Valparaiso’s resilience was showcased Saturday at the Shamrock Invitational in Notre Dame, Ind., as the Crusaders, already trailing by one set, faced two IPFW set points in the second frame. But the Crusaders fought off the Mastodons, won the second set, and rode the momentum all the way to a 3-1 (20-25, 27-25, 25-19, 25-20) victory, Valpo’s first win over IPFW since 2004.
“IPFW made some crucial errors late in the second set that gave us chances to win the set,” said Crusader head coach Carin Avery. “We were able to take advantage of their errors and come from behind to take the set. It was definitely the turning point of the match.”
The Crusaders jumped out on top early in the opening set, running out to a quick 8-3 edge on the back of Angie Porché (Lynwood, Ill./Thornton Fractional South), who posted two kills and three service aces in the opening run. The Mastodons would not let Valpo pull any further away, however, earning a tie at 11-11. The Crusaders maintained the advantage as late as 19-18, but IPFW went on a set-closing 7-1 spurt to take the opener.
It was IPFW which took the early edge in the second set, taking as much as a four-point lead. Valpo utilized a mid-set 9-3 spurt, keyed by three kills from Allison Sears (Elkhart, Ind./Memorial), to take an 18-16 edge. But the Mastodons rallied back and earned their first set point at 24-23. Porché tallied a kill to even up the frame at 24, but IPFW responded with another kill for its second set point. A service error gave the Crusaders life, however, and Porché came through with another termination, followed by a combined block with Tara Newton (Indianapolis, Ind./Franklin Central) to send the match into the in-game break knotted up at one set apiece.
The third set was tight early, with the Mastodons holding the lead as late as 8-7. But the Crusaders went on an 8-3 run to go up by four points, 15-11, at the media timeout, and never let the lead fall under three the remainder of the set. Valpo jumped all over IPFW early in the final set, taking a quick 13-4 advantage, and cruised to the victory.
“The big game-changer for us was bringing in Jenny Pokorny (Geneva, Ill./Geneva) in the third set in the front row for Kim Bukowski (Waukesha, Wis./West),” said Avery. “IPFW was getting some easy kills attacking Kim on the block, and with Jenny coming in to set and block in the front row, that limited their ability to get those easy points on the outside.”
Valparaiso was led on both sides of the ball by Porché, who posted 18 kills on .371 hitting and added her second consecutive double-double with a team-best 15 digs. Midway through the match, Porché moved into sixth place on Valpo’s career kills chart and now has 1,095 career terminations. Sears added 14 kills on .312 hitting to lead a Crusader offense which hit .255 for the match.
“It’s been really exciting to see the combination of Angie and Allison together on the court again,” said Avery. “The two of them were really starting to hit their stride last year before Allison got hurt, and to have that duo back on the court really helps our offensive attack.”
Brittany Malicoat (Elkhart, Ind./Memorial) added 14 digs in the back row, reaching double figures in digs for the 53rd consecutive match, while Val Bollenbacher (Bremen, Ind./Bremen) chipped in 12 digs. Newton led the Crusaders at the net with four blocks, while also adding eight kills on .421 hitting.
Valparaiso (2-0) plays for the Shamrock Invitational championship Sunday afternoon, as the Crusaders take on the host Fighting Irish at 1 p.m. CDT. All the action can be heard live on WVUR, 95.1 FM, Valparaiso, and live stats, audio and video are available online at www.valpoathletics.com.