Junior outside hitter Angie Porché (Lynwood, Ill./Thornton Fractional South) broke Valparaiso’s career kills record to give the Crusaders match point in the fourth set Tuesday evening at DePaul and then registered another kill on Valpo’s second attempt as the Crusaders downed the Blue Demons, 3-1 (25-18, 28-26, 20-25, 25-22) in Chicago, Ill.
Porché picked up a match-best 20 kills on the night on .304 hitting, including ten kills alone in the deciding fourth set. The 20 kills give her 1,507 career terminations, passing former Crusader Lori Barton for the top spot on the chart with at least six matches remaining in her junior campaign. She also moved up to a tie for eighth on Valpo’s single-season kills chart with 443 kills this year alone.
“Congratulations to Angie for breaking the school record for kills,” said Crusader head coach Carin Avery. “To do so as a junior so early in her career shows how dominant she has been. She has made a huge impact on our program, and is very deserving of this mark because of all the hard work she puts in to get better in every aspect of the game.”
Valpo jumped out to an early 5-1 lead in the opening set, but DePaul quickly rallied to knot up the frame at six apiece. The teams traded sideouts before the Crusaders went on a massive 9-1 run mid-set to go ahead 16-8, keyed by multiple kills from Val Bollenbacher (Bremen, Ind./Bremen) and Jill Meyer (Crystal Lake, Ill./South). The Blue Demons would get no closer than six the rest of the way, and Allison Sears (Elkhart, Ind./Memorial) eventually closed out the opener with her fifth kill of the frame.
The second set was much more tightly contested, featuring a season-high 21 tie scores to go along with seven lead changes. Neither team led by more than two points during the set, but DePaul looked poised to take the set after getting a kill to go up 23-21. Valpo answered immediately, however, as Meyer registered a kill followed by a block from Sears and Bollenbacher to tie it up at 23.
A kill by Sears on the next point gave Valpo its first set point opportunity at 24-23, but a Blue Demon kill followed by a block turned the tables and presented DePaul with a set point at 25-24. Bollenbacher stepped up with another kill though, and after another Blue Demon termination gave them a second chance, it was Sears with a kill to keep the Crusaders in the set. At 26-26, Porché rotated back into the front row and recorded a big kill to give Valpo its second opportunity, and a DePaul hitting error sent the Crusaders into the in-game break up two sets.
The Crusaders looked like they would complete the sweep with their play early on in the third set, going ahead 9-6. But DePaul would not go down quietly, rolling off six straight points to move into the lead, 12-9. Valpo got kills by Katie Layman (LaPorte, Ind./New Prairie) and Meyer out of a timeout to close back to within 12-11, but the Blue Demons reeled off four more consecutive tallies and rolled to the third-set victory.
The fourth set was back and forth early and was tied at eight points apiece before kills by Bollenbacher and Sears started a 7-2 Crusader run which featured two kills each from Porché and Tara Newton (Indianapolis, Ind./Franklin Central) to give Valpo a 15-10 advantage. The Crusaders never let the Blue Demons any closer than two points the rest of the way as Porché led Valpo to 22 kills in the set to close out the match.
“DePaul’s record is really deceptive, because three of their wins have come in last seven matches,” said Avery. “You can tell they’re playing some pretty good volleyball right now. I thought we did a good job offensively, especially looking at our hitters’ hitting percentages. I also thought we didn’t go a good job serving, we couldn’t take them out of system, and we struggled on defensive transition, which was the main reason we lost the third set.”
Porché was backed up offensively by seniors Meyer and Sears, who each posted 13 kills apiece. Meyer put down those 13 kills on a scintillating .579 hitting percentage, while Sears swung at a .310 clip as the Crusader offense hit .286 for the match. Kim Bukowski (Waukesha, Wis./West) handed out 55 assists. On the back row, Brittany Malicoat (Elkhart, Ind./Memorial) registered a match-best 14 digs while Haley Wise (Mishawaka, Ind./Mishawaka) added 13 digs of her own.
DePaul (4-21) was paced by 17 kills from Sarah Cullen, while Jacie Fiedler registered 14 kills on .560 hitting. Molly Creek tallied a match-high five blocks.
Valparaiso (19-6) is now just one victory shy of winning 20 matches for the seventh straight season, and will return to Horizon League action with a weekend set in Chicago starting with a 7 p.m. match Friday at Loyola.