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Crusaders Kick Off Season at Redbird Classic
Angie Porché led Valpo with 480 kills in 2006.
Angie Porché led Valpo with 480 kills in 2006.

Friday, August 24, 2007

Complete Weekly Game Notes 

Redbird Classic - Normal, Ill.
Valpo vs. Miami (Ohio) - Friday, Aug. 24 - 4:30 p.m.

Valpo at Illinois State - Saturday, Aug. 25 - 7 p.m.

The Matchups: The Crusaders kick off the 2007 season at the Redbird Classic this weekend facing off against two fellow mid-major programs.  Valpo is 1-3 all-time against the RedHawks of Miami (Ohio), while Illinois State captured the only previous meeting against the Brown and Gold.

Last Meetings:  Valpo downed Miami in the season finale last year on Nov. 25, three games to one.  The Crusaders got big nights from Angie Porché, who tallied 24 kills, and Nicole Schulz, who was named tournament MVP after registering 22 kills.  Allison Sears added 15 kills on .583 hitting, the third-best hitting percentage in a four-game match in school history.

Illinois State defeated the Crusaders in a hard-fought five-game match at Valpo on Oct. 17, 2006 in the two schools’ only previous meeting.  Valpo won two of the first three games before the Redbirds took games four and five.  Porché led four Valpo players with at least 10 kills, picking up 20 markers.  Schulz and Sears added 19 kills apiece.  Five Crusaders reached double figures in digs, led by Brittany (Marks) Malicoat’s 28 digs.

On The Air: WVUR kicks off its broadcasting season this weekend as well, as it will broadcast both the Miami and Illinois State matches.  WVUR (95.1 FM - Valparaiso), Valparaiso’s campus radio station, is planning on broadcasting all 29 Crusader regular season volleyball matches this year, plus any matches as part of the Horizon League Championships.  Most matches will be carried over the station’s airwaves and online at www.valpo.edu/athletics, while select matches may be carried on www.sportsjuice.com.

New League...: Valparaiso moves to the Horizon League for the 2007 season after playing for 15 seasons in the Mid-Continent Conference.  The Crusaders dominated the league in their tenure, capturing six Mid-Con regular season and six Mid-Con tournament championships. 

...Same Dominance?: The Crusaders are looking to extend their program-record stretch of 20-win seasons to six this year.  Coach Avery has led Valpo to at least 20 victories in each of her five seasons at the helm. 

Tournament Success: Last season was the most successful in program history when it came to in-season tournaments.  The Crusaders took home tournament titles at three of the five in-season tournaments they participated in, capturing the crown at the Chicagoland Classic, Catamount Clash and Miami Thanksgiving Invitational.  Valpo is looking for similar success this year, as they are taking part in four in-season tournaments.

Avoiding the Sophomore Jinx: Sophomore outside hitter Angie Porché had one of the best freshman years in Crusader history last year, tallying 480 kills, a freshman record and the third-most in a single season all-time at Valpo.  For her efforts, Porché earned Freshman of the Year accolades from the Mid-Con, as well as being named to the All-Conference First Team.

Swinging Away: Senior right side hitter Nicole Schulz smashed the Crusader single-season hitting percentage record last year, swinging at a .334 clip.  The Second Team All Mid-Con selection also moved into Valpo’s single-season top-10 in kills and blocks.  Schulz paced the Crusaders in blocks on 15 occasions last year and in kills 12 times, including six of their last eight matches. 

Back-Row Force: Junior libero Brittany Malicoat, who changed her last name from Marks after getting married during the offseason, looks to lead the Crusaders defensively again in 2007.  Malicoat has paced Valpo in digs in 42 consecutive matches, and broke the single-season school record last year with 675 digs. 

Crusaders Tabbed Third: The Horizon League coaches have picked Valparaiso to finish third in its first season of play in the league.  The Crusaders tallied 50 points and two first-place votes in the polling, in which a first-place vote is worth eight points.  Milwaukee is the preseason favorite to win the championship, garnering 58 points and five first-place votes, followed by Cleveland State.  UIC, Green Bay, Loyola, Wright State, Butler and Youngstown State round out the polling. 

A Trio of Seniors: The 2007 Crusaders feature three seniors: setter Sara Hughes, outside hitter Tiffany Meikle and right side hitter Nicole Schulz.  All three seniors were members of the team’s starting lineup last year and look to be again this year.  This senior class has gone 79-25 in their first three years and have made two appearances in the NCAA Tournament.