Reigning Horizon League Offensive Player of the Week Allison Sears (Elkhart, Ind./Memorial) hit at a sizzling .571 clip with 17 kills, leading the Crusader offense as Valparaiso cruised to a 3-0 (25-18, 25-21, 25-13) sweep of IUPUI on Tuesday evening at the Athletics-Recreation Center.
“It is awesome to see Allison have back-to-back outstanding matches like her last two efforts,” said Crusader head coach Carin Avery. “She is really rounding into peak form now after struggling a little bit earlier in the year.”
Valpo, which entered the week atop the nation in kills/set and tied for first nationally in assists/set, continued its torrid offensive production Tuesday night, registering 49 kills on a season-best .342 hitting percentage. The Crusaders outkilled the Jaguars by 18 terminations, the eighth straight time Valpo has held an advantage of at least ten kills over its opposition.
Valpo took control of the first set early on, as after a tie at 5-5, the Crusaders scored 13 of the next 20 points to go ahead 18-12 and would not let the Jaguars get any closer than five points the rest of the way. Sears put away seven of her kills in the opener, while Brittany Malicoat (Elkhart, Ind./Memorial) tallied 11 digs in the first set to lead the Crusaders defensively.
The second set looked like it was going to be IUPUI’s to win, as the Jaguars were up 11-9 before reeling off a 6-1 run to take a 17-10 advantage and force the Crusaders to use both of their timeouts. But out of the second stoppage, an IUPUI service error gave Valpo the serve back, and the Crusaders took full advantage. A Jaguar attack error brought Valpo back to within five, and then Angie Porché (Lynwood, Ill./Thornton Fractional South) registered three consecutive kills to cut the deficit to two at 17-15.
Sears then took over offensively out of the middle, tallying back-to-back terminations to tie up the set, and after a service ace by Val Bollenbacher (Bremen, Ind./Bremen), Sears notched another kill to conclude the 9-0 Crusader run and put Valpo ahead by two. The Crusaders never relinquished the lead from that point, closing the set with three consecutive points to go into the in-game break up two sets.
The finale was tight midway through, with the Crusaders holding just a 13-11 lead after a service error. But it was all Valpo in the second half of the frame, as it scored 12 of the match’s final 14 points to close out the sweep. The Crusaders were able to play all 13 players in the sweep, with freshmen Katie Britton (Mishawaka, Ind./Marian) and Amy Groesbeck (Wheaton, Ill./North) seeing the first playing time of their career at the ARC in the victory.
“I loved the fact we were able to get everybody into the match and let our home crowd see some of our future talent,” said Avery. “This was the first time Amy and Katie have gotten to play at home, and it was great to see both of them produce (Amy two kills, Katie one kill), as they both have bright futures ahead of them, and hopefully our fans saw that tonight.”
Sears was backed up offensively by Porché, who closed the match with 14 kills on .343 hitting and moved into second place in Crusader history in kills with 1,432 terminations. Kim Bukowski (Waukesha, Wis./West) dished out 39 assists in the victory. On the defensive side of the ball, Malicoat finished with a match-best 19 digs, while Bollenbacher chipped in 11, as the Crusaders out-dug IUPUI, which entered the match as the NCAA’s leader in digs/set, by a 58-45 margin.
“I loved the fact we were able to out-dig one of the top digging teams in the nation,” said Avery. “We really put together a good match on the back line and our passing was on target today. I was also happy to see us out-block an opponent (six to four) for the first time in a while. When our block is working well, it takes some pressure off of our offense to score points.”
IUPUI (11-11) was led offensively by Kalyse Reimbold, who picked up 12 kills on .267 hitting, but she was the only Jaguar in double figures in the kills category. Chelsea Bastin picked up ten digs in the back row.
Valparaiso (14-6) returns to Horizon League play on Friday, Oct. 24 at the ARC when the Crusaders host Milwaukee, which comes into the match atop the league standings. First serve is set for 7 p.m., and all the action can be heard live on WVUR, 95.1 FM, Valparaiso and online at www.valpoathletics.com, which will also have links for live statistics and video.