Valparaiso opened league play Friday evening at Butler, dropping a 3-0 (25-23, 25-21, 25-21) decision to the Bulldogs.
The opening set looked to be going the Crusaders’ way early, as a 5-0 spurt near the beginning of the frame keyed by a pair of kills from Angie Porché (Lynwood, Ill./Thornton Fractional South) gave Valpo a 10-6 edge. The teams traded points through the middle stages of the set until the Crusaders put together a 4-1 mini-run with kills from Porché and Jill Meyer (Crystal Lake, Ill./South) to take a 20-15 advantage.
But the Bulldogs stormed back, scoring the next six points in succession to take a 21-20 lead while forcing the Crusaders to use both of their timeouts in the process. Valpo tied the set at 21 and 22, both times getting kills from setter Kim Bukowski (Waukesha, Wis./West), and fought off Butler’s first set point on another kill from Porché, but could never retake the lead, as a Kelsey Labrum kill ended the opener.
“When we had the lead at 20-15, and Butler went on its big run, the momentum started to swing,” said Crusader head coach Carin Avery. “Once they won that set, from that point on, it was a huge change in momentum for both teams: positive for Butler and negative for us.”
The second set was tight early until the Bulldogs capitalized on a pair of Crusader service errors to spark a 7-2 run and take a 12-8 advantage. Valpo fought back, scoring five of the next seven points, including kills from Meyer and Allison Sears (Elkhart, Ind./Memorial) to crawl back to within one at 14-13. But that was as close as Valpo would get the remainder of the frame, as Butler never let the Crusaders tie it up as the Bulldogs took a 2-0 advantage into the break.
Porché looked to carry Valpo early on in the third frame, registering kills for each of the Crusaders’ first four points, while Val Bollenbacher (Bremen, Ind./Bremen) also recorded a pair of early terminations as Valpo gained a 9-7 lead. But the lead was erased quickly by Butler with four straight points to take an 11-9 advantage.
The Crusaders briefly tied the set at 11 on another kill by Porché before Butler rolled off seven straight and nine of the next ten points to take control. Valpo made an 6-0 run on the serve of Haley Wise (Mishawaka, Ind./Mishawaka) late to tighten up the set, but it wasn’t enough as the Bulldogs completed the sweep.
Porché paced the Valpo offense with 13 kills, but was the only Crusader to finish in double figures in the category. Bukowski added five kills without an error and also handed out 22 assists on the night. Defensively, Brittany Malicoat (Elkhart, Ind./Memorial) posted a match-best 21 digs, leaving her just 14 digs shy of reaching Sara Silcox’s career record in the category.
Butler (11-2, 1-0 Horizon) was led by Porshia Allen, who posted 13 kills on the night, while Jessica Wolfe contributed 11 kills on .407 hitting. Wolfe also put up six blocks while teammate Melody Austin added eight rejections.
“We got out-played in every aspect of the match tonight,” said Avery. “You have to give credit to Butler, as they played a very solid match. But when you commit 11 service errors, get out-blocked 11-2 and get out-dug, you’re not going to win many matches.”
Valparaiso (7-3, 0-1 Horizon) returns to action next Friday, Sept. 26 as the Crusaders head to Wisconsin to take on Green Bay. First serve is slated for 7 p.m., and all the action can be heard live on WVUR, 95.1 FM, Valparaiso. Links for live stats along with audio and video can be found at www.valpoathletics.com.