Redbirds Take a Break From Valley Play, Travel to Valpo
Oct. 16, 2006
NORMAL, Ill. -- Illinois State's volleyball team will take a break from Missouri Valley Conference play when they travel to Valparaiso, Ind., Tuesday (Oct. 17) for a 7 p.m. match against the Crusaders at the Athletics-Recreation Center.
The `Birds (9-10, 4-5 MVC) are coming off a split in Valley action last week. ISU defeated in-state rival Bradley (30-26, 30-26, 27-30, 30-17) at Redbird Arena last Thursday, and dropped a three-game (25-30, 25-30, and 24-30) decision to first-place Northern Iowa at West Gym Saturday.
Valparaiso is the three-time defending champion of the Mid-Continent Conference, and is 14-7 on the season with a 4-2 league slate. Despite losing four all-conference players to graduation last season, the Crusaders were picked second in the Mid-Con preseason head coaches' poll. They have also defeated two opponents that the Redbirds have faced off against this season: They ousted Drake (Sept. 9) and twice defeated DePaul (Aug. 26 and Sept. 29). Tuesday's match will mark the first-ever meeting between Illinois State and Valparaiso.
ISU head coach Sharon Dingman recognizes Valparaiso's recent success, and sees the match as a challenge that will help the team as they enter the second half of the Valley season.
"Valparaiso has a good team, and they are certainly an NCAA Tournament caliber type of program," said Dingman. "They play hard, are disciplined and don't make a lot of errors. They make you play a lot of volleyball, which has been both good and bad for us this season. Tomorrow will certainly be a challenge for us. But, we are excited to take a break from the Valley and get a non-conference match in."
Despite being swept by Northern Iowa Saturday, Dingman was pleased with the Redbirds' overall offensive performance in the two matches last week.
"We still have some concerns about our ability to kill the ball, and are still seeking some more consistent performances on the outside," Dingman said. "But our blocking was as good as it has been all season against Northern Iowa, and other than game three (four service errors), our serving was very effective. We are becoming a more consistent team each time we take the court, and we feel good going into tomorrow's match."
The Redbirds will jump right back into MVC action this weekend, hosting Evansville (Oct. 20) and Southern Illinois (Oct. 22) at Redbird Arena. Illinois State, the Purple Aces and Salukis all enter this weekend with a 4-5 record in league play, good for a tie for fourth-place in the current league standings.