Valparaiso had to venture out on the road for just the second time this month on Friday evening, but did not let the change of venue affect its play, winning for the tenth time in its last 11 matches in a 3-0 sweep (25-18, 25-20, 25-17) of Youngstown State in Youngstown, Ohio.
“We really played a great match tonight,” said Crusader head coach Carin Avery. “We did a lot of things well. We were very aggressive all night long, especially in our service game. We did a very good job keeping Youngstown State out of system, which was our game plan coming in. They have one of the best middles in the league, and I felt like we were able to take her out of the match a bit.”
The Crusader offense, which entered the week leading the nation in both kills/set and assists/set, continued to get the job done on Friday, as Valpo put up 52 kills on .270 hitting in the sweep and held a 19-kill advantage over Youngstown State (10-13, 3-9 Horizon). But the Crusader defense also did its job well, holding the Penguins to .186 hitting and outdigging YSU, 47-38.
All three sets played out similarly for the Crusaders, as Youngstown State never led later than 6-5 in any of the three frames. The Penguins were within one point at 11-10 in the opener until Valpo scored ten of the next 15 points to pull away. In the second set, it was a 10-3 Crusader run with the score tied at ten apiece that cemented the outcome, while in the final set, Valpo put together an early 7-2 spurt and never let the Penguins any closer than three.
“We played a very confident match tonight, something as a coach I’ve wanted to see for a while,” said Avery. “We had a goal coming in to not give up any long runs of five or six points in a row, and we were able to do that. We just did a very good job in every aspect of the game.”
Angie Porché (Lynwood, Ill./Thornton Fractional South) led the balanced Valpo offense with 14 kills and is now just 32 shy of Valpo’s all-time record in the category. While Porché paced the team in kills, each of the Crusaders’ other four primary hitters hit .290 or better for the match and picked up at least seven kills, keeping the Penguins off-balance all night. Allison Sears (Elkhart, Ind./Memorial) registered 12 kills, while Jill Meyer (Crystal Lake, Ill./South) picked up eight terminations and Val Bollenbacher (Bremen, Ind./Bremen) and Tara Newton (Indianapolis, Ind./Franklin Central) seven apiece. Kim Bukowski (Waukesha, Wis./West) dished out 42 assists in the sweep.
On the other side of the ball, Brittany Malicoat (Elkhart, Ind./Memorial) continued to add to her program-record dig total, registering 18 digs to extend her streak of matches with at least ten digs to 74 consecutive. Bollenbacher and Porché each recorded ten digs as well. At the net, Bollenbacher and Sears tied for team-high honors with three blocks.
Valparaiso (17-6, 8-4 Horizon) has now won six consecutive matches and over that span is 18-3 in sets played. The Crusaders will look to continue their roll Saturday afternoon at Cleveland State in a key league matchup at 3 p.m. Live audio is available at www.sportsjuice.com, while links to the audio as well as live stats will be offered at www.valpoathletics.com.