Despite entering the match with a depleted front line, Valparaiso earned a 3-1 (30-25, 30-25, 24-30, 30-28) victory over IUPUI in Indianapolis Friday night.
“It was a lot of fun to win tonight despite coming in with so many injuries,” said Crusader head coach Carin Avery. “We haven’t had time to practice with this lineup, but it came together during the match and worked out great. I was proud of the way we were still able to come out victorious.”
The Crusaders, who have been playing without starting middle blocker Allison Sears (Elkhart, Ind./Memorial) for the last 10 matches and starting right side hitter Nicole Schulz (Kewaskum, Wis./Kettle Moraine Lutheran) for the last nine matches, were down another middle blocker entering Friday, as freshman Katie Layman (LaPorte, Ind./New Prairie) had suffered an injury during the week in practice. Val Bollenbacher (Bremen, Ind./Bremen) stepped in to start at middle blocker for the first time in her college career.
“My hat goes off to Val today for being put in a tough spot, having to play a position she hasn’t played in college,” said Avery. “She stepped in and got the job done for us, and I don’t know if many girls would have been able to do what she did tonight.”
The Crusaders struggled in the opener, finding themselves down 25-20 late in the game. But IUPUI committed a service error, and Tiffany Meikle (Cottage Grove, Wis./Monona Grove) stepped to the service line and served the last nine points of the game, including three kills from Angie Porché (Lynwood, Ill./Thornton Fractional South). In the second game, Valpo took control for good at 15-14 and extended the lead to as many as seven to go up two games to none.
The third game was a different story. Valpo led at 15-14, but the Jaguars scored 10 of the next 14 points to take a 24-19 edge. The Crusaders cut the lead to two at 25-23, but IUPUI ended the game on a 5-1 spurt to force a fourth game. In the final game, Valpo would not let IUPUI ever take a lead, as the Crusaders cruised to victory.
Porché enjoyed an outstanding match for the Crusaders, tallying 27 kills on .302 hitting while also registering 11 digs. The 27 kills mark a season high for the sophomore, and match the second-most kills by a Valpo player all-time in a four-game match.
Tara Newton (Indianapolis, Ind./Franklin Central) had a successful homecoming, racking up 14 terminations and hitting at a stellar .440 clip, while Jill Meyer (Crystal Lake, Ill./South) was the third Crusader in double figures in kills, picking up 11 on .292 hitting. Sophomore Kim Bukowski (Waukesha, Wis./West) earned the start at setter and took advantage, handing out a career-best 59 assists.
“Angie had another great match for us,” said Avery. “She and Kim are just doing a very good job connecting right now offensively. Angie has had to step up for us without Nicole and Allison in the lineup, and she has done a wonderful job with the workload.”
Defensively, Brittany Malicoat (Elkhart, Ind./Memorial) paced the Crusaders, registering a match-high 21 digs. Malicoat is now just 10 digs shy of 1,400 for her career and just five digs away from moving into fifth place on Valpo’s career chart in the category. Meikle added 14 digs, while Meyer led the Crusaders at the net with four blocks.
Carol Newell led IUPUI (9-13) with 17 kills, while Devika Bellamy added 16. Chelsea Bastin led Valpo’s former Mid-Con rival with 15 digs.
Valparaiso (15-6) returns to the court next Friday to kick off the second half of the Horizon League slate. The Crusaders will host Butler at the Athletics-Recreation Center at 7 p.m.