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CRUSADERS IN SEARCH OF FIRST NCAA TOURNAMENT WIN FRIDAY AT 5:00
Wednesday, November 30, 2005VALPARAISO (27-7) VS CALIFORNIA (18-10)
WHEN: Friday, December 2, 5:00 p.m.
WHERE: NCAA Tournament - Madison, Wis. - UW Fieldhouse (10,800)
RADIO: 95.1 FM, WVUR, and online at www.valpo.edu/athletics. Coverage will switch to www.sportsjuice.com at 5:25 p.m. to accommodate Friday's men's basketball game. Ken LaVicka will handle play-by-play duties as he has all season, with Eric Brooks providing color commentary.
THE COACHES: Valpo is led by Carin Avery. She is 103-30 in four seasons at Valpo. California is led by Rich Feller, 116-89 in his seventh season with the Golden Bears.
THREE-PEAT: Valparaiso captured its third straight Mid-Con Tournament championship two weekends ago to assure the team a third consecutive NCAA Tournament appearance. The Crusaders, hosting the tournament for the second time in the last three years, took down IUPUI with ease in the semifinal, 30-23, 30-22, 30-21. Jessie Fox tied a tournament record with 11 blocks against the Jaguars. Valpo then clinched its third straight championship with a four-game victory against archrival Oral Roberts, 30-26, 30-28, 28-30, 30-15. The Crusaders spread out the offense, as four players finished with double-digit kills, while Liz Mikos tallied nine blocks on her way to being named tournament MVP.
BIRD FLEW THE COOP: The Crusaders competed last weekend at the MU Battle for the Bird, but the bird got the best of them. The Brown and Gold swept Fairfield Friday night, 30-23, 30-23, 31-29. Lauren Moulton hit a sizzling .536 with 17 kills, while Brittany Marks and Jessi Novak notched 14 digs apiece. The Golden Eagles of Marquette bested the Crusaders Saturday night, however, defeating them in three straight, 30-25, 30-24, 30-27. Moulton again led the Valpo effort with 13 kills while hitting .500.
DEE-FENCE: Valpo can look at its defense this year as the main reason the team has reached the levels of success it has. The Crusaders have registered Mid-Con bests of 18.89 digs/game and 2.94 blocks/game, contributing to the Brown and Gold holding opponents to a .123 hitting percentage on the season, good for second in the nation, trailing only Penn State.
SWEET HOME VALPARAISO: The Brown and Gold have been dominant in the friendly confines of the Athletics-Recreation Center since Avery took over as coach prior to 2002. Valpo has gone 44-4 (.917) overall at the ARC in Avery's four seasons, including 23 straight victories since falling to Big Ten foe Michigan at the beginning of the 2004 season. The Crusaders have been even better against conference opponents at the ARC, tallying a 28-1 (.966) record over the last four years against the Mid-Con.
FEELS JUST LIKE HOME: If the Crusaders had to travel, they couldn't have picked a more familiar site than the UW Fieldhouse. The matchup against Cal will mark the fifth time over the past two seasons that Valpo has competed in Madison. The Brown and Gold set foot in the UW Fieldhouse for the NCAA first round last year, falling to Notre Dame in four games. The Crusaders then competed in the InnTowner Invitational earlier this season, taking #11 UCLA to the limit before falling in five. Valpo then defeated Villanova in four before being swept by the host Badgers.
ONE VERSATILE SETTER: Senior setter Katie Bova has shown this season why she is the two-time Mid-Con Setter of the Year. Bova leads Valpo and the Mid-Con with 11.88 assists/game. But Bova has done more than just set up her teammates. Like any good quarterback, Bova has called her own number at times, keeping opponents off balance all year with her attacks. She has hit at a team .261 rate on the season, good for fourth in the conference, with 1.68 kills/game. Her defense has been stellar as well, as Bova has notched a team-high 390 digs on the season, to go along with 71 total blocks. Not to be overlooked is the two-time all-conference selection's ability from the service line. Bova's long floaters have proven to be troubling for opponents, as she has racked up 36 aces over the season.
FOX ROCKIN' THE BOX: Jessie Fox has had a stellar junior season for the Crusaders. She has moved into Valpo's all-time top-ten in hitting percentage, having hit at a .251 clip for her career. Her 1.29 blocks/game is third-best in the Mid-Con, while her 302 career blocks rank eighth in Valpo history. The two-time second team All-Conference selection's 147 total blocks this year is the fourth best single season by a Crusader all-time, trailing only three of Mikos' campaigns.
MIKOS ON THE BLOCK: Liz Mikos has proven herself over her four-year career to be one of the best blockers in the conference, if not the country. Her 580 career blocks easily rank first on Valpo's all-time chart, and trail only Kathy Brinkworth on the Mid-Con career list. She is averaging a Mid-Con all-time best 1.50 blocks/game for her career. Mikos also holds Valpo's career solo blocks record with 142 total solo blocks. The three-time All-Conference selection and Mid-Con co-Defensive Player of the Year has been consistent over her three seasons as a starter, as she has recorded each of the top three blocking seasons in school history. Her sophomore (196 blocks) and junior (184 blocks) seasons ranks third and fourth in Mid-Con single season history, respectively, while her 157 blocks this year also ranks among the top-ten.
BUILDING A LEGACY: Senior rightside hitter Lauren Moulton has left her mark on Valpo's record books. Her career hitting percentage of .281 is best in Crusader history, while her 1,184 kills rank fourth all-time. The 2004 Mid-Con Player of the Year has shown that her defense has not been shabby either, as she has tallied 401 career blocks, good for third in Valpo history.