Valparaiso (8-14, 3-5 MVC)
Friday, Oct. 25 - Loyola (14-8, 7-2 MVC) - 6 p.m.
Monday, Oct. 28 - Drake (7-14, 1-7 MVC) - 6 p.m.
This Week in Valpo Volleyball: Valpo returns home to start a quick stretch of four consecutive matches at the ARC Friday night when it hosts Loyola. The Brown and Gold will then welcome Drake to town on Monday evening to kick off the second half of Missouri Valley Conference play.
Previously: Valpo dropped both matches in its foray to central Illinois last weekend, falling 3-0 at Bradley and 3-1 at Illinois State.
Looking Ahead: Valpo remains at home next weekend as it faces its in-state conference foes, hosting Indiana State on Friday, Nov. 1 and Evansville on Saturday, Nov. 2.
Following the Action: Every one of Valpo’s MVC matches will be broadcast live on The Valley on ESPN this season. The Loyola match will be carried on ESPN3, while the Drake match will air on ESPN+. Live stats for both matches will also be available via ValpoAthletics.com.
Head Coach Carin Avery: In her 18th season as head coach at Valparaiso, Carin Avery has won 406 matches (406-192, .679) 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 59 All-League recipients over her tenure at Valpo. She is Valpo’s all-time leader in both victories and winning percentage, and owns a 461-216 (.681) record overall as a head coach.
Series History: Loyola - The Ramblers own a 28-19 advantage in the all-time series, but Valpo entered this year 14-2 against the Ramblers in conference matchups, both as Horizon League and MVC opponents. Loyola turned the tables in the first meeting of the year in Rogers Park, however, as it swept Valpo.
Drake - Valpo holds a 7-3 advantage in the all-time series over the Bulldogs, and under Coach Avery, the Brown and Gold are 6-2 against Drake. Since joining the MVC, Valpo enjoys a 3-1 edge in the series, including a pair of sweeps last season. Valpo dominated Drake offensively in both matchups, combining to out-kill the Bulldogs by 35 over the two matchups and holding them under .100 hitting in both contests.
Scouting the Opposition: Loyola - The Ramblers enter Friday aat 14-8 overall and 7-2 in MVC play, but have dropped two of their last three, including most recently a loss Monday night to UNI. A balanced offense which boasts five players averaging at least 1.88 kills/set is led by Addie Barnes, who posts 2.96 kills/set. Taylor Venuto adds 2.78 kills/set on a team-high .368 hitting and also has registered a team-best 78 blocks.
Drake - The Bulldogs enter the weekend at 7-14 overall and 1-7 in MVC play, and will cap a busy weekend at the ARC after playing at Evansville on Friday and at Indiana State on Saturday. Drake started MVC play with a win, but has dropped its last seven matches. Haley Bush leads the Bulldogs with 4.04 kills/set, while Emily Plock backs her up with 3.27 kills/set.
Valpo Picked Seventh in Preseason Poll: In its third season of Missouri Valley Conference play, Valpo has been selected to finish in seventh place in the conference in 2019, acording to preseason polling of the conference’s head coaches. Valpo tallied 42 points in the polling, while UNI was a unanimous choice at the top, receiving all 10 first-place votes. Valpo has outperformed its preseason poll placement in each of its first two seasons in The Valley. In addition, junior Brittany Anderson was tabbed a preseason All-Conference selection.
Looking Back at 2018: Valpo enjoyed one of the best seasons in program history in 2018, winning 27 matches, tied for the second-most matches in program history. The Crusaders earned their first postseason berth since 2005 as they received an at-large bid to the NIVC, and took full advantage, winning a pair of matches to advance to the tournament quarterfinals - the first postseason victories in program history. Brittany Anderson earned First Team All-MVC honors, while Katherine Carlson was a Second Team selection.
What’s Back and What’s New: Valpo returns 10 letterwinners from last year’s 27-win squad, but is also replacing four starters from that team this season. Coach Avery welcomes a large contingent of newcomers as well, as nine new faces dot the Valpo roster this year - eight true freshmen and one senior transfer. In fact, the 19-player roster is not only the largest in Avery’s tenure, it is the largest in program history. It is also the largest roster among MVC teams this season.
Digging Deep: Each of the last two years has seen Valpo lead the nation in a digs category. Valpo led Division I in 2017 in digs/set nearly all season long, ending the year averaging 20.03 digs/set to lead the nation. 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. Then last year, Valpo posted 2,613 digs to lead the country in total digs, setting not only a Valpo single-season record, but a Division I record in the 25-point rally scoring era. 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 nine seasons - including a sixth-place placement in 2015 and a fourth-place finish in 2010 in addition to 2017’s statistical championship. This year’s team currently ranks 27th nationally with 16.94 digs/set, with junior libero Rylee Cookerly ranking 25th individually.
A Homestand Awaits: After playing just three home matches in its first 22 matches of the year, Valpo will play four home matches in an eight-day stretch, starting Friday against Loyola. Valpo is 2-1 this season at home, and owns a .747 winning percentage at the ARC under the tenure of head coach Carin Avery.
Blocking Stays Strong: Despite the pair of losses last weekend, Valpo’s defense at the net was a high point. On Friday at Bradley, the Crusaders tallied 10 team blocks - the program’s first time reaching double digits in the category in a three-set match since Sept. 24, 2018 against SIU. Then on Saturday, Valpo posted 11 blocks at Illinois State. The two efforts mark just the second time this year Valpo has recorded at least 10 blocks in consecutive matches.
Stellar Defensive Efforts: Valpo entered the weekend of Oct. 11-12 having limited just one of its first 18 opponents of the season to under .100 hitting, but did just that in both of the weekend’s sweeps. The Crusaders opened by limiting Missouri State to .068 hitting, the lowest clip by a Valpo opponent since the Brown and Gold held Drake to .041 hitting on Sept. 28 of last season. Then, Valpo capped the weekend by holding Southern Illinois to .078 hitting in Saturday’s sweep.
Hart Back in the Middle: Sophomore Haley Hart only appeared in three of Valpo’s first 15 matches to start the season, but the middle has started all seven of Valpo’s MVC contests to date and has been a strong presence. Thus far in MVC play, Hart leads Valpo with 1.21 blocks/set. Hart has registered at least four kills in five of seven conference matches, including a career-high eight at Evansville. Last weekend, she averaged a team-high 1.57 blocks/set, posting six at Bradley and five at Illinois State.
Cookerly Keeps Cooking: Junior libero Rylee Cookerly continues to pace the Valpo effort in the back row, leading all players in both matches last weekend with 19 digs at Bradley and 19 more digs at Illinois State. The junior has now posted match-high dig totals in each of Valpo’s last five matches. Cookerly not only ranks among the top-25 in the nation in digs/set this year, she currently ranks fourth nationally among active Division I players in career digs/set (5.33) and is 15th among active players in career digs (1,818) - the only junior among the top-30 in the latter category. In fact, only two other juniors nationally are even within 400 digs of Cookerly’s career total.