This Week’s Action: Valparaiso carries a 12-match winning streak into the Horizon League Championships this weekend. The Crusaders, who are the second seed, open the tournament on Friday afternoon against seventh-seeded Green Bay.
Wrapping Up Last Week: The Crusaders concluded the regular season without a hitch in their step, sweeping all six sets they played in victories over Chicago State on Friday (25-13, 25-12, 25-21) and against Wright State on Saturday (25-19, 25-19, 25-16). Valpo utilized solely underclassmen in the front row against the Cougars, with Andrea Balsis registering a team-high 11 kills, while against Wright State, Allison Sears and Angie Porché each tallied 13 kills and Brittany Malicoat recorded a match-best 22 digs.
The Matchups: The Crusaders are 12-7 all-time against Green Bay, with each team winning on its home court this season. Most recently, Valpo swept the Phoenix (25-18, 25-23, 25-14) at the ARC on Oct. 25, with Porché leading the way with 11 kills. Kim Bukowski registered 37 assists, while Brittany Malicoat tallied 27 digs on the back line.
In possible second-round matchups, Valpo is 14-5 all-time against Cleveland State, including 3-2 and 3-0 victories this year, and 6-14 all-time against Wright State, with a pair of sweeps this season. Against the other side of the bracket, Valpo is 11-11 against Milwaukee, 9-24 versus Loyola, 7-22 against Butler, 15-21 versus UIC and 12-6 against Youngstown State.
Following the Crusaders: Friday and Saturday’s contests will be carried live on www.sportsjuice.com, while Sunday’s possible championship match will be broadcast over the airwaves of WVUR, 95.1 FM, Valparaiso. Links to live audio for all three broadcasts will be available at www.valpoathletics.com, which will also have links for live statistics and video.
Tournament History: Valpo is 2-1 all-time in Horizon League Championship action, advancing to the title match last year in its first season as a league member. For the second straight year, the Crusaders have a potential semifinal match against the host school, as Cleveland State is this season’s host. But last year, that did not faze Valpo, as the Crusaders took down top-seeded and host Milwaukee in the semis, 3-1.
Six Straight?: The Crusaders are looking to extend an impressive streak during this tournament. Each of the last five seasons (four in the Mid-Con, one in the Horizon), Valpo has advanced to the league championship match and been one victory away from the NCAA Tournament. The Crusaders have captured tournament gold three times during that span.
Speaking of Streaks: If the Crusaders were to advance to the league title match, it would match another prestigious program record. Valpo enters the weekend having won 12 consecutive matches, dating back to a victory Oct. 12 against Loyola. Two more wins would tie the current team record of 14 straight victories, accomplished by the 2004 squad from Sept. 17-Oct. 23, while a victory in the title match would set a new program record at 15.
Straight Sets - Six Straight Times: Valpo established itself as a buzzsaw in the second half of the Horizon League schedule. After going just 4-4 in the first half of league play and winning only 18 of 33 sets, the Crusaders went a perfect 8-0 in the second half. Even more impressively, Valpo dropped just two sets in the second half of league play and has won 21 straight sets against league opponents entering the tournament.
20x7: With its win at Loyola two Fridays ago, Valparaiso won its 20th match of the season, marking the seventh straight year that the Crusader volleyball program has won at least 20 times, all under head coach Carin Avery. Valpo had been one of just 19 programs to win 20 matches each of the last six years.
The Nation’s Best: Valparaiso maintained its position for the fourth straight week atop the nation in kills/set last week and for the third straight week in assists/set. The Crusaders are currently averaging 15.24 kills and 14.21 assists/set, ahead of schools such as Cal, Penn State, Hawai’i and Michigan in the top-ten in both categories.
Know Your Rules: The NCAA Women’s Volleyball Rules Committee and the Playing Rules Oversight Panel approved a number of rule changes prior to the 2008 season. The most visible of the rule changes will be the following:
- The term “game” will be changed to “set”
- Sets one through four will now be contested to 25 (previously 30) points
- The maximum number of substiutions will now be 12 (previously 15) per set
Dominant On the Outside: One week after breaking Valpo career records for both kills and attacks, junior outside hitter Angie Porché continued her dominant play to close out the regular season. Porché sat out Friday’s sweep of Chicago State to rest up for Saturday’s contest against Wright State, where she put down 13 kills on .407 hitting to help Valpo to the sweep. On the season, Porché ranks fifth in the nation and leads the Horizon League by far with 4.64 kills/set, and her 483 total kills on the year already rank fourth in a single season in Crusader history. She increased her Valpo career-best totals to 1,547 kills and 3,846 attacks as well.
Digging Deep: Senior libero Brittany Malicoat had her streak of 77 straight matches with double-figures in the digs category snapped at UIC on the 8th, but bounced right back last weekend. Malicoat tallied 11 digs in Valpo’s sweep of Chicago State on Friday and posted a match-best 22 digs in the sweep of Wright State on Senior Day Saturday. Malicoat already has 562 digs this season, good for fourth in a single season in Valpo history and among the top-five single-season totals all-time in the Horizon League. Her average of 5.25 digs/set ranks second in the league and 14th in the nation entering this week.
Setting the Pace: Junior setter Kim Bukowski continues to rank among the nation’s top setters heading into the Horizon League Championship. After sitting out Valpo’s win over Chicago State, Bukowski handed out 40 assists in Valpo’s sweep of Wright State, increasing her season average to 11.46 assists/set, 15th in the country and by far the tops in the Horizon League. A two-time league Offensive Player of the Week honoree this year, Bukowski has quarterbacked the Crusader offense to the nation’s top spot in both kills and assists per set. The junior’s season total of 1,192 assists is also good for tenth in a single year in Valpo history.
Sears Swings Away: Senior middle hitter Allison Sears received Horizon League Offensive Player of the Week accolades for the second time this season on Monday after swinging at a .478 clip with 13 kills in the Crusaders’ sweep of Wright State. Sears currently ranks third in the league in kills with 3.26 kills/set and eighth in hitting percentage at .258.
All-Around Team Effort: Valparaiso’s match at Chicago State last Friday gave the Crusaders an opportunity to get their underclassmen some extended playing time, and they took full advantage. All six players who played in the front row against the Cougars on Friday were either freshmen or sophomores, and the Crusaders combined to set or match 19 individual career highs on the evening.