Valparaiso (25-10, 11-7 MVC)
2018 National Invitational Volleyball Championship (Oxford, Ohio)
Thursday, Nov. 29 - vs. Ball State (22-9, 12-4 MAC) - 4:30 p.m. CT
Friday, Nov. 30 - at Miami University (22-8, 13-3 MAC) OR vs. Northern Kentucky (21-9, 11-5 Horizon) - 7 p.m. CT
This Week in Valpo Volleyball: The Valparaiso University volleyball team makes its first postseason appearance since 2005 this week, traveling to Oxford, Ohio for the first two rounds of the 2018 National Invitational Volleyball Championship (NIVC). Valpo takes on Ball State Thursday evening in the first round of the tournament, and with a win, would face either host Miami University or Northern Kentucky in the second round on Friday night.
Previously: Valpo split two matches at the 2018 MVC Tournament. The program earned its first-ever MVC Tournament victory on Thanksgiving night, winning in five sets against host Missouri State. Valpo then fell in four sets to top-seeded UNI, which went on to claim the tournament title, on Friday. Allison Ketcham represented Valpo on the All-Tournament Team.
Looking Ahead: The winner of the Miami University pod of the NIVC will face the winner of the Tulane pod (which also includes Arkansas State, Little Rock and Cal Baptist) in the tournament quarterfinals.
Following the Action: All of this week’s matches can be seen live on Miami’s RedHawk All-Access subscription service ($9.95/month; auto-renewing service, so should be canceled following weekend). Direct links for the video broadcasts, as well as live stats, will be available at ValpoAthletics.com.
Head Coach Carin Avery: In her 17th season as head coach at Valparaiso, Carin Avery has won 396 matches (396-177, .691) 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 451 career victories overall as a head coach.
Series History: Ball State - 1-9 overall; 1-2 under Coach Avery; 0-0 at neutral site; BSU won last meeting 3-1 in Muncie on Sept. 16, 2016 (Taylor Graboski 15 kills; Allison Ketcham 21 digs)
Miami - 3-3 overall; 3-0 under Coach Avery; 1-0 in Oxford; Valpo won last meeting 3-0 in Bloomington, Ind. on Sept. 15, 2012 (Kelsey Victor 10 kills, .421; team hit .287)
Northern Kentucky - 1-5 overall; 1-4 under Coach Avery; 0-2 at neutral site; NKU won last meeting 3-2 in Cleveland, Ohio on Nov. 18, 2016 (Taylor Graboski 20 kills; Morganne Longoria 30 assists, 31 digs; Emily Campbell 14 kills, 22 digs)
About the NIVC: The NIVC originally existed from 1989-95 to help grow the sport among the college ranks. The NIVC resumed in 2017 as a 32-team single elimination event as the growth of the game in recent years warranted a tournament for those who did not qualify for the NCAA Tournament.
Valpo In The Postseason: This year marks Valpo’s seventh appearance in a national postseason tournament:
1994 - NCAA Tournament Play-in Match - at Idaho - L 3-0
1995 - NCAA Tournament Play-in Match - at UNI - L 3-0
1996 - NCAA Tournament Play-in Match - at Southeast Missouri State - L 3-1
2003 - NCAA Tournament First Round - vs. #9 Nebraska - L 3-0
2004 - NCAA Tournament First Round - vs. Notre Dame - L 3-1
2005 - NCAA Tournament First Round - vs. #16 California - L 3-0
Scouting the Opposition: Ball State - The Cardinals enter the tournament at 22-9 overall and went 12-4 in MAC regular season play, winning the West Division. BSU dropped a five-set decision to Miami in the MAC Tournament semifinals. Ellie Dunn leads the BSU offense with 3.66 kills/set, while setter Amber Seaman hands out 10.32 assists/set and ranks 24th nationally with 0.44 aces/set. Defensively, Meg Starling leads the Cardinals and ranks 40th nationally with 1.26 blocks/set.
Miami - The RedHawks enter the tournament at 22-8 overall and 13-3 in MAC play, tying for the East Division title and the MAC regular season crown. After the win over Ball State in the semifinals, Miami fell in five sets to Eastern Michigan in the championship match. Margaret Payne hits .316 with a team-high 2.56 kills/set and also paces the RedHawks with 1.06 blocks/set.
Northern Kentucky - Valpo’s brief Horizon League rival, the Norse enter the NIVC at 21-9 overall and 11-5 in Horizon League play. NKU tied for second in the league regular season standings and advanced to the HL championship match, where it fell to top-seeded Green Bay in straight sets. Haley Libs leads NKU with 3.92 kills/set and also adds 3.90 digs/set, while libero Ashton Terrill tallies 5.52 digs/sets in the back row.
Outperforming the Preseason Poll: For the second time in as many seasons as an MVC member, Valpo outperformed its preseason pick in the coaches poll. This year, Valpo closed the regular season in fourth position after being picked fifth in the preseason. Last season, Valpo was picked seventh before finishing in a tie for fifth place.
Success Away From Home: The final weekend of the regular season and the MVC Tournament have reflected Valpo’s strong play away from the ARC this season. Playing 23 of its 35 matches away from home, Valpo has posted a 17-6 record - going 11-4 in true road matches and 6-2 on neutral courts.
Spreading the Wealth: With no player among the top-10 in the Valley in kills/set, it has truly been a team effort on the attack this year for Valpo. Four different players are averaging at least two kills/set, with another trio clocking in above 1.5 kills/set. The offensive diversity can be seen in Valpo’s match-by-match leaders in kills, as seven different players have led the Crusaders in kills this season: 21 times by outsides (Ketcham 11, Carlson 9, Bulmahn 1); 7 times by right sides (Cummings 5, Zaleski 2); 6 times by middles (Bronner 3, McCarthy 3).
All-Tournament Honors: Another way Valpo’s depth can be showcased is by looking at the players who claimed All-Tournament Team awards in the four early-season tournaments this year. A total of eight Crusaders earned 11 All-Tournament honors, with no player earning more than two. In the three tournaments Valpo won, three different players were named Tournament MVP (Peyton McCarthy-Valpo; Allison Ketcham-Air Force; Lizzie Zaleski-Central Michigan). Most recently, Ketcham picked up her third All-Tournament accolade of the year at the MVC Tournament, averaging 3.78 kills and 4.44 digs per set.
Just Win, Baby, Win: Valpo enters the NIVC with 25 victories on the season, the 15th time in Avery’s 17 seasons that Valpo has won 20 or more matches. This year’s squad is the eighth for Avery with at least 25 victories. This year also marked the seventh time out of Avery’s 15 20-win teams that the program reached the 20-win mark within the season’s first 25 matches.
RPI Ranks: Valpo sits in strong position in the latest NCAA RPI release. Valpo currently sits at 69th in the RPI and is one of four MVC squads in the top-100, joined by NCAA Tournament teams UNI (16th) and Illinois State (29th), as well as fellow NIVC qualifier Bradley (99th). 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.
Weekly Honors: Senior outside Allison Ketcham picked up the final Defensive Player of the Week award from the MVC office, as she surpassed 20 digs in both of Valpo’s road victories to close out the regular season. Ketcham was the third Valpo player to earn a weekly honor from the MVC this year, as sophomore libero Rylee Cookerly was named Defensive Player of the Week on Oct. 29 and sophomore right side Ally Cummings was named Player of the Week Oct. 22.
Outside Tandem: Seniors Katherine Carlson and Allison Ketcham have been the most productive pair of classmates on the outside in program history. They are the only set of classmates to both rank among Valpo’s all-time top-10 in kills (Carlson 6th, Ketcham 7th), and are two of just nine members of Valpo’s 1,000-kill/1,000-dig club. Carlson also ranks sixth in program history in career service aces, while Ketcham is fourth all-time at Valpo in career digs. Carlson ranks 18th among all active D-I players in aces and Ketcham is 20th among active D-I players in digs.
Setting Things Up: Sophomore setter Brittany Anderson has played every set at the position since stepping on campus, and this season has produced one of the top assist totals in program history. Anderson currently is tied for second in a single season in program history in assists. This comes with her playing the last third of the regular season with extra blocking responsibilities playing with just one middle. For her career, she is already eighth in program history in assists, owns the second-most assists through two seasons in program history and the most in the rally-scoring era, and ranks 18th nationally among active D-I players in career assists/set (10.57).
Two-Sport Star: Even more impressively, Anderson is a two-sport athlete at Valpo. Once volleyball season is over, Anderson transitions to softball, where she appeared in 35 games for Valpo as a freshman and made 25 starts - 13 at first base and 12 at designated player. Anderson hit .250 in MVC play last year while starting 18 conference games, and ranked second on the team in on-base percentage (.333) and fourth in slugging percentage (.385) in conference play.
Leading the Back Row: Much like Anderson, sophomore Rylee Cookerly has played every set at libero since coming to Valpo. She currently ranks second among active D-I players in career digs/set with 5.46 digs/set. After tallying 59 digs over Valpo’s two MVC Tournament matches, including a Valpo season-high 30 in the win over Missouri State, Cookerly has picked up 691 digs this season, fourth-most in a single season in program history. With 1,377 career digs through two seasons, Cookerly is already only 18 digs shy of Valpo’s all-time top-10 in the category and is 37 digs ahead of Taylor Root’s total through her first two years - Root went on to set Valpo’s career record in the category and currently ranks fourth in NCAA history in career digs.
Freshmen Step Up: Valpo has had a pair of freshmen put together some strong performances recently as their rookie seasons near an end. Middle Haley Hart ended the final weekend of the regular season with a season high of seven kills, but obliterated that mark twice, going for 15 kills in a win at Missouri State and 14 kills in a win at Southern Illinois. Meanwhile, outside Jillie Grant has become a regular recently serving and playing back row, and tallied a career-best 12 digs to help Valpo to its first-round tournament win over Missouri State.
Milestones Reached: Valpo has had numerous players reach statistical career milestones this season:
Allison Ketcham - 1,000 career kills (Sept. 21 at Indiana State) - eighth member of Valpo’s 1,000-kill/1,000-dig club; top-five all-time at Valpo in career digs (Sept. 28 Drake) - highest-ranking non-libero; top-10 all-time at Valpo in career kills (Nov. 9 Bradley)
Katherine Carlson - 1,000 career digs (Aug. 25 vs. Iona); 1,000 career kills (Sept. 21 at Indiana State) - ninth member of Valpo’s 1,000-kill/1,000-dig club; top-10 all-time at Valpo in career aces (Oct. 5 Loyola); top-10 at Valpo in career kills (Oct. 26 at UNI); top-five in career aces (Oct. 29 Missouri St.) - second-highest total in the last 25 years
Brittany Anderson - 2,000 career assists (Sept. 29 UNI) - fastest Valpo player to 2,000 assists in rally-scoring era [53 matches]
Rylee Cookerly - 1,000 career digs (Sept. 28 Drake) - tied for fastest Valpo player to 1,000 digs in program history [52 matches; tied with Taylor Root]
Capturing Tournament Titles: Valpo won three consecutive in-season tournaments in the pre-conference schedule, claiming titles at Central Michigan and Air Force before defending the home court to claim the Crusader Classic crown. 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 2018. Valpo has now won 27 in-season tournament titles over the last 17 years, including multiple in-season crowns in 10 of those seasons.
Digging Deep: Valpo led the nation in 2017 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. That streak looks set to extend to nine seasons this year, as Valpo currently ranks 10th nationally in digs/set.
Champions in Classroom: Valpo’s success extends beyond the court to the classroom as well, as five Crusaders have recently earned academic awards:
Brittany Anderson - MVC Honorable Mention Scholar-Athlete
Sydney Bronner - MVC Honorable Mention Scholar-Athlete
Katherine Carlson - MVC Scholar-Athlete First Team
Rylee Cookerly - Second Team Academic All-District; MVC Scholar-Athlete First Team
Allison Ketcham - First Team Academic All-District; MVC Scholar-Athlete First Team