Valparaiso found itself down one game Thursday night to Marshall in the opener of the 2007 Popcorn Classic at the Athletics-Recreation Center, but bounced back, winning three straight games to earn a 3-1 victory (32-34, 30-25, 30-24, 30-15).
“We played very good volleyball in all aspects of the game tonight,” said Crusader head coach Carin Avery. “Every single player on our team did an outstanding job on the court for us.”
The Brown and Gold found itself in an early hole in game one, forcing Avery to use timeouts at 13-8 and 17-11. The Crusaders seemed to seize momentum after the second timeout, going on a 14-6 spurt to gain a two-point lead at 25-23. The lead would flip-flop for the rest of the game, with both squads earning game point opportunities before Marshall finally closed out the game on a Stephanie Cahill kill.
But Valpo would keep the momentum that led to the spurt in the middle of the opener and carry it over into the second game. The Crusaders were up by as much as four in the middle of the game, and would not let Marshall regain the lead. The Thundering Herd’s last opportunity was with the game tied at 21, but Valpo used a quick 4-1 run with two kills from Angie Porché (Lynwood, Ill./Thornton Fractional South) to regain control for good.
“It was exciting to see us bounce back and win the second game,” said Avery. “We were in the same situation at Illinois State (losing the opener in extra points), but couldn’t maintain momentum into the rest of the match. This time, we took the momentum and used it to our advantage.”
Valpo came out after the break and just dominated the Thundering Herd over the final two games, hitting at a .227 clip to Marshall’s -.014 hitting over games three and four. While the first two games featured 15 ties and six lead changes, the final two contained just one tie and no lead changes. The finale saw the Crusaders jump out to a 7-0 lead on Tiffany Meikle’s (Cottage Grove, Wis./Monona Grove) serve, and the lead never dropped under six the rest of the way.
“The key to the final two games was the fact that we started to serve a lot tougher,” said Avery. “In the first two games, we had a difficult time because they were taking our serves and passing them exactly where they wanted to. When our serves got tougher, we took them out of their system and that helped us immensely on our side of the ball.”
The Crusaders were led offensively by Porché and Allison Sears (Elkhart, Ind./Memorial), who each tallied 19 kills. Sears registered her 19 kills on just 39 attacks, hitting at a .308 clip for the match, while also pacing Valpo with three blocks. Sara Hughes (San Antonio, Texas/Perrysburg [Ohio] H.S.) dished out 45 assists and chipped in nine digs. Brittany Malicoat (Elkhart, Ind./Memorial), the reigning Horizon League Defensive Player of the Week, led Valpo for the 48th straight time by recording 20 digs.
Marshall was led by Kelly-Anne Billingy, who picked up 22 kills on .395 hitting, the only Thundering Herd player in double figures in kills. Elizabeth Fleming had a solid all-around night, tallying 43 assists, 12 digs and five blocks, while Maggie Arias led three Marshall players in double figures in digs with 13.
Valparaiso hit at a .237 clip for the match, compared with the .137 hitting of Marshall (5-4). The Crusaders also enjoyed a big advantage from the service line, picking up 11 aces to the Thundering Herd’s three. Marshall did out-block Valpo by a 13-4 margin.
Valparaiso (5-1) looks to extend its winning streak to four on Friday evening, as the Popcorn Classic continues when the Crusaders host Indiana at the Athletics-Recreation Center at 7 p.m. Earlier matches in the tournament will see Indiana facing Marshall at 11 a.m. and Western Michigan playing Marshall at 4:30 p.m. Valpo’s match, as all Crusader volleyball matches are, can be heard over the air on WVUR, 95.1 FM, and online at www.valpo.edu/athletics.