Valparaiso stepped out of league play at the ARC on Homecoming Saturday, defeating IUPUI 3-1 (25-17, 23-25, 25-21, 25-17) to improve to 13-2 on the season.
“On a positive note, we're 13-2 and we're nowhere near playing up to our capability,” said Crusader head coach Carin Avery. “As a coach, I think it’s great that we're still figuring out ways to win even though we haven't peaked yet. As a team, you don't want to peak too early in the season, because teams that win the league and go on to the NCAA Tournament are the ones that peak at the end. There’s still a lot we need to work out to reach that peak, but it’s exciting because we’re still winning matches even though we’re not playing our best.”
Jenny Pokorny (Geneva, Ill./Geneva) got the match off on the right foot for Valpo, tallying a service ace on the match's opening point. Amy Groesbeck (Wheaton, Ill./North) then posted three early kills and Val Bollenbacher (Bremen, Ind./Bremen) added a pair of kills as the Crusaders jumped out to a quick 8-1 lead. Valpo cruised from there, never letting the lead fall below five points en route to taking the opener
Through most of the second set, the Crusaders held a small advantage over the Jaguars, but could never put together a run to push the lead over their former conference rivals. A three-point spurt on kills by Tara Diebler (Indianapolis, Ind./Franklin Central) and Katie Britton (Mishawaka, Ind./Marian) and a block by Diebler and Pokorny gave Valpo a 20-17 advantage, but out of a timeout, IUPUI put together a 5-1 run to take its first lead of the frame at 22-21. Out of the ensuing Crusader stoppage, Britton picked up a kill to tie it at 22, but after the teams traded sideouts, the Jaguars tallied the set’s final two points to knot the match up at a set apiece.
IUPUI rolled its momentum into the third set, jumping on the Crusaders early and forcing Valpo to use timeouts at 10-5 and 13-6. But after the latter stoppage, the Crusaders looked like a completely different team, as Diebler picked up a kill for the sideout and Pokorny then served eight straight points as Valpo quickly took the advantage and made it 15-13. The Crusaders eventually led by three at 19-16, but the Jaguars refused to go away, reeling off four straight points to regain the edge. After a pair of sideouts, the Crusaders posted the set’s final run, going on a 5-0 spurt to close the frame and take the 2-1 advantage into the fourth set.
Diebler registered three quick kills early in the fourth set to help stake Valpo to an early advantage that grew to 9-4. A service error brought the Jaguars back within four points, but Bollenbacher answered with a kill and then stepped back to the service line for a long run of her own on serve. When the dust settled, the fifth-year senior had helped the Crusader lead grow from 10-5 to 17-5 and Valpo cruised from there to earn the non-league victory.
Britton paced the Valpo offense with 14 kills Saturday, while Diebler tallied 13 kills on .370 hitting. Groesbeck chipped in 10 kills of her own on .360 hitting, the junior’s third straight match reaching double figures in kills. Pokorny tallied 47 assists on the evening and also registered her eighth double-double of the season with a season-best 21 digs in the back row.
Pokorny’s effort on the back line was bested only on the Crusaders’ side by libero Taylor Root (Jenison, Mich./Jenison), who racked up 27 digs to lead all players. Bollenbacher assisted with the back-row defense with 18 digs as well. At the net, Valpo tallied nine blocks, paced by four apiece from Diebler and Layman. IUPUI (3-13) was led by 13 kills from Kalyse Reimbold and 25 digs by Shari Bernhardt.
“It is disappointing that we continue to play down to the level of our competition,” said Avery. “We have got to figure out as a team how to sustain a high level of play throughout a match and not just one set.”
Valparaiso (13-2) returns to Horizon League play with a pair of matches on the road next weekend, starting with a 7 p.m. showdown with Milwaukee on Friday. All the action can be heard and seen live on www.valpoathletics.com, with the audio feed also available locally on WVUR, 95.1 FM. Links for live stats and live chat will also be available on the official Crusader website.