Valparaiso snapped its two-match losing streak Saturday afternoon in Green Bay, Wis., rallying for a 3-1 (22-30, 30-25, 30-23, 30-24) victory over the Phoenix.
“It was nice to get a hard-fought victory on the road today,” said Crusader head coach Carin Avery. “After game one, we really played well to come back and get the win.”
The opening game looked like it might go the Crusaders’ way for a while, as Valpo led at 20-19 after a Green Bay service error. But the Crusaders committed eight errors, including six attack errors, the rest of the game as the Phoenix closed out the opener with an 11-2 run. The second game was also tight late, as the two teams were tied at 22, but this time Valpo scored eight of the last 11 points, getting three kills and two blocks from Jill Meyer (Crystal Lake, Ill./South) during the spurt to help send the match into the break tied at one game each.
Tiffany Meikle’s (Cottage Grove, Wis./Monona Grove) serving was the story of game three. The first time Meikle stepped to the service line, she registered two aces in her first three serves to give the Crusaders an early 13-9 lead. By the time the rotation got back around to Meikle’s serve, the Phoenix had taken a 22-21 edge. But the senior outside hitter quickly erased that deficit, recording four aces in a span of five points to give Valpo the lead for good. Fittingly, the game ended on a Tara Newton (Indianapolis, Ind./Franklin Central) ace, the last of eight Crusader service aces in the game.
Valpo led early in game four, but Green Bay would not go down quietly, tying the game at 16. Newton took over from there, recording six out of the next seven points for the Crusaders on four kills and a pair of aces. The second of the aces gave Valpo a 23-19 edge, and the lead would not sink below four the rest of the way.
It was a career night for many Crusaders, as five different players combined to set career bests in ten different categories. Meyer (16), Newton (12) and Katie Layman (LaPorte, Ind./New Prairie) (9) each set a new career high in kills, while Newton and Layman also posted career bests in attacks. Newton also tied her career bests with seven digs and four aces, while Layman tallied seven blocks to set her new standard in the category. Meikle’s six service aces, all in the third game, set a career-high as well.
“So many of our players had career nights,” said Avery. “It really shows that the players are stepping up and accepting increased responsibility in the absence of Allison (Sears) and Nicole (Schulz).”
Angie Porché (Lynwood, Ill./Thornton Fractional South) paced the Crusader offense with 22 kills on .340 hitting, the fourth time in the last five matches she has reached 20 kills. Defensively, Brittany Malicoat (Elkhart, Ind./Memorial) recorded the second-most digs in a four-game match all-time at Valpo with 37, giving her 76 digs over the last two matches, while Haley Wise (Mishawaka, Ind./Mishawaka) set a career high with 18 digs.
“Today was the first time in awhile that our defensive transition has turned into points for us,” said Avery. “The past couple weeks, we’ve been getting digs, but the balls haven’t been to target. Tonight, both Brittany and Haley did a great job putting balls on target where our setters had multiple options available to them.”
Green Bay (4-13, 2-6 Horizon) was paced by Liesl Tesch’s 14 kills. Megan Elfering led the Phoenix defensively with 30 digs. The Crusaders owned a 68-52 advantage in kills over Green Bay, and also out-dug the Phoenix by a 93-73 margin.
Valparaiso (14-5, 5-2 Horizon) turns around for a Sunday afternoon match at league leader Milwaukee. First serve against the Panthers is set for 2 p.m.