Valparaiso closed out action at the adidas Classic Saturday afternoon in Bloomington, Ind. by taking down its second major-conference foe in as many days, defeating ACC opponent Wake Forest 3-1 (25-20, 26-28, 25-20, 25-20), led by 28 kills from Angie Porché (Lynwood, Ill./Thornton Fractional South), the second-most in a four-set match all-time at Valpo. The Crusaders finished the tournament with a 2-1 record, taking second place behind the host Hoosiers.
“I am proud of our girls for the way we closed out the weekend,” said Crusader head coach Carin Avery. “It is great for our program to come out of this tough tournament with a 2-1 record. We really got challenged by the three teams we faced, and facing three major-conference teams and beating two of them will really prepare us well when Horizon League play starts.”
The opening set was tight in the early stages, as the teams sided out 12 consecutive times early on before the Crusaders put together a 5-0 spurt that included kills from Porché and Tara Newton (Indianapolis, Ind./Franklin Central) along with a service ace by Kim Bukowski (Waukesha, Wis./West) to go ahead 12-8. Valpo’s lead did not drop below three points the remainder of the set, and they looked poised to take the opener after going up 23-17 on a Newton ace. The Demon Deacons closed back to within three with a 3-0 spurt, but kills by Val Bollenbacher (Bremen, Ind./Bremen) and Allison Sears (Elkhart, Ind./Memorial) closed out the win in the first frame.
The second set featured 15 ties and five lead changes. Valpo looked ready to go into the in-game break up two sets, as the Crusaders took a 19-15 advantage. But Wake Forest had other plans, reeling off four straight points to tie the frame at 19 and set up the dogfight to the end.
The Demon Deacons held the first set point at 24-23, but a Bollenbacher termination extended the set. Wake Forest gained the next set point opportunity as well, but Porché tallied back-to-back kills to give Valpo a 26-25 advantage. But the Demon Deacons’ Natalie Mullikin single-handedly turned the set Wake Forest’s way, as she picked up two straight kills and followed with a block to knot up the match at a set apiece.
The third set turned on a big mid-set run by the Crusaders. With Wake Forest leading 15-14, Jill Meyer (Crystal Lake, Ill./South) started the spurt with a kill, followed by a Sears termination and a Demon Deacon attack error which forced Wake to use a timeout.
After the stoppage, the Demon Deacons registered a kill to briefly stop the run, but the Crusaders kept the pressure on. Bollenbacher racked up back-to-back kills, and then combined with Sears on a big block before Porché capped the 7-1 run with a kill of her own. Wake Forest would cut the lead to three late in the set at 23-20, but Jenny Pokorny (Geneva, Ill./Geneva) converted a setter dump and Meyer tallied a kill to end the frame.
Valpo’s offense got the Crusaders out to a huge lead in the fourth set. Porché put down three early kills to go along with two rally-enders from Meyer and terminations by Newton and Bollenbacher as Valpo raced out to a 10-3 edge. The Crusader lead ballooned to as many as nine points in the set, and did not fall below five until Wake Forest put together three straight points to cut Valpo’s edge to 24-20. But Sears registered a big kill out of the middle to end the match and improve Valpo’s record to 5-1 on the season.
“We knew coming into this match that we needed to win the serve and pass game, because when Wake Forest can play in system, they’re very hard to defend,” said Avery. “I thought we definitely won that part of the match tonight, and we were able to get a lot of production out of a lot of different players.”
Porché’s 28 kills, which came on .357 hitting, trailed only Kathy Harrison’s effort against Butler on Nov. 4, 1992, when she registered 30 kills in a four-set match. It also was just one kill shy of the junior’s career high, and Porché passed Kelly Schoenhoft during the match for fifth place on Valpo’s all-time kills chart. She now sits at 1,182 career kills, just 13 shy of Lauren Moulton in fourth place.
But Porché wasn’t the only Crusader who excelled offensively on Saturday, as Bollenbacher made her presence felt as well. The junior ripped off 19 kills while hitting at a .368 clip, and also played well in the back line, picking up a season-best 14 digs for her third double-double of the 2008 campaign.
“Angie and Val both had fantastic matches today,” said Avery. “Not only with their play in the front row, but also in the back. They are both playing the most complete games of their respective careers to this point. Angie had one of the best weekends of her career, getting kills against some of the biggest blocks she’ll face all year. Val really stepped up her game today, and we’re looking to get her the ball more often moving forward if she can produce like this for us.”
Bukowski ran the Crusader offense to perfection Saturday, racking up 45 assists while setting at a .425 clip, the second straight match she has set at better than a .400 pace. Brittany Malicoat (Elkhart, Ind./Memorial) led the Crusaders in the back with a match-best 17 digs, while Haley Wise (Mishawaka, Ind./Mishawaka) contributed a season-high 11 digs. Sears led the Valpo block with four rejections.
“I thought Kim once again did a great job distributing the ball tonight,” said Avery. “Though Angie and Val got a majority of the swings, she did a good job mixing up the offense to keep Wake Forest off-balance and then going back to the outside when we needed a big point.”
Mullikin led Wake Forest (3-3) with 14 kills on .344 hitting while also picking up eight blocks at the net. Kadija Fornah and Kristin White each added 11 kills, while Lauren McIntyre led the Demon Deacons defense with nine rejections. Wake Forest enjoyed a large 17.5-5.5 advantage in the blocking department, but the Crusaders registered an astounding 33 more kills than the Demon Deacons. Valpo also out-dug its ACC counterpart by 11 in the winning effort.
Malicoat and Porché were named to the All-Tournament team, along with Mullikin, Louisville’s Justine Landy and Indiana’s Ashley Benson, Juli Pierce and tournament MVP Erica Short. Malicoat racked up 52 digs over the tournament’s three matches, leading the Crusaders in the category all three times, while Porché hit at a .257 clip while averaging more than five kills/set over the course of the tournament.
Valparaiso (5-1) looks to continue its hot start to the season next weekend at the Lady Topper Invitational in Bowling Green, Ky. The Crusaders will face Tennessee Tech and Furman on Friday before taking on the hosts from Western Kentucky Saturday afternoon.