Valparaiso (8-16, 3-7 MVC)
Friday, Nov. 1 - Indiana State (5-15, 3-7 MVC) - 6 p.m.
Saturday, Nov. 2 - Evansville (14-7, 5-5 MVC) - 5 p.m.
This Week in Valpo Volleyball: The Valpo volleyball team closes out its four-match homestand this weekend as it hosts its two in-state conference foes, welcoming Indiana State to the ARC Friday night and Evansville Saturday evening.
Previously: Valpo dropped a three-set match to Loyola last Friday at the ARC, and then fell victim to a comeback effort from Drake, as after leading the Bulldogs two sets to none, the Brown and Gold ended the night on the wrong end of a 3-2 final. In the latter match, Rylee Cookerly picked up a Valpo season-high 36 digs, while Ally Cummings set the team’s single-match high this year with 21 kills.
Looking Ahead: Valpo makes the long trip south next weekend, playing at Southern Illinois Friday night and at Missouri State Saturday evening.
Following the Action: Every one of Valpo’s MVC matches will be broadcast live on The Valley on ESPN this season. Both of this weekend’s matches will be carried on ESPN3. 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 (406-194, .677) 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 461-218 (.679) record overall as a head coach.
Series History: Indiana State - Valpo trails the all-time series against the Sycamores, 14-13, but is 8-3 against ISU under Coach Avery. Valpo is 3-2 in the series since joining the MVC, including a 3-0 sweep of the Sycamores earlier this season in Terre Haute. Peyton McCarthy hit .536 with 15 kills in that win, while Haley Hart was nearly as spectacular, hitting .500 with 11 kills.
Evansville - The Purple Aces hold a slight 11-9 advantage in the series over Valpo. Valpo had been a perfect 7-0 in the series under Coach Avery, including wins in all four MVC matches, until earlier this season, when Evansville won a five-set thriller at home over the Brown and Gold. Five different players reached double figures in kills, led by 16 from Jillie Grant, while as a team, Valpo totaled 18 blocks - led by a career-high 10 rejections from Peyton McCarthy.
Scouting the Opposition: Indiana State - The Sycamores enter Friday night’s match 5-15 overall and 3-7 in MVC play, but are 3-2 in their last five, including most recently a 3-1 home win over Drake. Nikkie White leads ISU with 2.83 kills/set, while in the back row, Melina Tedrow averages 5.26 digs/set.
Evansville - The Purple Aces enter the weekend at 14-7 overall and 5-5 in MVC play, with a match at Loyola Friday night prior to Saturday’s contest. Evansville lost a pair of five-set matches last weekend to Drake and UNI. The Aces have one of the conference’s top duos on the attack, as Melanie Feliciano averages 4.26 kills/set and Rachel Tam posts 4.08 kills/set. In the back, Gabriela Macedo records 5.89 digs/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 25th nationally with 17.13 digs/set, with junior libero Rylee Cookerly ranking 19th individually.
Flipping a 2-0 Deficit: What Drake did to Valpo Monday night, rallying from down 2-0 to earn a 3-2 win, was a rarity in the tenure of head coach Carin Avery. In her time at the helm of the program, Valpo has held a 2-0 lead in a match 271 times - only 15 of those times has the opponent even forced a fifth set, and Drake’s win was just the seventh time in 18 seasons that Valpo has fallen 3-2 after leading 2-0. On the flip side, Valpo has trailed 2-0 110 times, rallied to force a fifth set in 18 of those matches and has closed out a 3-2 win 10 times.
Cummings Stands Out: Junior right side Ally Cummings had one of the best weekends of her career on the attack over Valpo’s matches last weekend, despite the pair of losses. Cummings was a bright spot in the defeat against Loyola, tallying a team-best 13 kills on .357 hitting. Then, on Monday against Drake, Cummings shattered her previous career high of 17 in the kills column, tying for match-high honors with 21 kills on .255 hitting. The junior also was in on five rejections defensively against the Bulldogs to tie a career best on that side of the net as well.
Block Party: For a squad which is known for its defensive prowess on the back line, Valpo’s block so far in MVC play has been just as impressive. After tallying just 1.82 blocks/set and allowing opponents to hit .207 against them outside of conference play, the Brown and Gold are averaging 2.34 blocks/set and limiting opponents to .177 hitting within MVC action. Leading the way has been sophomore Haley Hart, averaging 1.31 blocks/set in conference play, good for second among MVC players, while junior Peyton McCarthy has tallied 1.09 blocks/set in MVC action and ranks fourth as well.
Cookerly Keeps Cooking: Junior libero Rylee Cookerly continues to pace the Valpo effort in the back row, highlighted by a 36-dig performance against Drake - the second-best effort of her career and third-most by a Valpo player in a five-set match in the 25-point era. The junior has now posted match-high dig totals in six of Valpo’s last seven matches. Cookerly not only ranks among the top-20 in the nation in digs/set this year, she currently ranks fourth nationally among active Division I players in career digs/set (5.34) and is 15th among active players in career digs (1,865) - 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. Cookerly is also just 22 digs away from surpassing Sara Silcox for fifth place in program history in the category.