from last year’s team who do not return this year are Graboski and Kayla Currier, who is medically unable to compete and will serve her final season as a student assistant for Valpo.
16-2: Quite simply, it’s been one of the best starts to a season in program history this year. Valpo enters the weekend with a 16-2 overall record - just the second time the program has won 16 of its first 18 matches of the season. The 2014 squad also started 16-2 before suffering its third defeat in match number 19.
Double-Digit Win Streak: The win over SIU on Monday was the 10th consecutive win for Valpo dating back to Sept. 7, just the sixth winning streak of 10 or more matches in program history. Five of those six streaks have come with head coach Carin Avery at the helm, including the most recent - a W13 streak in August/September 2014 - and the school record - a W14 streak in September/October 2004.
1,000/1,000 Club: Seniors Allison Ketcham and Katherine Carlson reached the 1,000-kill milestone for their respective careers just one set apart in last Friday’s win over Indiana State, becoming the 17th and 18th players in program history to hit four figures in kills. By reaching the milestone, they also earned spots in Valpo’s 1,000-kill/1,000-dig club, joining Lori Barton, Emily Campbell, Sarah Dooms, Marion Hansen, Cheri Hughes, Angie Nordquist and Angie Porché.
Upcoming Milestones: Ketcham is nearing another milestone, as she enters the weekend with 1,646 career digs - just seven shy of the top-five in program history in the category. When she moves up to fifth, she will also become Valpo’s highest ranking non-libero in the category. Meanwhile, Rylee Cookerly is just three digs away from 1,000 for her career entering Friday’s match - assuming she reaches the mark against Drake, her 52nd career match, Cookerly will match Taylor Root for the quickest player in program history to 1,000 digs.
Quick Start to Conference Play: Valpo made short work of each of its first three MVC opponents, winning each match via the sweep to open Valley play last weekend. It marked the first time Valpo had won even two consecutive 3-0 decisions to start conference action since the 2003 team kicked off Mid-Con play with five straight sweeps. Valpo is 3-0 to start conference play for the sixth time under Coach Avery: 2015 (3-0) and 2007 (4-0) in the Horizon League; 2005 (5-0), 2004 (14-0) and 2003 (11-0) in the Mid-Con.
Spreading the Wealth: Valpo’s offense has enjoyed a strong first half to the season, hitting at a .243 clip to date, and part of it can be attributed to its unpredictability. Five different hitters have tallied at least 100 kills, with Valpo’s leader - Allison Ketcham - coming in at 178 kills - not even 10 kills per match. Six different Crusaders have led the team in kills in a single match, with four of those hitters leading Valpo on at least three occasions.
Anderson Sets Things Up: Sophomore two-sport standout Brittany Anderson has been the catalyst for Valpo’s offense this season, playing every point at setter and averaging 10.82 assists/set, good for second among MVC setters. The volleyball and softball star has registered eight double-doubles on the year as well, as she ranks fourth on the team with 2.86 digs/set. Here’s how Anderson performed against this week’s opponents last season in both sports:
Drake - 13.00 assists, 3.17 digs, 1.00 blocks per set; 0-for-6, 2 BB
UNI - 9.56 assists, 2.78 digs per set; 2-for-8, BB, HBP (.400 OBP)
Capturing Tournament Titles: Valpo won its third consecutive in-season tournament title with the Crusader Classic victory. This marks the fourth time in the tenure of head coach Carin Avery that Valpo has won three in-season tournaments. Oddly enough, it’s been exactly four years between each occurrence – 2006, 2010, 2014, and now 2018. It also marks the sixth time in 10 in-season home tournaments hosted under Avery that Valpo has won its own tournament championship.
Digging Deep: Valpo led the nation last year in digs/set nearly all season long, ending the year averaging 20.03 digs/set to lead the nation, out-pacing UNI by 0.33 digs/set. Valpo’s 2017 campaign was only the second since the move to 25-point rally scoring in 2008 where a team averaged at least 20 digs/set, coming in behind only Penn’s 2012 season. The Crusaders have a long tradition of strong defensive play, as they have ranked among the top-20 nationally in digs/set in each of the last eight seasons - including a sixth-place placement in 2015 and a fourth-place finish in 2010 in addition to last year’s statistical championship.
Out-Digging the Other Side: While last year’s team led the nation in digs/set, it was consistently out-dug by the opposition, as Valpo’s opponents averaged 20.74 digs/set collectively last year. So far this year, while Valpo’s digs average is down to 18.11/set, its opponents have posted just 16.68 digs/set. Looked at another way, last year’s team out-dug its opponents just 13 times while leading the nation in digs/set, while this year’s squad has already out-dug the opposition 13 times through 18 matches.