Angie Porché (Lynwood, Ill./Thornton Fractional South) ended the match with her 537th kill of the season, setting a new Valpo single-season record, while Brittany Malicoat (Elkhart, Ind./Memorial) broke her own single-season record for digs late in game three as Valparaiso swept Butler (30-28, 30-25, 30-25) in the quarterfinals of the Horizon League Championship in Milwaukee, Wis. Friday afternoon. The win was Valpo’s 20th of the season, marking the sixth consecutive year that the Crusaders have reached the milestone.
“I was so excited for us to get our first tournament victory in the Horizon League tonight,” said Crusader head coach Carin Avery. “We’ve really enjoyed being in the league this year, and it was nice to get the first tournament win under our belt. I’m also really proud of the fact that we reached the 20-win plateau again and were able to reach the semifinals of our league tournament for the eighth straight year. It really speaks volumes about the sustained success of the program to be that successful for that long.”
The Bulldogs took the early advantage in game one, jumping out to a 10-5 lead and forcing Avery to use a timeout. The Crusaders fought back, tying the game at 12 and extended the lead to as many as five points. With the lead at four at 27-23, Butler scored four straight points to tie the set at 27, but Porché sandwiched a Bulldog error with two terminations to give Valpo the opener.
Valpo sustained a small lead throughout much of the second game, taking its first edge at 10-9. The lead never got above three points until the Crusaders put together three straight points at 22-20 to extend the lead to five. Butler scored three of the next four points to cut the deficit to 26-23, but Tiffany Meikle (Cottage Grove, Wis./Monona Grove) stopped the mini-run with a kill and eventually ended the game with a service ace to send Valpo into the break up two games.
Butler led early in the final game by as many as three points, but Valpo came back to take the lead at 10-9 and held as much as a seven-point lead on its way to the sweep. Porché led the way in the finale with nine kills on just 18 swings, including her record-breaking swing on the match’s final play.
The sophomore ended the match with 20 kills on .304 hitting, the 14th time this season that she has reached at least 20 terminations. With her third kill of the match, Porché became just the 11th player in Crusader history to reach 1,000 kills. She also tallied 15 digs for her 14th double-double of the campaign. She was not alone on the attack, however, as three other Crusaders reached double figures in kills. Freshman Tara Newton (Indianapolis, Ind./Franklin Central) enjoyed one of the best hitting nights of her career, putting down 12 kills on a career-best .556 hitting percentage.
“What a great accomplishment it is for Angie to get 1,000 kills already as a sophomore,” said Avery. “She’s had a lot of pressure this year, as she has been our main attacker, and every team we play know that she’s our main attacker. To overcome that and break the single-season kills record is a tremendous feat. It was also great to see Tara have a good night offensively; she was just on fire swinging, which really helped our attack.”
Malicoat tallied a dig on one of the match’s final points to reach 23 digs for the match, giving her 676 on the season and surpassing her previous single-season record set last year. The Horizon League’s Defensive Player of the Year reached 20 digs for the 13th time in the last 14 matches and has now picked up double figures in digs in each of Valpo’s last 48 matches. Meikle also tallied 15 digs for the Crusaders, her third straight match recording at least ten picks.
“Brittany has elevated her game this year in a huge way,” said Avery. “Not only has her number of digs increased, but she has become a lot more consistent in passing the ball. She has also really stepped up into a leadership role as well, which was something we needed after some of the injuries we’ve had.”
The Crusaders enjoyed a significant 66-47 edge over Butler (14-15) in kills and also out-dug the Bulldogs by a 74-57 margin. Valpo registered four service aces to Butler’s two, while the Bulldogs outblocked Valpo, 11-3. Butler was paced by 14 kills and 11 kills from Porshia Allen, while Michelle DeGeeter contributed 10 kills and seven blocks.
“I just can’t say enough about everyone’s performance today,” said Avery. “Everybody who played for us did what they had to do in order for us to win.”
Valparaiso (20-10) returns to the court Saturday afternoon for the semifinals of the Horizon League Championships in Milwaukee, Wis. First serve is slated for 4 p.m. against either the host Panthers or the eighth-seeded Ramblers of Loyola.