Valparaiso closed out play at the Bowling Green Best Western Invitational with a second-place finish Saturday, defeating DePaul in the opener 30-15, 30-22, 30-16, before falling in the nightcap to the host Falcons 18-30, 28-30, 30-28, 30-23, 15-10. Angie Porché (Lynwood, Ill./Thornton Fractional South) and Allison Sears (Elkhart, Ind./Memorial) represented the Crusaders on the All-Tournament Team.
“We had another great weekend,” said Crusader head coach Carin Avery. “We played at a very, very high level at times, which is very exciting as we head into conference play next weekend."
The Crusaders used a dominating offensive performance in the day’s opener against the Blue Demons to earn the sweep, hitting at a .425 clip for the match after swinging .426 in their first match of the tourney the previous night. They were led by Sears, who tallied 13 kills while hitting .579 for the match.
Sears was not the lone threat in the Valpo offense, as five different players picked up at least four kills in the Crusaders’ balanced attack. Porché tallied eight kills, while Tara Newton (Indianapolis, Ind./Franklin Central) picked up five kills. Andrea Balsis (Benton Harbor, Mich./Coloma) and Nicole Schulz (Kewaskum, Wis./Kettle Moraine Lutheran) each registered four terminations, with Schulz finishing the rally on each of her four swings.
Sara Hughes (San Antonio, Texas/Perrysburg [Ohio] H.S.) ran the Crusader offense in the opener, picking up 30 assists on the match. Brittany Malicoat (Elkhart, Ind./Memorial) led Valpo defensively with 14 digs, while Newton led the team with a career-best five blocks.
The nightcap looked to be the same type of match in the early going. The Crusaders led start to finish in the opening game, and rallied from a 26-20 deficit in the second game with a 10-2 run to go up two games to none.
The third game was also tight throughout. Bowling Green led by one late at 27-26 when the match turned. Sears went up for an attack and injured herself on the play, forcing her to leave the match. She would not return for the Crusaders, who were left in the middle with freshmen Newton and Katie Layman (LaPorte, Ind./New Prairie), seeing her first college action. The Crusaders held off the Falcons on one game point, but Bowling Green converted on its second opportunity to force a fourth game.
The Falcons proceeded to hit .500 in the fourth game to take it handily and move the match to a decisive fifth game. Valpo was up early at 4-3, but Bowling Green went on a 6-1 run to take a four point lead and would not let the lead fall under three the rest of the way as it completed the comeback.
“Obviously the match changed when Allison got hurt, and we struggled a bit to regain our composure,” said Avery. “But at the same time, Bowling Green made some great plays in the fifth game and deserved to win the match.”
Porché led four Crusaders with double-digit kills in the nightcap, tallying 24 kills on .340 hitting. She also registered 12 digs to record her first career double-double. Hughes also picked up a double-double, dishing out 54 assists to go along with 14 digs, while Malicoat again led Valpo with 24 digs.
Sears was honored on the All-Tournament Team after hitting at an incredible .507 clip for the weekend, averaging 4.67 kills/game while also picking up nine blocks. Porché earned the accolade by hitting .404 with 4.18 kills/game and 2.09 digs/game.
“Allison and Angie both had another outstanding weekend for us, not only in their attacking, but also in other aspects of the game that really benefited the team,” said Avery.
Valparaiso (8-3) begins its first season of Horizon League play next Friday, Sept. 21, as the Crusaders host UIC at the Athletics-Recreation Center. First serve is slated for 7 p.m.