This Week’s Action: Winners of nine of its last ten matches, Valparaiso will try to continue its run of success this weekend, but will have to do it on the road, traveling to eastern Ohio to meet Youngstown State on Friday and Cleveland State on Saturday.
Wrapping Up Last Week: The Crusaders went 3-0 last week at the ARC, including two big league victories to move within one game of league-leading Milwaukee in the standings. Valpo swept IUPUI (25-18, 25-21, 25-13) in non-league action on Tuesday before taking down the Panthers, 3-1 (22-25, 26-24, 25-10, 25-21) on Friday. The Crusaders closed the week with a sweep of Green Bay (25-18, 25-23, 25-14) on Saturday afternoon.
The Matchups: Valpo holds an 11-6 edge in the all-time series against Youngstown State, including a sweep (25-23, 25-21, 25-20) on October 4 of this year at the ARC. Brittany Malicoat led all players with 17 digs, while Allison Sears paced the Crusader defense at the net with four blocks. Angie Porché guided the offense with 14 kills and Sears added 11 terminations.
Valparaiso took a hard-fought 3-2 victory over Cleveland State (25-27, 25-22, 27-25, 24-26, 15-11) on October 3, 2008 in the first meeting of the two clubs since the 2007 Horizon League Championship match. The Crusaders improved to 13-5 all-time against the Vikings with the win. Porché led five Valpo players in double figures in kills with 23 as the Crusader offense hit at a stellar .305 clip for the match. Malicoat posted a team-best 27 digs in the win.
Following the Crusaders: WVUR (95.1 FM - Valparaiso) will broadcast both of this weekend’s road matches over the airwaves. Links to live audio and stats for both matches, plus video for Friday night’s tilt at Youngstown State, will be available at www.valpoathletics.com.
The Nation’s Best: Valparaiso maintained its position atop the nation in kills/set last week and also moved ahead of California for the nation’s top spot in assists/set. The Crusaders are currently averaging 15.13 kills and 14.07 assists/set, ahead of Cal, Penn State, Hawai’i and Michigan in the top-five.
Offensive Dominance: When a team is ranked atop the nation as Valpo is in kills/set, it’s probably out-killing its opponent on most occasions, and this holds true for the Crusaders, who have posted less kills than their opponent just once this year (Indiana). Valpo has registered at least ten more kills than its opposition in 16 of its 22 matches and has tallied at least 20 more kills nine times.
Especially of Late: Valpo’s offensive dominance over its opposition has been even more pronounced lately. In their last ten matches (9-1), the Crusaders have out-killed their opponent by at least ten kills in nine of the ten matches and are averaging a staggering 15.89 kills/set, over five kills more per set than their opponents. Valpo is also swinging at a .253 clip over the stretch, 31 points better than its season average.
Getting It Done on Defense As Well: Valpo’s recent surge can also be attributed to better play on the defensive side of the ball as well. Over the last ten matches, the Crusaders have averaged 18.54 digs/set and 1.95 blocks/set while holding opponents to just a .149 hitting percentage, 25 points lower than the season as a whole.
Success at Home: The Crusaders have stood out on their home court at the Athletics-Recreation Center since Carin Avery’s ascension to the head coaching position prior to the 2002 season, and this year has been no exception. Valpo is now 65-13 (.833) at home under Avery, including a 7-1 record at the ARC so far this year. Valpo has now won at least seven home matches in each of the last seven seasons.
Tabbed Second: Valparaiso has been projected to finish second in the Horizon League this season in preseason polling of the league’s nine head coaches. Cleveland State, last year’s tournament champion, was a unanimous selection to capture the league crown. Following the Crusaders were Milwaukee, UIC, and Butler. Youngstown State was placed sixth, while Wright State, Loyola and Green Bay rounded out the polling.
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
Steady in the Back: Senior libero Brittany Malicoat earned Horizon League Defensive Player of the Week honors last week for the second time this year and fifth time in her career after picking up 64 digs over Valpo’s three matches, including 27 in the sweep of Green Bay, matching the third-most digs in a three-set match in Crusader history. The senior now has 2,151 career digs, less than 30 digs shy of cracking the NCAA’s all-time top-25 as of the beginning of the 2008 season. She also has registered at least ten digs in each of her last 73 matches, the second-longest active streak in the NCAA. Malicoat also has made her way onto Valpo’s career service aces chart and is currently eighth with 121 career aces, just seven shy of Valpo’s all-time top-five.
Racking Up the Kills: Junior outside hitter Angie Porché continues to rank among the nation’s leaders in kills/set and has helped propel the Crusaders to the nation’s top spot in kills/set as a team. Porché moved up into second on Valpo’s all-time kills chart last week and with 1,459 career kills, is just 46 shy of Lori Barton’s Crusader record in the category. The junior picked up 41 kills over Valpo’s three wins last week, and currently is sixth nationally with an average of 4.65 kills/set, leading the Horizon League by better than a full kill per frame.
Sears Swings Away: Senior middle hitter Allison Sears had another stellar week last week. One week after earning Horizon League Offensive Player of the Week honors, Sears led the Crusaders with 45 kills over their three matches, including a match-high 20 terminations in the win over league-leading Milwaukee. On the season, the senior is averaging 3.20 kills/set, good for fourth among Horizon League players, and is leading the Crusaders with 0.79 blocks/set.
Running the Offense: Junior setter Kim Bukowski has distributed the ball all season long for the Crusader offense and leads the Horizon League by far in assists/set with an average of 11.08. She has continued to move up the national rankings in the category and now sits 19th individually, while helping Valpo to the first-place team ranking. The junior currently sits seventh on Valpo’s all-time assists chart and is just 51 helpers shy of breaking the 2,000-assist milestone for her career.