After splitting the first two sets, Valparaiso dropped sets three and four to Milwaukee as the Panthers took a 3-1 (25-22, 23-25, 25-19, 25-13) victory over the Crusaders Saturday afternoon in Milwaukee, Wis.
“We are a very road-weary team right now, but we’re not going to make any excuses,” said Crusader head coach Carin Avery. “We just are not playing consistent volleyball right now. We have been either a really good team or a really bad team, and we need to find a happy medium.”
Valparaiso jumped out to a 3-0 lead in the opening set, but the Panthers took the lead for good in the opener at 6-5. Milwaukee would extend its lead out to as many as seven points at 23-16, at which point the Crusaders went on a 6-2 spurt and staved off five set points to close to within 24-22. But a Valpo attack error gave Milwaukee the opening set.
The second set was much tighter, featuring 17 ties and eight lead changes, and neither team held more than a three-point edge at any point in the frame. The teams were tied at every point from 13 through 22, and after a bad set by the Crusaders gave Milwaukee a 23-22 edge, Angie Porché (Lynwood, Ill./Thornton Fractional South) came up with a kill to knot the frame up at 23. A Panther ball handling error gave Valpo set point, and Porché came through with another kill to send the match into the break tied at one set apiece.
But that was as close as the Crusaders would get, as early runs by Milwaukee in both the third and fourth sets would put them away quickly. The Panthers put together a 6-0 spurt at 3-3 in the third, not letting Valpo any closer than three points the rest of the way, and started the fourth set on a 7-1 run to put away the match.
“Every aspect of the game, we’re struggling in right now,” said Avery. “And that all shows up in our hitting percentages. When you see three or four players hitting at .100 or below, that’s a sign that we’re not playing solid all-around volleyball and you’re not going to win many matches like that.”
Porché led the Crusaders with 15 kills and added ten digs for a double-double, while Katie Layman (LaPorte, Ind./New Prairie), who started in the middle for Valpo for the first time in 2008, hit .450 with ten kills and added a pair of blocks. Brittany Malicoat (Elkhart, Ind./Memorial) led all players with 21 digs and Allison Sears (Elkhart, Ind./Memorial) paced the Valpo block with four rejections.
“It was great to see Katie take advantage of her playing time today,” said Avery. “She did an excellent job in the middle for us, especially offensively.”
Becky Peters paced Milwaukee (10-4, 3-0 Horizon) with 15 kills, while Natalie Schmitting hit .647 with 12 kills and nine blocks for the Panthers. Lauren Felsing led UWM with 16 digs.
Valparaiso (7-5, 0-3 Horizon) steps out of league play and concludes a 13-match road trip to open the season on Tuesday evening when the Crusaders travel to take on Bradley on the campus of Illinois Central College in East Peoria, Ill. First serve is slated for 7 p.m., and all the action can be heard live on WVUR, 95.1 FM, Valparaiso and online at www.valpoathletics.com.