Valparaiso rebounded from a tough loss Friday night, picking up a 3-1 (25-16, 25-17, 14-25, 25-23) victory over Green Bay Saturday afternoon in Green Bay, Wis. to earn a weekend road split.
“I'm proud of the fact we were able to come back in the fourth set to win the match after being down six late,” said Crusader head coach Carin Avery. “Coming through with the victory on the road was very important, because picking up road wins in our league is going to be tough this season.
The first half of the opening set was tightly contested, as the frame contained 12 ties and three lead changes. The Phoenix led 16-15 before an attack error gave Valpo the serve back, and Taylor Root (Jenison, Mich./Jenison) would not leave the service line before the end of the set. A block by Katie Britton (Mishawaka, Ind./Marian) and Tara Diebler (Indianapolis, Ind./Franklin Central) moved the lead to Valpo's side for good, and Diebler tallied two kills and Root a pair of aces as the Crusaders ended the set on a 10-0 run to take the opener.
The momentum from the set-ending run seemed to carry over into the second set, as leading 8-7, Valpo ripped off an 11-1 run to take control. Britton, who had been held without a kill in the opener, tallied three kills and two blocks during the run, while Jenny Pokorny (Geneva, Ill./Geneva) added a pair of kills as well. Green Bay cut the 19-8 Valpo lead to as little as six points as early as 21-15, but the Crusaders just traded points from there on in and eventually went up two sets to none on a Phoenix hitting error.
The third set featured no such momentum for the Crusaders, as only once during the frame could they string together more than two straight points. Back-to-back kills early by Diebler gave Valpo a 5-4 advantage, but Green Bay responded with a 7-1 run to take control. The Crusaders got as close as four points later in the set at 17-13, but the Phoenix tallied a trio of service aces amidst a set-closing 8-1 spurt to send the match to a fourth set.
Valpo led early in the fourth set as well at 5-4, but a 5-1 GB spurt gave the Phoenix a 9-6 lead. Green Bay maintained a small lead into the middle portion of the set and then put together another 7-2 run to go ahead 19-13. But with a possible fifth set looming, the Crusader offense kicked up the pressure, as Diebler posted two kills and Sarah Dooms (Greenwood, Ind./Center Grove) and Amy Groesbeck (Wheaton, Ill./North) one apiece in a four-point spurt to close within 19-17.
The two sides traded a pair of sideouts before a service ace by Ariel Cudney (LaPorte, Ind./LaPorte) cut the deficit to one point. After Green Bay used its final timeout, the Phoenix committed back-to-back attack errors as the Crusaders took the late lead. Green Bay's Abbey Gitter tied the set at 22 with a kill, but Dooms answered with a kill of her own and Britton and Katie Layman (LaPorte, Ind./New Prairie) then combined on a block to cap an 11-3 run and give Valpo match point. The Phoenix got a kill from Kelly Mischler to stave off the first match point chance, but the Crusaders converted on their second attempt as Layman tallied a kill for the victory.
“What I've noticed with another week of league play is that there is a ton of parity in this league this year,” said Avery. “We've got to show up for every point of every set of every match. If you take one mental break, it can cost you a set, which can cost you a match. We've seen that already in our last four matches, and I think we need to really figure out how to maintain focus through every set. Our mental lapse in set three tonight could have cost us the match.”
Diebler stepped up offensively for the Crusaders on Saturday, hitting .400 with a team-best 15 kills as Valpo hit .247 as a team. Pokorny handed out 45 assists and also took advantage of opportunities the defense gave her, matching her career best with 10 kills and hitting .500. Britton and Dooms each recorded nine kills apiece as well.
In the back row, Root led the way for Valpo with 18 digs, while Dooms picked up 15 and Cudney 10. Pokorny registered eight digs as well, coming up just two digs shy of her second career triple-double. Britton was in on a team-best four blocks on the afternoon, setting a new career high in the category. Green Bay (6-12, 2-3 Horizon) was led by 17 kills on .429 hitting from Lyndsay Zabkowicz.
Valparaiso (14-3, 3-2 Horizon) plays a rare mid-week Horizon League contest on Tuesday as the Crusaders return home to face off against Loyola. First serve is slated for 7 p.m., and all the action can be seen and heard online at www.valpoathletics.com, while the audio broadcast is also available locally on WVUR, 95.1 FM. A link for live stats will also be available at the official Crusader website.