Valparaiso was unable to slow down Butler’s offensive attack on Friday evening, as the Crusaders fell 3-1 (25-23, 25-27, 25-22, 25-17) to the Bulldogs in Horizon League action in Indianapolis, Ind.
Butler got out to a big advantage in the opening set, jumping out to a quick 10-4 lead. But the Crusaders immediately turned things around, reeling off six straight points, including two kills by Angie Porché (Lynwood, Ill./Thornton Fractional South) to kick off a 12-3 run that put Valpo in front 16-13.
Butler came up with back-to-back points to move within one at 16-15, and following eight straight sideouts, took advantage of a Crusader attack error to move into a 20-20 tie. Valpo responded with kills by Porché and Katie Layman (LaPorte, Ind./New Prairie) to go ahead 22-20 and force a Bulldog timeout, but Butler scored two straight out of the stoppage to force the Crusaders to use a timeout of their own. Out of that break, Valpo used a Butler attack error to move ahead 23-22, but the Bulldogs scored the final three points of the set on a pair of kills and a block to take the opener.
The second set started out with ten straight sideouts before turning into a frame of runs in the middle portion. Butler scored four straight points to take an 8-5 advantage, but the Crusaders responded with seven consecutive points of their own, including three kills from Layman, to pull ahead 13-8. The Bulldogs looked to take control, however, reeling off 13 of the next 18 points to make it 21-17 Butler.
As they’ve done so often this year, though, the Crusaders rallied from a late-set deficit. A kill by Layman was followed by back-to-back terminations from Porché to cut the lead down to 21-20. Following three straight sideouts, Layman and Tara Diebler (Indianapolis, Ind./Franklin Central) posted kills and Taylor Root (Jenison, Mich./Jenison) came up with a service ace to give Valpo set point at 24-23. The Crusaders’ first two set point opportunities came up empty, but a kill by Katie Britton (Mishawaka, Ind./Marian) gave Valpo a third chance which it converted on a kill by Diebler to send the match into intermission at a set apiece.
The third set saw the Crusaders gain the quick advantage, putting up six straight points after Butler earned the opening point of the frame. While the Bulldogs would immediately answer with a 5-1 spurt, Valpo maintained the lead all the way up through 19-18. At that point, the Bulldogs came up with back-to-back points to go ahead 20-19, but Porché posted a pair of kills and Britton and Layman combined on a rejection over the next four points to put the lead back on Valpo’s side at 22-20.
But the block by the Katies would prove to be the Crusaders’ last point of the set, as Butler rattled off the final four points of the frame, closing the set with back-to-back kills from Stephanie Steele. The Bulldogs carried the momentum over into the fourth set, jumping out to a 13-6 lead halfway through the final frame. Valpo scored the next three points, but would get no closer than four the rest of the way.
“I thought that tonight’s match really came down to our inability to block balls,” said Crusader head coach Carin Avery. “We weren’t able to block many attacks and we often weren’t even getting good touches, which puts a lot of pressure on our backcourt defensively. After a while, it wears on your defense and makes for some poor decision making. It also makes it hard to keep yourself in the game offensively when there’s so much constant pressure from the other side’s offense.”
The Crusaders were led by 15 kills from Porché, while Diebler put down 13 terminations on .364 hitting and Layman added ten kills on .381 hitting. Kim Bukowski (Waukesha, Wis./West) handed out 40 assists on the night, while also posting a team-best 14 digs for a double-double. Root chipped in 12 digs and Jenny Pokorny (Geneva, Ill./Geneva) registered 11 of her own. Porché tallied eight digs, the second of which was the 1,000th dig of her illustrious career.
Jessica Wolfe tallied a match-high 19 kills on .341 hitting in the winning effort for Butler (19-11, 8-4 Horizon). Porshia Allen contributed 13 kills and 17 digs, while Kelsey Labrum hit .692 with ten kills for the Bulldogs. Katie Daprile recorded a match-best 19 digs on the back line.
“Another key was that we didn’t win the serve and pass game tonight,” said Avery. “Butler was serving more aggressively and got us out of system more than we were able to get them out of system. But it comes down to a lack of an answer defensively, as you’re not going to win too many matches allowing a team to hit above .300.”
Valparaiso (17-8, 9-3 Horizon) returns to the ARC Saturday night to begin its final homestand of the season. The first of four straight home matches sees the Crusaders welcome Oakland at 7 p.m. All the action can be heard live on WVUR, 95.1 FM, Valparaiso and online at www.valpoathletics.com, which will also have links for live video through the Horizon League Network, as well as live stats.