Valparaiso (17-3, 4-1 MVC)
Friday, Oct. 5 - Loyola (11-6, 3-2 MVC) - 7 p.m.
This Week in Valpo Volleyball: The Valparaiso University volleyball team closes out a four-match homestand at the ARC Friday night as Loyola makes the short trip in from Chicago to take on the Brown and Gold.
Previously: Valpo opened last weekend’s home action at the ARC with a three-set sweep of Drake, extending its winning streak to 11 consecutive matches. Valpo then saw that winning streak come to an end Saturday night, as UNI came in and earned a 3-1 victory in a matchup of conference unbeatens.
Looking Ahead: Valpo returns to the road next weekend for the first time since Sept. 22, as it hits up central Illinois to play at Illinois State on Friday, Oct. 12 and Bradley on Saturday, Oct. 13.
Following the Action: Friday night’s match will be broadcast live on ESPN3 as part of the season-long package with The Valley on ESPN. Live stats will be available as well.
Head Coach Carin Avery: In her 17th season as head coach at Valparaiso, Carin Avery has won 388 matches (388-170, .695) at the helm of the Crusaders 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 443 career victories overall as a head coach.
Series History: The third-most common opponent in program history, Valpo is 17-27 all-time versus Loyola. But recent history has trended Valpo’s direction, as since 2005, the Brown and Gold enjoy a 14-3 edge in the series. That mark includes wins in both matches (3-1 at Loyola; 3-0 at Valpo) last season in Valpo’s first year as an MVC member.
Valpo Picked Fifth in Preseason Poll: Entering its second season of MVC play, Valpo was selected to finish in fifth place in the conference in 2018, according to preseason polling of the conference’s head coaches. Valpo totaled 53 points in the preseason polling to outpace Indiana State for the fifth position in the poll. UNI was picked to win the conference and earned seven first-place votes, while Missouri State garnered the other three first-place votes.
Looking Back at 2017: Valpo posted a 17-16 record last season and went 8-10 in its first season of action in the Missouri Valley Conference, finishing in a tie for fifth place. The Crusaders led the nation in digs/set, paced by the work of freshman libero Rylee Cookerly in the back row. Cookerly was tabbed the AVCA Midwest Region Freshman of the Year, while senior middle Taylor Graboski was a First Team All-Conference selection.
An Experienced Squad Returns: 11 letterwinners in all return from the 2017 squad, including five starters and the libero. The only players from last year’s team who do not return this year are Graboski and Kayla Currier, who is medically unable to compete and will serve her final season as a student assistant for Valpo.
Best Start in Program History: The 2018 volleyball team stands alone in program history for the best start through 19 matches in a single season, as Friday’s win over Drake improved Valpo’s record to 17-2 on the year. Despite the Saturday setback against UNI, the team is still tied for the best record through 20 matches with the 2004 and 2014 teams. The 2014 team was 17-3 before taking its fourth loss in match number 21, while the 2004 squad made it to 20-3 before falling for the fourth time.
Most Wins in the Nation: Valpo enters the week tied with Stephen F. Austin for the most wins by a D-I team in the nation, sitting on 17 victories going into Friday night’s match. The Crusaders were the first team to reach the 17-win mark, doing so Friday night with the win over Drake.
First RPI Release: The NCAA delivered its first official release of the 2018 RPI this week, and Valpo sits at 55th nationally in the first rankings of the year. Valpo is one of three MVC squads in the top-65, joined by UNI (20th) and Illinois State (63rd). Valpo has posted a top-100 RPI finish just three times in the tenure of head coach Carin Avery, and not since 2008 (67th). Valpo’s best-ever RPI finish came in 2004, when it clocked in at 55th position.
Top of the Charts: Coming into this week, no team in the nation had racked up more total digs than Valpo, as the team sits at 1,318 digs through 20 matches. Valpo is also third in total kills, fifth in total assists, seventh in opponents’ hitting percentage, eighth in digs/set and 16th in win/loss percentage. Individually, Brittany Anderson sits 39th in assists/set, Rylee Cookerly 47th in digs/set and Peyton McCarthy 50th in blocks/set.
Streak Ends at 11: The loss to UNI snapped Valpo’s winning streak at 11 consecutive matches, tied for the fourth-longest streak in program history. The 2010 team also won 11 in a row, while only streaks by the 2014 (13 straight), 2008 (13 straight), and 2004 (14 straight) squads surpassed this year’s streak.
Milestones Reached: Senior Allison Ketcham surpassed another milestone last week, moving into Valpo’s top-five in career digs against Drake and becoming the highest-ranking non-libero in the category in program history. Meanwhile, sophomore Rylee Cookerly reached 1,000 career digs against Drake in her 52nd career match, matching Taylor Root for the quickest player in program history to 1,000 digs.
Anderson Sets Things Up: Sophomore two-sport standout Brittany Anderson has been the catalyst for Valpo’s offense this season, playing every point at setter and averaging 10.71 assists/set. Last time out, Anderson recorded her 2,000th career assist as Valpo faced off with UNI. Here’s how Anderson performed against this week’s opponent last season in both sports:
Loyola - 10.14 assists/set, team hit .247 over two matches; 2-for-10, 2 R, 2B
Capturing Tournament Titles: Valpo won its third consecutive in-season tournament title with the Crusader Classic victory. This marks the fourth time in the tenure of head coach Carin Avery that Valpo has won three in-season tournaments. Oddly enough, it’s been exactly four years between each occurrence – 2006, 2010, 2014, and now 2018. It also marks the sixth time in 10 in-season home tournaments hosted under Avery that Valpo has won its own tournament championship.
Digging Deep: Valpo led the nation last year in digs/set nearly all season long, ending the year averaging 20.03 digs/set to lead the nation, out-pacing UNI by 0.33 digs/set. Valpo’s 2017 campaign was only the second since the move to 25-point rally scoring in 2008 where a team averaged at least 20 digs/set, coming in behind only Penn’s 2012 season. The Crusaders have a long tradition of strong defensive play, as they have ranked among the top-20 nationally in digs/set in each of the last eight seasons - including a sixth-place placement in 2015 and a fourth-place finish in 2010 in addition to last year’s statistical championship.
Out-Digging the Other Side: While last year’s team led the nation in digs/set, it was consistently out-dug by the opposition, as Valpo’s opponents averaged 20.74 digs/set collectively last year. So far this year, while Valpo’s digs average is down to 18.31/set, its opponents have posted just 17.00 digs/set. Looked at another way, last year’s team out-dug its opponents just 13 times while leading the nation in digs/set, while this year’s squad has already out-dug the opposition 14 times through 20 matches.