Valparaiso opened its second weekend of play the same way it closed out the opening weekend, defeating USC Upstate 3-1 (25-12, 20-25, 25-11, 25-12) in the opener of the Appalachian Invitational in Boone, N.C. Friday afternoon for its fourth straight victory.
The Crusaders got the job done on both sides of the ball Friday, hitting a stellar .304 offensively with 60 kills over the 40 sets. Defensively, Valpo matched its season-high with 10 blocks to help hold the Spartans to .087 hitting and just 33 kills.
A pair of kills from Katie Britton (Mishawaka, Ind./Marian) and a solo block by Tara Diebler (Indianapolis, Ind./Franklin Central) gave Valpo the first three points of the match as it would never trail in the opening set. The early lead was extended to 9-3 and the Crusader advantage never fell below four points the rest of the way to take a 1-0 lead. USC Upstate turned the tables in the second set to even the match, jumping out to an 8-3 advantage and holding off a late Crusader run that cut the lead to three points at 22-19.
USC Upstate hung around for a while in the third set, as at the midway point of the frame, Valpo led by just two at 12-10. But the Spartans committed a service error and the Crusaders would need just two servers the remainder of the set. Andrea Balsis (Benton Harbor, Mich./Coloma) got the big run going with a service ace and the Crusaders then got kills on each of the next five points, three off the hand of Val Bollenbacher (Bremen, Ind./Bremen).
A Spartan kill cut the edge to 19-11, but Sarah Dooms (Greenwood, Ind./Center Grove) answered with a kill of her own and Diebler stepped back and served the final five points to help the Crusaders close the set with a 13-1 run. The final set was almost completely anti-climactic, as Valpo's momentum rolled into the fourth frame to the tune of a quick 13-3 lead and the Crusaders cruised to the win.
Diebler had a standout match on both sides of the ball Friday, tying for match-high honors with 11 kills while hitting .400 and also tallying five blocks. Britton also tallied 11 kills, while Bollenbacher needed just 17 swings to register nine terminations, good for .529 hitting. Bollenbacher and Katie Layman (LaPorte, Ind./New Prairie) each posted four blocks as well.
Pokorny continued her stellar job running the Crusader offense, posting a double-double with 43 assists and 13 digs. The junior also hit .357 with six kills and chipped in on a trio of blocks. Taylor Root (Jenison, Mich./Jenison) led all players in the back row with 22 digs. Mindy Quimby paced USC Upstate (1-3) with 11 kills.
Valparaiso (4-1) will attempt to extend its winning streak on Saturday with a pair of matches to close the Appalachian Invitational. The Crusaders face Eastern Kentucky at 9 a.m. CDT before taking on the host Mountaineers to close tournament play at 6 p.m. Both matches can be heard live on WVUR, 95.1 FM, Valparaiso and online at www.valpoathletics.com, which will also have links for live stats.