Milwaukee’s defense forced Valparaiso
into 30 hitting errors as the Crusaders fell in three sets to the Panthers
(25-14, 26-24, 25-23) Saturday afternoon in Horizon League Championship
semifinal action in Cleveland,
“Congratulations to Milwaukee,” said Crusader
head coach Carin Avery. “They came out and did a great job
defensively today, and won the match because of it.”
The Panthers set the tone
early with their block, recording rejections on four of the match’s first ten
points en route to an 8-2 advantage.
Valpo put together a four-point spurt on two kills by Katie Britton (Mishawaka, Ind./Marian),
a kill from Tara Diebler (Indianapolis,
Ind./Franklin Central) and a UWM hitting error to close to within two points at
8-6, but that was as close as the Crusaders would get in the opener, as
Milwaukee went on another 8-2 run to secure the set in its favor.
The second set looked
early to be going the same direction as the first, with Milwaukee scoring the first four points, but
the Crusaders kept themselves in the frame and eventually took their first lead
at 13-12. UWM would tie things up again
at 15, but Valpo responded with a quick 4-1 spurt on kills by Katie Layman (LaPorte, Ind./New
Prairie) and Angie Porché (Lynwood,
Ill./Thornton Fractional South), a Kim
Bukowski (Waukesha, Wis./West) service ace and a Panther error to take a
Milwaukee came right back with a 5-1 run of its own to take
back the lead at 21-20. After the teams
traded sideouts, the Crusaders put themselves in position to take the frame
with a three-point spurt on kills by Diebler and Porché and a block from
Diebler and Amy Groesbeck (Wheaton, Ill./North). But Valpo could not convert on the pair of
set point opportunities at 24-22, as UWM came up with a kill followed by a
Crusader hitting error, and a block and a kill closed the set and sent the
Panthers into the break up two sets.
Valpo took control from
the onset of the third set, scoring the frame’s first five points and, after Milwaukee had come back
to within 12-9, putting together a big 7-1 run that included kills from three
different Crusaders and a pair of Valpo blocks.
But that big run was answered by a huge 12-0 run by the Panthers, as UWM
overcame a nine-point deficit and took a three-point lead.
Diebler finally ended the
run with a kill to cut the Panther edge to 22-20, and a block by Diebler and
Groesbeck followed by a Milwaukee
attack error tied things up again at 22.
But the Panthers got a kill and a Crusader hitting error to gain two
match point chances, and while Valpo was able to fight off one chance on a kill
by Porché, a UWM kill closed out the sweep.
Valpo held a 40-33
advantage in kills over Milwaukee
for the match, but were unable to overcome 17 Panther blocks and 27 additional
unforced errors. Diebler was the only
player on either side to reach double figures in kills for the match, putting
down 14 kills, while Bukowski handed out 25 assists. On the back line, Taylor Root (Jenison, Mich./Jenison) led all
players with 22 digs.
Milwaukee (15-14) got nine kills apiece from Jena Berg and
Kerri Schuh, while Natalie Schmitting was in on 11 of the Panthers’ 17
blocks. Mary Beth O’Brien tallied six
blocks of her own, while Schuh added five rejections.
Valparaiso (22-10) closes out the 2009 campaign next
Saturday as the Crusaders travel to Kalamazoo to
take on Western Michigan. Match time is set for 6 p.m. CST.