Valparaiso opened the season with a victory for the fourth consecutive year, coming back from an eight-point deficit in the first set on its way to earning a 3-0 (25-23, 25-14, 25-11) sweep of Nevada Friday afternoon at the Shamrock Invitational in Notre Dame, Ind.
“This was a great first win for us,” said Crusader head coach Carin Avery. “You never know what to expect coming out for the first match of the season, and we did a great job after a rough start coming out with the victory.”
With the length of the sets shortened to 25 points from 30 points this season, the Crusaders faced a tough task in the opening set, trailing 18-10. But the Crusader offense took over from there, tallying 10 kills over the set’s final 20 points, led by three apiece from Jill Meyer (Crystal Lake, Ill./South) and Angie Porché (Lynwood, Ill./Thornton Fractional South), to come from behind and win the opener 25-23. Porché posted eight kills overall in the first set, while Meyer tallied five terminations on just six swings.
“I thought our nerves showed quite a bit in the first set,” said Avery. “But we made a decision to let the players play through some of the nerves and errors, and they really responded well. The players all stepped up and put together a great effort in the second half of the set to complete the comeback.”
Valpo found the last two sets much smoother than the opener. After playing even for the opening portion of the second frame, the Crusaders put together an 8-2 spurt to pull ahead by six points and never led by less than five the rest of the way, closing the set with five straight points to go up 2-0. The finale saw Valpo put up nine straight points early on and the Crusaders rolled from there, holding the Wolf Pack to a -.250 hitting percentage and just three kills in the set as Valpo earned the sweep.
“The end of the first set was the key to the match,” said Avery. “Coming back to win that set turned the tide of the match, and we took the momentum we gained from that win and kept it going the rest of the way.”
Porché paced the Crusader attack, racking up 13 kills while also registering ten digs. Val Bollenbacher (Bremen, Ind./Bremen) added eight kills and six digs, while Kim Bukowski (Waukesha, Wis./West) handed out 35 assists. Defensively, Brittany Malicoat (Elkhart, Ind./Memorial) led the way with 13 digs, while Tara Newton (Indianapolis, Ind./Franklin Central) recorded three blocks.
Brittni Yates led Nevada (0-1) with six kills, as the Crusader defense held the Wolf Pack to -.020 hitting for the match. Lauren Kelly tallied ten digs to lead Nevada defensively.
Valparaiso (1-0) continues play at the Shamrock Invitational tomorrow, taking on IPFW at 4 p.m. CDT. You can hear all the action on WVUR, 95.1 FM, Valparaiso, or go online to www.valpoathletics.com for live stats and audio.