Thanks to another record-shattering defensive performance, the Valparaiso University volleyball team is headed back to the NCAA Tournament after downing Oral Roberts in the Mid-Continent Conference Tournament Championship Match, 30-26, 30-28, 28-30, 30-15 Sunday at the Athletics-Recreation Center. The win gives Valpo three straight Mid-Con regular season and tournament championships.
After a back-and-forth first three games, the Brown and Gold got nine blocks in the decisive fourth game, winning four of their final six points via the block. Fittingly, it was a block by Jessie Fox
(Granger, Ind./Penn) and Lauren Moulton
(Elgin, Ill./Larkin) that ended the match and sent the Valpo bench into a frenzy. Fox finished with eight blocks Sunday, and coupled with her 11 blocks Saturday set a new Mid-Con Tournament record with 19 blocks over the two matches. Four of Fox's eight blocks Sunday came in the fourth game, and the junior was named to the All-Tournament Team for the second-straight season.
Senior Liz Mikos
(Dundee, Ill./Jacobs), Valpo's all-time blocks leader and the Mid-Con's co-Defensive Player of the Year, also had a major hand in the effort, tallying nine blocks, three solo, on Sunday en route to being named the tournament's Most Valuable Player. Mikos had a team-high 13 kills Sunday, hitting a match best .417 after leading the team with 11 kills on Saturday.
Game one Sunday started with the Golden Eagles on fire, opening up a quick 5-1 lead before Valpo came roaring back with four straight points. The game was still even at 25 when Valpo rattled off three straight points, including a solo block by Mikos, and closed it on a Tiffany Meikle
(Cottage Grove, Wis./Monona Grove) solo block, just the second of the sophomore's career. Meikle played a sensational match Sunday, putting down eight kills on 23 swings without a single attack error. Forced into a starting role with Amy Palash
(Winfield, Ill./Saint Francis) sidelined, Meikle also had 15 digs and two blocks, and was named to the All-Tournament Team.
The second and third games were again nip and tuck throughout, with Valpo prevailing in game two and Oral Roberts taking game three by identical 30-28 scores.
Senior Jessi Novak
(Anigo, Wis./Antigo) was one of four Crusaders with double-digit kills on the afternoon, finishing with 12 along with 13 digs, her eighth double-double of the year. Moulton and Mikos had 13 kills apiece, while Fox chipped in twelve. Freshman libero Brittany Marks
(Elkhart, Ind./Memorial) had a match-high 22 digs, one of five Crusaders with at least 12 digs, and senior Katie Bova
(Milwaukee, Wis./Divine Savior Holy Angels) had four blocks to go with 51 assists.
During the weekend, the Brown and Gold set numerous tournament records, most notably shattering the previous mark of 28, set by Valpo last season, for team blocks in a tournament with 33. The Crusaders' 19 blocks Sunday tied for the most all-time in a four-game tourney match. Individually, seniors Mikos and Moulton, who had seven blocks Sunday, are first and second respectively in career tournament blocks. Mikos leads her teammate by 11 with 44 blocks.
Ori Zuzic led Oral Roberts with 23 kills and 17 digs, and Jackie Oliveira ad
ded 17 kills and 16 digs. Zuzic and Oliveira were both named to the All-Tournament Team, along with Fox, Meikle, Mikos, IUPUI's Casey Chrzastowski and Western Illinois' Jenna Yurs.
Before Valpo finds out where they will play in the NCAA Tournament, they will close out the regular season in Milwaukee, Wis. at the MU Battle for the Bird, November 25 and 26. They open the tournament Friday at 4:00 p.m. against Fairfield before taking on host Marquette Saturday at 7:00 p.m.
NCAA Tournament pairings will be announced Sunday, November 27.
Sunday's box score