Valparaiso won its 13th consecutive match Friday afternoon, defeating Green Bay 3-1 (25-20, 23-25, 25-20, 25-18) in Horizon League Championship quarterfinal action in Cleveland, Ohio. The Crusaders will play in the semifinals on Saturday afternoon at 2 p.m. against the host Vikings of Cleveland State, the tournament’s sixth seed.
The Crusaders dominated the match with their overpowering offense, as the side that leads the nation in kills/set put down 67 kills in four sets on Friday. All five Valpo hitters reached double figures in kills, led by 17 on .297 hitting from All-League honoree Allison Sears (Elkhart, Ind./Memorial). Horizon League Player of the Year Angie Porché (Lynwood, Ill./Thornton Fractional South) added 16 kills, while sophomore middle Tara Newton (Indianapolis, Ind./Franklin Central) contributed a season-best 13 kills.
Junior outside hitter Val Bollenbacher (Bremen, Ind./Bremen) and senior right side Jill Meyer (Crystal Lake, Ill./South) each chipped in ten kills as well, with Meyer’s coming on a match-high .320 hitting percentage. Junior setter Kim Bukowski (Waukesha, Wis./West), also an All-League recipient, handed out 58 assists on the afternoon.
Defensively, Valpo held the Phoenix to just 42 kills on .180 hitting. Two-time Horizon League Defensive Player of the Year Brittany Malicoat (Elkhart, Ind./Memorial) led the Crusaders with 17 digs, one of four Valpo players to reach double figures. Haley Wise (Mishawaka, Ind./Mishawaka) registered 15 digs, while Bollenbacher and Porché each tallied double-doubles, as the former picked up 12 digs and the latter 11.
The Crusaders took control of the opening set early, as Newton tallied four kills in a five-point span to propel Valpo to a 10-4 lead, a lead which would never fall below four points. The second set looked to be Valpo’s to win as well, as the Crusaders led 21-16, but back-to-back kills by Liesl Tesch propelled a 6-0 Phoenix run to give it a 22-21 lead. Valpo tied the set at 22 on a Newton kill, but Green Bay scored three of the final four points to send the match into the in-game break tied at a set apiece.
Valpo never trailed in the third set, and while a six-point lead at 21-15 was sliced to two points at 22-20, the Crusaders came out of a timeout and got kills by Bollenbacher, Sears and Porché on consecutive points to close out the frame. The final set saw more back-and-forth action in the score, with ten ties and five lead changes, as Green Bay led as late as 14-13. A kill by the Phoenix’s Abby Bergsma cut Valpo’s lead to 17-16, but the Crusaders quickly squashed Green Bay’s hopes, going on an 8-2 run and ending the match on a service ace by Wise.
Tesch led Green Bay (9-18) with 11 kills, while Nikki Hintze added ten terminations. Megan Elfering led all players with 23 digs.
Valparaiso (24-6) will look to tie the program record for consecutive wins tomorrow against the Vikings, as the 2004 squad won 14 straight matches. The match can be heard live on www.sportsjuice.com, with links for live audio, video and statistics available at www.valpoathletics.com.