Valparaiso looked for the upset on Friday evening in Madison, Wis., but in the end Notre Dame escaped with a 30-21, 20-30, 30-28, 30-20 victory over the Crusaders in the First Round of the NCAA Tournament.
The loss snapped Valpo's nine-match winning streak while the Fighting Irish avenged a regular season loss to the Crusaders.
Valpo opened the match scoring three of the first four points. A block by Jessie Fox (Granger, Ind./Penn H.S.) and Lauren Moulton (Elgin, Ill./Larkin H.S.) started the scoring, while Fox added a pair of kills. Notre Dame scored seven of the next eight points, including three straight blocks at the net to take an 8-4 advantage. The lead continued to fluctuate between three and five points until the Fighting Irish scored five straight points to build a 20-11 advantage. The lead grew to 11, 25-14, before Valpo began to rally. The Crusaders scored five of the next six points, including back-to-back kills by Moulton to close within 26-19. Three straight points, including a pair of kills by Adrianna Stasiuk, pulled Notre Dame within match point. Valpo scored a pair of points late, but an Emily Loomis and Lauren Brewster block, the eighth of the game for the Fighting Irish, closed the game with Notre Dame winning 30-21. Brewster was involved in seven of the eight blocks.
Moulton led the Crusaders in game one with six kills, while Fox added four. Valpo hit just .022 in the opening game, while Notre Dame hit .297 with 17 kills. Stasiuk had five, while Lauren Kelbley hit .571 with four more kills and Lauren Brewster added four kills. Sara Silcox (Michigan City, Ind./Michigan City H.S.) led the Brown and Gold with six digs, while Meg Henican had eight for the Fighting Irish.
Game two was all Crusaders. Valpo jumped in front of the game from the first two points with kills by Katie Bova (Milwaukee, Wis./Divine Savior Holy Angels H.S.) and Moulton and never trailed. The Crusaders and Irish traded points throughout the early going. With Valpo in front 7-6, the Crusaders added to the lead taking advantage of Notre Dame miscues to build a 13-8 lead. Two straight Notre Dame points cut the lead to three before Valpo made its big run. The Crusaders scored eight of the next nine points, including three kills by Liz Mikos (Dundee, Ill./Jacobs H.S.) to build a commanding 21-11 lead. A mini 4-1 run by Notre Dame closed the lead to 27-20. Three straight kills by Amy Palash (Winfield, Ill./Saint Francis H.S.), Bova, and Fox closed the game. Valpo's 30-20 win marked the first-ever game victory for the Brown and Gold in NCAA Tournament action, as the Crusaders fell to Nebraska 3-0 in their only other tournament appearance.
Palash hit .556 with five kills in game two, as Valpo hit .262 as a team. Silcox and Lindsey Moore (Waukarusa, Ind./Penn H.S.) each had seven digs. Brewster had five kills for Notre Dame, which hit just .133 as a team. Valpo found its way around Notre Dame's block in game two, as the Fighting Irish were unable to reject a shot. Six Fighting Irish service errors also aided Valpo's cause.
Runs marked game three. For the first time in the match, Notre Dame jumped in front from point one, and the Crusaders could never gain a tie or the lead. With the Fighting Irish leading 7-3, Valpo scored four straight points to tie the game. The Irish responded with four points of their own. A Bova kill brought the Brown and Gold back within one at 12-11 before Notre Dame scored four straight yet again, keyed by a pair of kills by Carolyn Cooper. Notre Dame maintained a 20-16 lead before Valpo made another run. Kills by Bova and Mikos, along with two from Palash helped bring the Crusaders within one at 22-21. Notre Dame scored four straight one more time to take a 26-21 lead. The Crusaders were again resilient, scoring four points of their own to cut the deficit to one at 26-25 behind kills from Palash, Bova, and Moulton. Notre Dame scored three of the next four to reach game point. Mikos helped Valpo fight off the first one with a kill, and a set error brought Valpo to 29-28 before an Emily Loomis block gave Notre Dame the 30-28 win.
Valpo tallied 22 kills in game three, but 13 errors hindered the attack. Mikos and Palash each had five, while Bova added four in five attempts. Palash registered ten of Valpo's 32 digs in game three. Stasiuk led Notre Dame with four kills in the game, while Henican picked up 11 digs. Notre Dame hit .212 with four blocks.
Notre Dame jumped in front 6-2 in game four. The Crusaders clawed back, and after kills by Mikos and Novak were within two at 9-7. Notre Dame stretched the lead back to four, 14-10, after a Stasiuk kill. Moulton answered with one of her own, and after a rally in which each team continued to dig each others attempts, Jessi Novak (Antigo, Wis./Antigo H.S.) finally put the ball down to cut the lead to two once again. A 7-3 Irish run put Notre Dame in front by six, 21-15, their largest advantage in the game. Following a Notre Dame blocking error, a Fox kill and a Bova ace pulled Valpo within three, 21-18. The Irish took over at that point, utilizing a 9-2 run to close the match with a 30-20 victory. Notre Dame scored the match's final six points.
Notre Dame hit .362 in game four with 18 kills and just one error. Emily Loomis had six kills in the game while Ashley Tarutis registered six digs. Valpo posted just a .114 hitting percentage in the final game.
Bova finished the match with a triple-double, dishing out 44 assists to go along with ten kills and 18 digs. Moulton added 14 kills, while Palash added 12 kills and 19 digs. Fox had 11 kills, while Mikos finished the night with 11 more, hitting .296. Silcox led Valpo with 21 digs, while Novak added 15 and Moore 13.
Notre Dame was led by Brewster, Stasiuk, and Loomis all with 14 kills. Brewster had 11 blocks, while Loomis added ten more. Henican had a match-high 27 digs.
Valpo hit .132 for the match with 64 kills, while the Fighting Irish hit .249 with 63 kills. Valpo outdug Notre Dame 89-72.
Valparaiso finishes the season 29-5, the best record in school history. Notre Dame advances to the Second Round with a 21-8 mark.