Valparaiso had its back up against the wall down two games to one at Wright State Friday night in its first taste of Horizon League road action, but the Crusaders showed their resilience, rebounding in the final two games to earn a 3-2 (25-30, 30-28, 28-30, 30-25, 15-9) victory over the Raiders.
“Tonight’s match was an extremely error-filled match by both sides,” said Crusader head coach Carin Avery. “Fortunately for us, when it counted at the end of game four and in game five, we finally played some good volleyball. It is a positive that we were able to put it together when we needed to after struggling for so much of the match.”
The Crusaders’ high-powered offense, which led the Horizon League by a large margin with a .262 hitting percentage entering the match, was stifled Friday night by a Wright State defense that registered 22 total blocks and held Valpo to a .107 hitting percentage on the match. But the Valpo defense was just as effective, limiting the Raiders to hitting at a .064 clip with just 45 kills in the five games.
Neither team hit better than .100 in the match’s first three games as both squads struggled to find a rhythm offensively. The Crusaders led by seven points early in the opener, but Wright State rallied to take the lead for good after a 7-0 run gave the Raiders an 18-17 edge.
Game two saw Valpo lose a 24-20 lead late in the game after Wright State went on a 7-1 spurt. The Raiders held a 28-27 edge with the serve, but three consecutive errors gave the Crusaders the game and sent the match into the break tied at one game apiece. Game three played out in a similar fashion, with 11 ties and six lead changes. Wright State held a five-point edge at 27-22 and converted on its third game point to move within one game of the victory.
Valpo’s offense received a spark in game four with the insertion of sophomore setter Kim Bukowski (Waukesha, Wis./West). Bukowski helped guide the Crusaders to a .222 hitting percentage for the game with 19 kills. The game was still in doubt late, however, as the two teams were tied at 22 apiece. But Bukowski led a 6-1 spurt with an ace, a kill and four assists to put Valpo in control and send the match to a decisive game five.
The final game was the only one not to feature any ties or lead changes, as Valpo scored four of the first five points, capped off by a block by Bukowski and Katie Layman (LaPorte, Ind./New Prairie). The Raiders would score the next two points to crawl back to within 4-3, but that was as close as they would get, as the Crusaders hit .368 in the finale to earn the come-from-behind win.
“Kim came in tonight and really gave us a big lift,” said Avery. “After she entered the match, we started scoring a lot better and our hitting percentage went up because she was making some really good choices with the ball. It was fitting that she was the one to end the match with a kill.”
Angie Porché (Lynwood, Ill./Thornton Fractional South) led all players with 24 kills on 74 swings, tying the most attempts by a Crusader in a five-game match all-time. Val Bollenbacher (Bremen, Ind./Bremen) added 17 kills, while Jill Meyer (Crystal Lake, Ill./South) chipped in 13 terminations. Porché also added team-high totals of four service aces and 21 digs, while Brittany Malicoat (Elkhart, Ind./Memorial) posted 20 digs, marking the first time since Nov. 4, 2005 that Malicoat has not paced the Crusaders in the digs category.
Wright State(5-12, 2-3 Horizon) was paced offensively by Tara Geegan, who registered 10 kills to go along with eight blocks. Lizzy Gunn posted 13 rejections, while Becca Awaa added 10 blocks of her own.
Valparaiso (12-3, 3-0 Horizon) looks to keep its perfect Horizon League slate intact on Saturday afternoon as the Crusaders head to Indianapolis to take on Butler. First serve is slated for 3 p.m. CDT, and live stats and video links can be found at www.valpo.edu/athletics.