Jessie Fox (Granger, Ind./Penn) and Alex Chism (Grand Rapids, Mich./Forest Hills Central [Miami]) were victorious in the final home match of their careers, as Valparaiso downed Western Illinois in four games, 30-19, 27-30, 31-29, 30-15, to move into second place in the Mid-Con.
The two players have been a part of a Valpo program that has gone 101-32 over the past four seasons, including a 48-5 mark in Mid-Con play. The two have also been highly successful on the Athletics-Recreation Center court in their careers, as the Crusaders have gone 41-6 at home since 2003.
The Crusaders got out to a fast start, hitting .372 in game one on their way to going up one game to none. The next two games were a defensive struggle, as Valpo fought off a game point at 29-28 in game three to take the game and the two games to one edge. During game three, Western Illinois' Jennifer Alexander broke the Mid-Con's career digs record with her 11th dig of the match. Alexander ended the match with 15 digs, giving her 2,251 for her career.
Game four was all Valpo, as the Crusaders hit at an astounding .640 clip, putting down 17 kills and committing just one attack error. Valpo held the Westerwinds to just 10 kills in the deciding game.
Fox set a personal milestone early on in game one, as her first kill of the match gave her 1,000 for her career, just the tenth player in Valpo history to reach the mark. She led the Crusaders and matched her season-high with 19 kills, hitting at a .344 clip, and also registered three blocks. Her 1,018 career kills rank ninth in Crusader history, while her 399 career blocks rank fourth.
Chism had a solid match on the back line for the Crusaders, recording nine digs. She also dished out two assists and registered two service aces.
Valpo diversified its offense nicely, as four Crusaders, led by Fox, registered at least 10 kills. Nicole Schulz (Kewaskum, Wis./Kettle Moraine Lutheran) continued her stellar junior year with 18 kills and four blocks, while Angie Porché (Lynwood, Ill./Thornton Fractional South) added 15 kills. Allison Sears (Elkhart, Ind./Memorial) put down eight kills on just nine attacks in game four, ending the match with 14 kills and hitting a team-best .522 to go along with four blocks.
Brittany Marks (Elkhart, Ind./Memorial) led four Crusaders with at least ten digs, registering a match-high 23 digs. Marks also excelled from the service line, matching her career-best with four aces. Sara Hughes (San Antonio, Texas/Perrysburg, Ohio) added three aces to go along with her double-double of 55 assists and 10 digs. The Brown and Gold totaled 11 service aces as a team, tying its season-high in the category.
Ashley Baker paced Western Illinois (12-13, 7-3 Mid-Con) with 16 kills, hitting .467 for the match. Amy Sauerwein tallied 16 digs, while Lisa Suellentrop dished out 33 assists.
Valparaiso (18-11, 8-3 Mid-Con) clinched its fifth consecutive winning season with the victory, the longest such stretch in program history. The Crusaders will hit the road next week for two matches, taking on Chicago State in a non-conference tilt Friday night before traveling to IUPUI Saturday night to try to solidify their hold on second place in the Mid-Con.