Valparaiso utilized a strong balanced offensive attack to sweep Loyola, 3-0 (25-18, 25-14, 25-16), Friday evening in Chicago, Ill. The win gives the Crusaders 20 on the season, the seventh consecutive year that Valpo has reached the 20-win milestone.
“A streak like this is really a culmination of all the teams that have come before you that have helped built the program up to this level,” said Crusader head coach Carin Avery. “It is a real testament to the work ethic of this team to want to continue that success and to play at a level to continue it. I’m especially proud of our senior class, not a lot of college players can say they won 20 games four times in their career.”
The Crusaders took control of the opener midway through the set. Trailing 8-5, Valpo rattled off four straight points to take a 9-8 advantage. After the Ramblers tied the frame back up briefly at nine, the Crusaders went on an 11-4 run with kills from five different players and capped by back-to-back service aces by Allison Sears (Elkhart, Ind./Memorial) to go ahead 20-13. Valpo and Loyola traded sideouts the rest of the way as the Crusaders eventually closed out the opener on a Rambler service error.
The second set stayed tight for a bit longer, as Loyola led at 11-10. But an attack error followed by an Angie Porché (Lynwood, Ill./Thornton Fractional South) kill put the Crusaders ahead 12-11. A service error by Valpo briefly tied the frame again at 12 apiece, but following a Rambler service error of their own, Sears stepped back to the service line and served eight straight points, as her tough serving kept Loyola out of system. By the time the senior middle was finally knocked off the service line, Valpo led 21-12 and cruised to the win to go up two sets to none.
Valpo took advantage of a multitude of Rambler errors early in the third set, along with a pair of kills by Sears, to go up 7-1 quickly in the decisive set. Loyola reeled off four straight points to close back to within 7-5, but that was as close as it would get, as Porché tallied a kill to get Sears back on the service line. The senior delivered four more consecutive points, including a pair of aces, to push Valpo’s edge to 12-5, and the Crusaders would cruise from there, closing the match on a kill by Tara Newton (Indianapolis, Ind./Franklin Central).
“Our goal tonight was to win the serve and pass game, as we felt if we did that, we would be in a good spot to win the match,” said Avery. “We really did a good job of that tonight. We served extremely aggressively and took Loyola out of tempo more often than not.”
The Crusaders hit a season-best .395 for the match, as all five primary hitters registered at least six kills on the night. Porché led the way with ten kills, while Sears chipped in nine terminations to go with her four aces. Newton hit at a .538 clip with eight kills, while senior right side Jill Meyer (Crystal Lake, Ill./South) tallied seven kills on .636 hitting. Junior outside hitter Val Bollenbacher (Bremen, Ind./Bremen) added six kills on .600 hitting and also registered a team-best 11 digs.
Kim Bukowski (Waukesha, Wis./West) kept the Ramblers off-balance with her setting all night, dishing out 34 assists while also recording two aces. Brittany Malicoat (Elkhart, Ind./Memorial) added ten digs on the back line, extending her streak of matches with double digits in digs to 77.
“Our offensive production tonight was amazing,” said Avery. “I thought we did a fantastic job distributing the ball around and every attacker took care of business tonight, eliminating many of our errors. We did struggle a little bit with our blocking, but all the rest of our game was at such a high level that it did not affect the outcome.”
Katie Johnson led Loyola (17-9, 6-7 Horizon) with ten kills, but was the only Rambler to tally more than five kills on the night. The Crusaders held the Ramblers to just a .124 hitting percentage for the evening.
Valparaiso (20-6, 10-4 Horizon) won its seventh straight Horizon League match and ninth consecutive match overall. The Crusaders, who have also won 13 of their last 14 times out, have captured 15 straight sets in league play dating back to Oct. 24. Valpo will hit the court again tomorrow afternoon at UIC at 4 p.m. to take on the Flames, who was the last opponent to defeat the Crusaders.