In front of the largest home crowd in program history, Valparaiso fought back from a two-set deficit to force a decisive fifth frame, but Butler came out with the 3-2 (25-18, 25-16, 13-25, 18-25, 15-11) victory Saturday afternoon at the ARC. The loss snaps the Crusaders’ 11-match winning streak.
The match between Horizon League rivals was one of many activities held on Communiversity Day at Valparaiso on Saturday, helping to draw a record crowd of 1,236 fans to the ARC. The Crusaders’ previous record crowd occurred back in September of 2006, when 1,152 fans watched Valpo take on Oral Roberts.
“We put ourselves in a deep hole today, and we did it to ourselves,” said Crusader head coach Carin Avery. “We did not play good volleyball at all in the first two sets. When you're coming from behind like that, it takes a lot of energy, and at 8-7 in the fifth set, we just ran out of gas physically and mentally and never were able to rebound.”
The opening set on Saturday was tight throughout the first half, as the two sides played to a 12-12 tie at the midway point. Butler went on a 4-1 spurt to claim a three-point advantage and force a Crusader timeout, but the stoppage wouldn’t stop the Bulldogs’ momentum, as they scored nine of the final 14 points after the timeout to take the opener. Valpo got out to a 5-2 lead in the second set, but Butler responded with a 10-1 run to take control as the Bulldogs took the two sets to none lead into the locker room for the in-game break.
It looked like a completely different Crusader squad coming out of the locker room, as Valpo led start-to-finish in the third set. A 5-1 run early in the set took a 5-4 lead and extended it to five points at 10-5. The Bulldogs scored two straight to cut the advantage to three points, but another 5-1 spurt pushed the lead out to 15-8 and the Crusaders cruised to the win to keep the match going.
Butler held the advantage early in the fourth set, but a service error by the Bulldogs tied things at eight apiece and sent Sarah Dooms (Greenwood, Ind./Center Grove) back to the service line. Dooms registered a pair of aces in a 6-0 run to give the Crusaders a 14-8 advantage. Valpo would hold Butler at bay throughout the remainder of the set, and with the score 22-18, three kills by three different Crusaders sent to match to a decisive fifth set.
Valpo got out to an early 4-2 lead in the final set, but three straight points by the Bulldogs gave Butler a 5-4 advantage. The two teams traded sideouts until 8-7, when a Crusader attack error gave Butler a two-point edge. Katie Britton (Mishawaka, Ind./Mishawaka) responded with a kill of her own to make it 9-8, but three straight kills by Butler’s Jessica Wolfe pushed the Bulldog edge to four points, and the Crusaders would be unable to cut the lead under three the rest of the way.
Valpo hit just .198 as a team on Saturday afternoon, with four Crusaders finishing in double figures in kills. Britton led the way with 14 kills, while Tara Diebler (Indianapolis, Ind./Franklin Central) registered 12 kills and Amy Groesbeck (Wheaton, Ill./North) and Katie Layman (LaPorte, Ind./New Prairie) posted 10 apiece. Jenny Pokorny (Geneva, Ill./Geneva) approached a triple-double from the setter position with 44 assists, 20 digs and nine kills.
On the defensive side of the ball, Pokorny shared team-high honors with Taylor Root (Jenison, Mich./Jenison), as each tallied 20 digs. Dooms registered 16 digs, while fellow freshman Ariel Cudney (LaPorte, Ind./LaPorte) posted 15 digs and senior Andrea Balsis (Benton Harbor, Mich./Coloma) recorded 12 digs. Valpo posted nine total team blocks, with Groesbeck and Layman in on five apiece. Wolfe led Butler (6-6, 2-0 Horizon) with 21 kills and 18 digs, while Susan Lester and Katie Daprile each totaled 24 digs.
“You can always learn from a loss, and I think this will be good for us,” said Avery. “Hopefully this loss will refocus us, and we'll come into next weekend on the road against UIC ready to play from set one, which we didn't do today.”
Valparaiso (11-2, 1-1 Horizon) hits the road for the first time in the 2010 Horizon League campaign next Friday evening, as the Crusaders make the short trip to the Windy City to face UIC. First serve is slated for 7 p.m., and the match can be seen live on www.valpoathletics.com, which will also have a link for live stats.