Valparaiso (22-9, 9-7 MVC)
Friday, Nov. 16 - at Missouri State (16-13, 9-7 MVC) - 7 p.m.
Saturday, Nov. 17 - at Southern Illinois (5-24, 1-15 MVC) - 7 p.m.
This Week in Valpo Volleyball: The Valparaiso University volleyball team closes out the regular season this weekend with its final road trip, heading south to take on Missouri State Friday night and Southern Illinois Saturday evening in advance of next week’s Missouri Valley Conference Tournament.
Previously: Valpo dropped its final two home matches of the season last weekend. The Brown and Gold battled down from one set twice against Bradley and held match point against the Braves in the fifth set before falling, 3-2. Valpo then dropped a 3-1 battle against MVC leader Illinois State on Senior Night.
Looking Ahead: Valpo will be competing in the MVC Tournament next weekend, opening Thanksgiving evening from Missouri State. The winner of the six-team tournament will earn the conference’s automatic bid to the NCAA Tournament.
Following the Action: Friday night’s match against Missouri State will be broadcast live on ESPN+, but Saturday night’s contest at Southern Illinois will not have a video broadcast. Both matches will have live stats available.
Head Coach Carin Avery: In her 17th season as head coach at Valparaiso, Carin Avery has won 393 matches (393-176, .691) 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 448 career victories overall as a head coach.
Series History: Missouri State - 0-5 overall; 0-4 under Coach Avery; 0-3 in MVC play; MSU won 3-1 at the ARC on Oct. 29 (Cummings 10 kills; Cookerly 27 digs)
Southern Illinois - 2-4 overall; 2-3 under Coach Avery; 2-1 in MVC play; Valpo won 3-0 at the ARC on Sept. 24 (Bronner 8 kills, .316; Carlson 3 service aces; Cookerly 17 digs; McCarthy 5 blocks)
Valpo Picked Fifth in Preseason Poll: Entering its second season of MVC play, Valpo was 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.
Fight For Seeding: Valpo enters the final weekend of the regular season locked into the 4/5 matchup in the first round of the MVC Tournament, but its actual seed is still up for grabs and will be known following Friday night’s match with Missouri State, as the two squads are currently tied at 9-7. A win by Valpo, and it would secure the 4 seed, while a Missouri State win would drop Valpo to the 5 and ensure a rematch in the first round of the MVC Tournament. If MSU were to drop both matches on the weekend and Loyola were to win both of its matches, Loyola would move up to the 5 seed and face Valpo in the first round of the tournament.
Another Night, Another Milestone: In what has seemed like a running theme this season, a Valpo player reached yet another milestone last weekend. This time, it was senior outside Allison Ketcham cracking the top-10 chart in career kills, surpassing Sarah Dooms. With Ketcham’s addition to the list, she and Katherine Carlson are the only set of classmates to both hold spots in the top-10 in program history in career kills.
Setting Things Up: While it’s her work as a setter which has her already among Valpo’s all-time best, sophomore Brittany Anderson shined with her blocking on Friday night against Bradley. Anderson, who is still blocking middle up front, crushed her previous career best of five blocks with eight rejections against the Braves. On the year, Anderson has handed out 1,232 assists and is likely just one match away from cracking the single-season top-10 in the category. Meanwhile, she is poised to move up Valpo’s career assists chart before the end of the season as well. Anderson’s 2,467 career assists are second-most in program history through a player’s first two seasons and the most in the rally-scoring era.
Racking Up Digs: Sophomore Rylee Cookerly continued to compile the digs last weekend, adding 44 to her ledger as she paced Valpo in both matches. She now owns 589 digs this season, cracking the program’s single-season top-10 in the category and leaving her just 13 shy of ninth and 32 shy of eighth position. For her career, Cookerly has picked up 1,275 digs - just 65 digs shy of Taylor Root’s total through her first two seasons.
Just Win, Baby, Win: Valpo now has 22 victories on the season, the 15th time in Avery’s 17 seasons that Valpo has won 20 or more matches. Seven of those teams have won at least 25 matches, a mark which is still well within reach for the 2018 squad. This year marks the seventh time out of Avery’s 15 20-win teams that the program reached the 20-win mark within the season’s first 25 matches. Valpo also already owns nine MVC wins as well to surpass its conference total of eight from last season, with a pair of conference matches left on the docket.
RPI Ranks: Valpo still sits in strong position in the latest NCAA RPI release despite the pair of losses last weekend. Valpo currently sits at 72nd in the RPI and is one of three MVC squads in the top-75, joined by UNI (16th) and Illinois State (30th). Valpo has posted a top-100 RPI finish just three times in the tenure of head coach Carin Avery, and not since 2008 (67th). Valpo’s best-ever RPI finish came in 2004, when it clocked in at 55th position.
Milestones Reached: Valpo has had numerous players reach statistical career milestones this season:
Allison Ketcham - 1,000 career kills (Sept. 21 at Indiana State) - eighth member of Valpo’s 1,000-kill/1,000-dig club; top-five all-time at Valpo in career digs (Sept. 28 Drake) - highest-ranking non-libero; top-10 all-time at Valpo in career kills (Nov. 9 Bradley)
Katherine Carlson - 1,000 career digs (Aug. 25 vs. Iona); 1,000 career kills (Sept. 21 at Indiana State) - ninth member of Valpo’s 1,000-kill/1,000-dig club; top-10 all-time at Valpo in career aces (Oct. 5 Loyola); top-10 at Valpo in career kills (Oct. 26 at UNI); top-five in career aces (Oct. 29 Missouri St.) - second-highest total in the last 25 years
Brittany Anderson - 2,000 career assists (Sept. 29 UNI) - fastest Valpo player to 2,000 assists in rally-scoring era [53 matches]
Rylee Cookerly - 1,000 career digs (Sept. 28 Drake) - tied for fastest Valpo player to 1,000 digs in program history [52 matches; tied with Taylor Root]
Capturing Tournament Titles: Valpo won its final three in-season tournament titles of the year, 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.