Valparaiso (13-4, 4-2 MVC)
Friday, Oct. 15 - at Bradley (8-9, 4-2 MVC) - 6 p.m.
Saturday, Oct. 16 - at Illinois State (7-11, 3-3 MVC) - 7 p.m.
This Week in Valpo Volleyball: For the third time in the first four weekends of MVC play, Valpo heads on the road, making the trip to central Illinois this weekend to face Bradley Friday evening and Illinois State Saturday night. The three teams are three of five separated by just a game for second through sixth place in the Valley standings approaching the halfway mark of the conference schedule.
Previously: In its lone match last weekend, Valpo went to Loyola in a battle of the top two teams in the Valley standings, but the Ramblers came away with a three-set victory. Peyton McCarthy hit .360 with 11 kills to lead the Beacons.
Looking Ahead: After this weekend, Valpo plays six of its next eight matches at home, starting out by hosting Missouri State and Southern Illinois next Friday and Saturday, Oct. 22 and 23.
Following the Beacons: Both matches this weekend will be broadcasted live on ESPN3. Links for the live video, as well as live stats for all matches, are available via ValpoAthletics.com.
Head Coach Carin Avery: In her 20th season as head coach at Valparaiso, Carin Avery has won 436 matches (436-211, .674) at the helm of the program 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 a 491-235 (.676) record overall as a head coach.
Series History: Bradley - Valpo owns a slight 12-11 edge in the all-time series over the Braves, with an 8-4 advantage under Avery and a 5-4 edge since joining the MVC. Last season, the two programs split their season series at the ARC, as Valpo won the opener in straight sets before Bradley won the next evening in four sets. Haley Hart and Peyton McCarthy combined for seven kills per set on .368 hitting over those two matches.
Illinois State - Valpo is just 3-10 in program history against Illinois State and had lost eight in a row to the Redbirds since joining the MVC - including a 3-1 loss in the first match of last year’s season series - before triumphing in five sets in the second match of the series which featured a 15-2 fifth set, the program’s most dominant fifth set in the rally scoring era.
Scouting the Opposition: Bradley - The Braves own an 8-9 overall record, but are 4-2 in MVC play after splitting last weekend with a loss to Evansville and a win over Indiana State. Hannah Thompson ranks among the top-10 in the MVC in both kills/set (3.12) and digs/set (3.68).
Illinois State - The Redbirds are 7-11 overall and own a 3-3 MVC record after matching Bradley with a win over Indiana State and a loss at Evansville last weekend. ISU boasts two of the MVC’s top-10 in kills/set in Tamara Otene (3.66, 4th) and Sarah Kushner (3.23, 9th).
Valpo Picked Seventh in Preseason Poll: For the fourth time in five seasons as an MVC member, Valpo has been picked to finish in seventh place in the conference standings in preseason polling of the conference’s head coaches. Illinois State topped the poll with 79 points and three first-place votes, narrowly edging out Drake, which tallied 77 points, including three first-place votes. Valpo has outperformed its ranking in the preseason poll in each of its first four seasons in the MVC and is one of two programs (Illinois State) to post top-half finishes in the MVC standings in each of the last four seasons.
Looking Back at the Spring: The spring 2021 campaign saw Valpo post an 11-9 record and finish fifth in the MVC standings with a 10-8 mark in conference action. Rylee Cookerly repeated as MVC Libero of the Year, was named the MVC Scholar-Athlete of the Year and was an AVCA All-Region honoree, while Victoria Bulmahn was tabbed the MVC Freshman of the Year. Included among Valpo’s 11 wins were the program’s first victory over Illinois State since joining the MVC and the first wins in program history over traditional power UNI.
Who’s Back and Who’s New: The Beacons return 10 letterwinners, including four starters and the libero, from the spring 2021 campaign - a group which accounted for 75% of the team’s kills, 90% of aces, 82% of digs and 86% of blocks last season. Valpo also returns a pair of players who didn’t see action last season, while welcoming in one transfer and four freshmen.
Digging Deep: Valpo continued its long tradition of strong back row play in the spring 2021 season, finishing the season ranked third nationally and second in the Valley with 20.37 digs/set. Valpo has ranked among the top-30 nationally in digs/set in each of the last 10 seasons, including leading the nation with 20.03 digs/set in 2017 to go along with a fourth-place rank in 2010 and a sixth-place finish in 2015. Since the move to 25-point scoring, only seven teams have averaged more than 20 digs/set over the course of a season, and Valpo is the only program to have done it twice. 2018 saw Valpo lead the nation with 2,613 total digs - a mark which set a program single-season record and a Division I record in the 25-point era. Valpo currently sits 22nd nationally in digs/set this season and leads the MVC in the category.
Closing In On a Winning Record: With a 13-4 record, this year’s squad finds itself on the verge of clinching a winning record in 2021, something which has been a standard for this program. With two more wins, Valpo would guarantee finishing above .500, which the program has done in 17 of head coach Carin Avery’s 19 seasons. A 20-win season is within reach as well, something Avery’s teams have accomplished 15 times.
Five Stars: After playing five sets in five of the season’s first eight matches, the Beacons had gone nearly a full month without a five-set affair until heading there last Monday against Drake. For the sixth time in as many five-set matches this season, it was Valpo standing victorious at the end of the night. The program has now won nine consecutive five-set matches dating back to last season, the longest-such streak in program history. Notably, Valpo was down 2-0 in two of those matches - UCSB and South Alabama - before rallying to win, and faced a match point in two of those matches - Tennessee Tech and South Alabama - as well
Another Trophy For the Collection: The Beacons earned their second tournament championship of the season as they won the SIUE Cougar Classic, pairing it with the trophy they won earlier this year at Tennessee Tech’s Golden Eagle Invitational. Valpo has now won 27 in-season tournament titles under head coach Carin Avery, and this season marks the 11th time in her tenure the program has claimed multiple in-season tournament championships in the same season.
Cookerly Continues to Dig: Fifth-year libero Rylee Cookerly has checked numerous milestones off her lists of things to chase this season. First, she broke Valpo’s career digs record, previously held by Taylor Root, on Sept. 24 at Southern Illinois. One week later, on Oct. 1 against Indiana State, Cookerly surpassed former Illinois State standout Courtney Pence as the MVC’s career digs record holder. Finally, the next night against Evansville, Cookerly moved past Minnesota’s Paula Gentil for second place in NCAA history in career digs. The two-time MVC Libero of the Year next has her sights on the 3,000 career dig milestone, a mark which she enters this weekend 155 digs shy of. The ultimate goal would be making a run at the NCAA all-time record of 3,176, held by Chattanooga’s Lara Newberry.
McCarthy Leads the Way: Fifth-year middle Peyton McCarthy has led Valpo in kills in each of its last three matches, registering 18 kills on Oct. 2 in the win over Evansville, 15 kills in the five-set win over Drake last Monday and most recently 11 kills on .360 hitting last Friday in the setback at Loyola. McCarthy’s first kill against Drake was the 1,000th of her career and she now ranks 18th in program history with 1,025 career kills, just 52 away from 15th position. McCarthy has now led Valpo in kills 32 times in her career and the team has gone 22-10 (.688) in those matches, as opposed to a .545 winning percentage in all other matches. Also strong on the block, McCarthy is averaging 0.86 blocks/set this year and owns 386 career blocks, seventh-best in program history and just two shy of sixth.
Hart Out to Strong MVC Start: Senior middle Haley Hart has posted some of her best performances in a Valpo uniform over the first three weeks of MVC play. She is currently hitting .329 with 3.13 kills and 1.09 blocks per set over Valpo’s first six MVC matches, and was honored as the MVC Player of the Week on Oct. 4 for her performances against Indiana State (match-high 15 kills on .500 hitting, four blocks) and Evansville (16 kills - tying career best - on 355 hitting, four blocks). Hart currently ranks among the conference’s top-10 this season in both hitting percentage (.304, 6th) and blocks/set (0.95, 9th), while her .257 career hitting percentage is tied for fifth in program history.
Anderson Moves On Up: Fifth-year setter Brittany Anderson is nearing the top-20 in MVC history in career assists. With 4,212 career helpers, Anderson is third in Valpo history and currently sits 22nd in the MVC record book in the category, just 44 shy of 20th position. She is also moving up Valpo’s all-time digs leaders as well, as she has pushed her career digs total to 1,147 entering play this weekend - 18th-most in program history.
All the Honors: Seven different Valpo players received All-Tournament Team accolades over its four early-season tournaments this season. Juniors Bella Ravotto (MVP) and Gretchen Kuckkan picked up awards for their play at the SIUE Cougar Classic. Senior Jillie Grant represented the Beacons on the All-Tournament Team at Toledo in the third weekend of action. In the second weekend of play at Tennessee Tech, fifth-year middle Peyton McCarthy was named Tournament MVP (and went on to be named MVC Player of the Week) and was joined on the All-Tournament Team by fifth-year setter Brittany Anderson and sophomore setter Victoria Bulmahn. In the opening weekend at Milwaukee, McCarthy and senior middle Haley Hart earned spots on that All-Tournament Team.