A hard-fought match was decided in the early stages of game five Friday night in Chicago, Ill., as Valparaiso jumped out to a 6-0 advantage in the deciding game and cruised from there, defeating Loyola 3-2 (30-27, 21-30, 30-26, 26-30, 15-9).
“It was great for us to come out with a win tonight,” said Crusader head coach Carin Avery. “Loyola’s gym is a very tough place to play, and they always are ready to play hard at home. It was a good accomplishment for us to stay focused and come out with the five-game victory.”
After the teams traded the first four games, the Crusaders served to start the finale. A Loyola attack error gave Valpo its first point, followed by back-to-back kills from Val Bollenbacher (Bremen, Ind./Bremen). Kim Bukowski (Waukesha, Wis./West) followed with her second service ace of the match to force a Rambler timeout.
Nothing changed out of the timeout, however, as Jill Meyer (Crystal Lake, Ill./South) recorded a kill, followed by another termination from Bollenbacher for the 6-0 advantage. Loyola would score the next two points to erase the zero from the scoreboard, but Meyer followed with three kills over the next four points to bump Valpo’s lead back up to 9-3, and the Ramblers would not get closer than a four-point deficit the rest of the way.
“Val and Jill came up with some big kills for us tonight,” said Avery. “They really stepped up after we dropped game four and provided some points in a very critical part of the match.”
The opening game was an extremely tight one, featuring 19 ties and six lead changes as neither squad could gain more than a three-point lead. With the set tied at 27-27, Valpo went to Angie Porché (Lynwood, Ill./Thornton Fractional South) for a kill to regain the lead. After a Loyola error, Nicole Schulz (Kewaskum, Wis./Kettle Moraine Lutheran) came up with a kill to give the Crusaders the opener.
It looked early like Valpo would take the second game as well, as it jumped out to leads of 8-2 and 10-6. But Loyola went on a 6-0 spurt to take a 12-10 edge and kept the advantage the rest of the way to tie the match at one game apiece. Game three was close in the early portions before a 10-2 Valpo run put the Crusaders up 17-11. Loyola cut the lead to one point late, but Valpo held on for the win.
The Crusaders were poised to end the match in four games, getting four kills from Porché during a 7-2 spurt late to go up 24-21. But Loyola responded with nine of the game’s final 11 points to send the match to the fifth and deciding game.
Porché once again paced Valpo in kills, matching her season high with 27 markers. The sophomore has now tallied 493 kills this season, third-most in a single campaign in Valpo history and just 43 kills shy of the top spot. She also is just 27 kills shy of becoming just the 11th Crusader to reach 1,000 kills in a career.
“Angie had another very solid performance for us tonight,” said Avery. “Her play was good, not just in the front row, but also in the back row. It was nice to see her get back on track.”
Bollenbacher, Meyer and Tiffany Meikle (Cottage Grove, Wis./Monona Grove) added 12 terminations apiece in the winning effort. Bukowski dished out 43 assists, while Sara Hughes (San Antonio, Texas/Perrysburg [Ohio] H.S.) added 24 helpers. Defensively, Brittany Malicoat (Elkhart, Ind./Memorial) led Valpo with 27 digs, moving into second on Valpo’s single-season digs chart with 626. Porché chipped in 17 digs, while Meikle added 12 as both players registered double-doubles.
Loyola (8-20, 4-12 Horizon) was paced by 16 kills and 16 blocks from Melissa Craig. Dana VanDiggelen contributed 12 kills, nine digs and eight blocks for the Ramblers. On the match, Valpo owned a 82-57 advantage in kills, but committed 46 attack errors to Loyola’s 19, due in part to the Ramblers’ 23-5 edge in the blocking department.
“We still need to figure out how to limit our hitting errors,” said Avery. “We’re producing a lot of kills, which is good, but we’re also giving our opponents too many free points when we have more than double their number of errors. Overall, I’m happy with the fact we earned the win tonight to get back on track as a team, especially with the Horizon League Tournament coming up next weekend.”
Valparaiso (18-10, 8-7 Horizon) closes out its inaugural season of loop play Saturday afternoon as the Crusaders return to the Second City to take on UIC. First serve is set for 4 p.m.