Valparaiso took the first two sets from league-leading Milwaukee in Milwaukee, Wis. Wednesday evening, but the Crusaders eventually fell in five sets to the Panthers, 3-2 (20-25, 21-25, 25-20, 25-19, 15-10).
The Crusaders took control of the opening set early on, reeling off seven straight points with the score tied at three apiece, including a pair of kills from freshman Morgan Beil (St. Louis, Mo./Marquette). Milwaukee was forced into using its second timeout of the set at 13-5, and with the lead then at 14-7, Valpo put even more distance between itself and the Panthers with a 5-2 spurt.
Beil tallied two more kills during the run, while sophomore Sarah Dooms (Greenwood, Ind./Center Grove) and redshirt freshman Lindsey Hauch (Coloma, Mich./Coloma) added a kill apiece. With the lead 10 points at 19-9, the Crusaders cruised to the set win, eventually ending the opener on a Dooms kill.
The win for Valpo in the second set would come in much different fashion, as it was Milwaukee which looked like it was on its way to the set win at the halfway mark, as the Crusaders trailed 12-6. Down 15-10, Beil registered a kill and then senior Jenny Pokorny (Geneva, Ill./Geneva) and sophomore Ellen Vanden Berg (Little Chute, Wis./Little Chute) combined on a block to bring Valpo within 15-12. Milwaukee scored the next two points, though, to push the lead back to five points.
But a huge 8-0 run spearheaded by the Valpo offense swung the momentum in the Crusaders’ favor. After a Panther attack error, Vanden Berg and senior Katie Britton (Mishawaka, Ind./Marian) picked up kills to close within 17-15. Hauch then recorded back-to-back terminations to tie the set at 17-all and force a UWM timeout. Out of the stoppage, Vanden Berg kept the Crusaders rolling with another kill, followed by a Pokorny ace and another Hauch kill to make it 20-17. An attack error briefly slowed the momentum, but Britton and Hauch followed with kills to push the advantage to 22-18. Valpo eventually earned set point at 24-19, and on its third chance, Dooms picked up a set-ending kill to send the Crusaders into the in-game break up two sets.
Milwaukee was the team with the momentum out of the locker room, scoring the first five points of set three. The Crusaders managed to battle back to within 11-10, but the Panthers responded with a four-point spurt to go back ahead by five. Valpo didn’t back down, however, as a pair of kills from Dooms were part of a responsive 4-0 run that brought the Crusaders just one point down at 15-14.
A pair of kills pushed Milwaukee’s edge to 17-14, but Beil teamed up with Hauch and then Pokorny on two straight rejections to again make it a one-point set. The Panthers scored the next four points, but yet again the Crusaders battled back, closing to 22-20 on a solo block by Pokorny. But that was as close as Valpo would get, as Milwaukee scored the final three points to take the third set.
A 4-0 run with the score tied at 5-all gave Milwaukee the early advantage in the fourth set. The Panthers maintained their lead past the halfway point, and threatened to run away with the frame after another four-point run made it 18-10. But again, Valpo kept battling. Britton started with a kill, followed by a Beil ace to close within 18-12.
Out of a Milwaukee timeout, the Panthers committed an attack error, which was followed by a block from Vanden Berg and Britton to make it 18-14. Britton then tallied another kill to make it five straight Valpo points, forcing another Milwaukee timeout with the Crusaders within three at 18-15. But out of the timeout, the Panthers scored the next three points to re-gain control and eventually send the match to the decisive fifth set.
With the fifth set going to just 15, every point early was magnified, and the two squads battled for early control. Valpo and Milwaukee were tied at each of the first four points of the set, before back-to-back UWM points gave the Panthers a 6-4 advantage. A setter dump by Pokorny brought the Crusaders back to within 6-5, but Milwaukee scored the next three points to take control at 9-5. Valpo would be able to score consecutive points just once the rest of the way, closing to within 11-9 on a service ace by junior Taylor Root (Jenison, Mich./Jenison), but would get no closer as the Panthers completed the comeback.
Valpo placed four players in double figures in kills on Wednesday, led by a Crusader season-high 16 kills from Britton. Dooms tallied 14 kills, while Vanden Berg registered a career-best 13 terminations. Beil added 10 kills as well.
Pokorny dished out 51 assists and was one of two Crusaders to register double-doubles, posting 11 digs. Dooms added a career-best 22 digs to go with her 14 kills, while Root led the Crusaders with 27 digs. Hauch posted 19 digs, while sophomore Ariel Cudney (LaPorte, Ind./LaPorte) chipped in 12 as well. Beil was in on six of Valpo’s 10 team blocks, while Pokorny was part of four rejections.
Elizabeth Egerer led Milwaukee (15-4, 8-0 Horizon) with a match-best 23 kills. Kayla Price handed out 50 assists and recorded 16 digs, while Morgan Potter posted a match-high 32 digs. Kerri Schuh was part of six of the Panthers’ 11 blocks.
Valparaiso (13-7, 4-2 Horizon) returns home to the ARC this weekend for a pair of league matches, beginning with a 5 p.m. showdown against Cleveland State on Saturday afternoon. The game can be heard live on WVUR, 95.1 FM, Valparaiso and seen live via the Horizon League Network. Links to both will be available through www.valpoathletics.com, which will also have a link for live stats.
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