Valparaiso won each of the first two sets Friday evening against preseason Big East favorite Louisville, which entered the weekend receiving votes in the AVCA Coaches Top 25 poll, and ended up defeating the Cardinals, three sets to two, at Indiana’s adidas Classic in Bloomington, Ind. The win is the second for the Crusader squad over Big East foes in the past week, after Valpo downed Notre Dame on its home court on Sunday. Valpo dropped its opening match of the tournament to the host Hoosiers earlier Friday afternoon.
“What a tale of two teams our fans got to see today,” said Crusader head coach Carin Avery. “In less than a four-hour span, we played the worst we have all year in losing to Indiana, and then to get right back on the court and play like we did against a team as tall and talented as Louisville really shows the mental toughness of our team. This is another big win for our program to go along with the Notre Dame win earlier this week.”
A tight first set opened the Crusaders’ contest against the Cardinals, as the frame featured ten ties and four lead changes. Louisville opened an early 11-6 edge, forcing the Crusaders to use their first timeout, but Valpo rebounded with a 9-3 spurt to take a 15-14 advantage.
The Crusaders extended their lead out to three points at 21-18 before Louisville rallied with five of the next seven to tie the set at 23. Valpo took another timeout and came out of the huddle with a vengeance, as first Jill Meyer (Crystal Lake, Ill./South) and then Angie Porché (Lynwood, Ill./Thornton Fractional South) registered kills to give Valpo the opening set.
The second set was a set of runs. It was Valpo with the 11-6 lead nearing the halfway point of the frame, but eight of the next nine points were scored by Louisville as the Cardinals gained a 14-12 advantage. Once again, Valpo came out of a timeout refocused, scoring 11 of the next 14 points to approach victory in the second set at 23-17.
The Cardinals would not fold quietly, tallying the next four points to cut the Valpo lead to just two points. But again Porché came up huge at the net, registering one kill to give Valpo set point, and then following a block by Louisville, coming up with another termination to send the Crusaders into the in-game break up two sets.
Louisville stepped up its game, however, coming up with wins in the third and fourth sets to tie the match at two sets apiece. Valpo found itself within one point at 10-9 in the third, but the Cardinals put the frame out of reach by scoring six of the next eight points. The Crusaders were also close at the halfway point of the fourth set, as a kill by Allison Sears (Elkhart, Ind./Memorial) pulled Valpo within 14-13, but Louisville ended the set on an 11-2 spurt to send the match to the decisive fifth set.
The Cardinals got out to the early lead in the fifth, as a Valpo hitting error and two Louisville blocks gave the Cardinals the 3-1 lead. But the Crusaders responded emphatically with a huge run. Tara Newton (Indianapolis, Ind./Franklin Central) started the big run with a kill, and Sears followed with back-to-back terminations to give Valpo the 4-3 advantage. After a Cardinal kill, Val Bollenbacher (Bremen, Ind./Bremen) responded with a kill of her own, followed by yet another rally-ender from Sears.
Two Louisville attack errors combined with another kill from Bollenbacher capped the 8-1 spurt and gave the Crusaders a 9-4 edge in the race to 15. From there, Valpo held steady, especially on the back line, where Brittany Malicoat (Elkhart, Ind./Memorial) tallied eight digs in the final set, as the teams traded sideouts for ten points in a row. Bollenbacher ended an extended rally at 13-9 with a huge kill to give the Crusaders five match points, and an attack error by Louisville finished off the victory for Valpo.
“Our mental toughness really showed up in that final set,” said Avery. “To be ahead two sets against Louisville and then lose the next two, I was really happy to see us bounce back and side out eight of nine times in the final set. Everyone did a great job of stepping up and finalizing the long rallies, and I thought Val’s kill on the next-to-last play was huge for us. Brittany, especially, really stepped up on the back line for us in the final set and made some critical digs.”
The Crusaders were led offensively by Porché, who tallied 23 kills and also picked up ten digs for her fifth straight double-double to begin the year. Sears added 18 kills while hitting at a .325 clip, while Bollenbacher chipped in 14 kills and ten digs. Kim Bukowski (Waukesha, Wis./West) dished out 32 assists, while Jenny Pokorny Malicoat put up a match-best 22 digs in the back row. (Geneva, Ill./Geneva) handed out 24 helpers of her own.
“Angie, again, continues to do a great job of bringing it every match for us,” said Avery. “Allison also had another outstanding match, coming up with quite a few kills in the final set. Also, when you’re playing against a team as tall as Louisville, the only way you’re going to win matches like that is with great setting. Kim did a great job getting our hitters one-on-one with their blockers, with 40% of her sets getting killed), and when Jenny came in, our offense didn’t skip a beat.”
In the early match, Indiana got out to the early lead in the opening set, taking an 11-7 advantage on the back of three early kills to go with a solo block from Erica Short. Valpo responded with a quick 5-0 spurt to go ahead by a 12-11 count, capped by a kill from Porché.
But that was the last lead the Crusaders would enjoy in the set, as Indiana reeled off seven of the next eight points to go ahead 18-13. A kill by Pokorny and a service ace and kill from Porché brought the Crusaders back to within three points at 19-16, but the Hoosiers closed out the set with six straight points to take the opener.
The second set was much more tightly contested, featuring 14 tie scores to go along with three lead changes. It was the Crusaders who started on the right foot, going ahead 7-4 early while getting kills from Sears and Katie Britton (Mishawaka, Ind./Marian). Indiana crawled back to tie the set at nine, and in a display of back-and-forth volleyball, the teams sided out 11 straight times before the Hoosiers committed a hitting error to give Valpo a 16-14 advantage.
Indiana responded with six of the next eight points, however, to go ahead by a 20-18 margin. A Valpo timeout quelled the run, leading to sideouts on each of the next six serves before the Crusaders strung together three of the next four points to tie the match at 24. But Short put up back-to-back kills to close out the second set, and Indiana led start-to-finish in the finale to complete the sweep.
Porché paced Valpo in the early match, finishing with ten kills and ten digs. Malicoat led the Crusaders with 13 digs, while Pokorny handed out 16 assists in the opener.
Valparaiso (4-1) concludes play at the adidas Classic Saturday, taking on ACC foe Wake Forest at 11:30 a.m. CDT. You can catch all the action on WVUR, 95.1 FM, Valparaiso, and live stats will be available at www.valpoathletics.com.