Valparaiso hit at a .369 clip Wednesday evening, its second-best single-match performance of the season, as the Crusaders swept Indiana State (25-16, 25-23, 25-16) in non-league action at the Athletics-Recreation Center to extend their winning streak to six.
“With it being our first mid-week match out of league since we started league play, you never quite know how your team will respond, and I thought we did a really good job tonight,” said Crusader head coach Carin Avery. “We had a definite game plan going into tonight to serve aggressive, because Indiana State is hard to stop offensively when it’s in tempo, and I thought we really did a good job executing the plan. Even though we had seven service errors, we had seven aces as well and also took them out of system a lot, which was a big key to our win tonight.”
The Crusader offense outkilled the Sycamores 51-32, led by stellar efforts from both Angie Porché (Lynwood, Ill./Thornton Fractional South), who had a match-high 15 kills on .448 hitting, and Tara Diebler (Indianapolis, Ind./Franklin Central), who hit a career-high .600 with 13 kills. Kim Bukowski (Waukesha, Wis./West) handed out 27 assists and tallied five kills on just seven swings, while Jenny Pokorny (Geneva, Ill./Geneva) also saw time at setter, dishing out 15 helpers.
“Tara and Angie both did an outstanding job for us tonight,” said Avery. “As our first middle and first outside, they are really our go-to players when we need points, and they both lived up to that tonight. Kim and Jenny also both did a great job running our offense and putting us in position to pick up kills.”
The Crusaders never trailed in the first set, but Indiana State forced five ties in the opening frame and was still within two points at 11-9. But Porché stepped up at that point, registering a pair of kills and a service ace during a 6-2 spurt that gave Valpo plenty of breathing room. The Sycamores would not get closer than five points the rest of the way, as the Crusaders hit at a .583 clip in the opening set and sided out on 15 of their 16 opportunities.
The second set was a much different story, with eight ties and four lead changes. Valpo held a slim 15-14 advantage before Indiana State went on a 6-1 run to take a 20-16 lead. The Crusaders still trailed by three at 22-19 until Diebler came up with a kill, followed by a service ace to bring Valpo back to within one point. Out of a timeout, ISU picked up a kill to move within two points of taking the set, but Porché took over, recording terminations on three straight points to move the lead back into the Crusaders’ column and give them set point at 24-23. A Sycamore attack error handed the set to Valpo, sending it into the intermission up two frames to none.
Diebler was the Crusaders’ catalyst on the scoreboard in the final set, picking up eight kills and a block in the third frame alone. In fact, she was in on each of Valpo’s first four points of the set, as the Crusaders never trailed in the finale. ISU was still close midway through the set at 13-10, but a quick four-point spurt on a Bukowski kill, a Haley Wise (Mishawaka, Ind./Mishawaka) service ace, and back-to-back Porché kills slammed the door on the Sycamores. Freshman Alyssa Updegrave (Trinity, Fla./J.W. Mitchell) made her Crusader debut serving match point, and fellow freshman Mary Dent (Long Grove, Ill./Von Steuben) came up with a solo block to close out the sweep.
Taylor Root (Jenison, Mich./Jenison) led the Crusader effort on the back line, as the reigning Horizon League Defensive Player of the Week picked up 11 digs. Pokorny chipped in eight digs, while Porché added seven. Diebler and Wise each tallied two of Valpo’s seven service aces.
“Our back row has done a really good job taking care of the ball recently, which is key to the offense running well,” said Avery. “Also, both Katie Layman (LaPorte, Ind./New Prairie) and Tara have been playing at a really high level in the middle lately, which I really feel is why we’ve done better as a team. We’ve gotten production out of a lot of players and we’re getting the ball to middles a lot better, which opens up a lot of other stuff for us offensively.”
Jodilynne Stoker led Indiana State (6-15) with seven kills and ten digs. Whitney Fromm handed out 23 assists as well.
Valparaiso (14-6) returns to action at the ARC Friday evening as Youngstown State comes to town. It will be ‘Dig Pink’ night, as the Crusader athletic department kicks off its annual department-wide breast cancer awareness fundraiser week. First serve is slated for 7 p.m., and all the action can be heard live on WVUR, 95.1 FM, Valparaiso and seen online on the Horizon League Network. Links for both the audio and video will be available through www.valpoathletics.com, which will also have a link for live stats.