The Valparaiso volleyball team won its first in-season tournament title in two years on Saturday, closing the Hoosier Classic in emphatic fashion with sweeps of Miami (OH) (26-24, 25-18, 25-22) and UT-Chattanooga (25-19, 25-14, 25-12). Redshirt sophomore Kelsey Victor (Logansport, Ind./Logansport) was named Tournament MVP, while juniors Sarah Dooms (Greenwood, Ind./Center Grove) and Ellen Vanden Berg (Little Chute, Wis./Little Chute) joined Victor on the All-Tournament Team.
Valpo needed just six sets to complete the tournament victory on Saturday after downing host IU in five sets Friday evening, capturing its first tournament crown since the 2010 CEFCU Classic, hosted by Bradley. Victor earned MVP honors after hitting a team-high .365 on the weekend, averaging 2.27 kills and 0.91 blocks per set. Vanden Berg registered 2.55 kills/set on .361 hitting and led the Crusaders with 13 blocks, while Dooms hit .281 with 21 kills and 29 digs.
“We are very excited to win our first tournament in a couple years,” said Crusader head coach Carin Avery. “Just like I said last night, it was a total team effort. We had a great weekend of play and we are excited to start league play. This is a great group of young ladies and they have been working extremely hard. It was nice to see things come together for us this weekend.”
The Crusaders kicked off Saturday's action early in the morning against Miami, and despite a couple tight sets, Valpo came out with the sweep. In fact, the first set saw the RedHawks lead most of the way, as the Crusaders claimed just a pair of brief advantages in the very early going. But trailing 20-17, Valpo got a kill by Victor, a Miami error and a service ace from senior Taylor Root (Jenison, Mich./Jenison) to tie the frame at 20-all.
Miami re-claimed the lead with a kill, but another termination by Victor set up junior Ariel Cudney (LaPorte, Ind./LaPorte) for a service ace to give the Crusaders a 22-21 lead. The RedHawks tied the set on their next three chances, but Valpo held Miami from claiming the outright lead thanks to kills by Vanden Berg, redshirt sophomore Lindsey Hauch (Coloma, Mich./Coloma) and junior Janelle Hobbs (Hartland, Wis./Arrowhead). On their second set point chance, the Crusaders claimed the opener as Hauch and Victor combined on a block. Valpo hit at a .342 clip in the opening set to offset Miami's .289 hitting.
Valpo continued the offensive dominance in the second set against the RedHawks, swinging at a .344 clip while holding Miami to just .029 hitting. The Crusaders led for the vast majority of the set, with the key run coming just past the midway point. Leading by just one at 15-14, Vanden Berg stepped up with back-to-back kills to push the lead to three points. Hobbs followed with a kill of her own, and a Miami error made it 19-14 Valpo. The Crusaders closed the set by scoring four of the final five points, capped by a Victor kill, to claim a 2-0 advantage.
The third set saw both squads attempt to use swings in momentum to their advantage. Miami got out to a hot start, leading 10-5, but a four-point spurt got the Crusaders back into the set and another 4-0 run, featuring two kills by Vanden Berg and one each from Dooms and Hobbs, gave Valpo a 16-14 lead. The RedHawks answered immediately though, scoring five of the next six to claim a 19-17 lead and force a Crusader timeout.
Out of the stoppage, Valpo took advantage of Miami errors to re-gain control, as a kill by Hobbs and a block from Victor and senior Mary Dent (Chicago, Ill./Von Steuben) combined with four MU miscues pushed the Crusader lead to 23-20. Miami scored consecutive points to close to within 23-22, but kills by Hauch and Dooms closed out the sweep.
Valpo hit at a .287 clip for the match, as four of its six attackers hit better than .300. Victor finished with a team-best 10 kills on .421 hitting and also picked up a team-high three blocks. Hauch hit .444 with nine kills, Hobbs .412 with eight kills and Vanden Berg posted seven kills on .316 hitting. Freshman Kelsey Berrington (Britton, Mich./Tecumseh) tallied 18 assists to go with Cudney's 14, while Root paced the back line with 13 digs.
The Crusaders had already clinched the tournament title thanks to tiebreakers going into their final match of the weekend against UT-Chattanooga, but didn't let that slow them down. Valpo dominated the Mocs on both sides of the ball, committing just five attack errors en route to a .343 team hitting percentage while holding UTC to .906 hitting.
Chattanooga's biggest threat came in the opening frame, as the Mocs led 6-3 early on, but the Crusaders quickly rallied. With the score tied at seven-all, Valpo scored 12 of the next 16 points, getting kills from six different attackers, including a pair by sophomore Morgan Beil (St. Louis, Mo./Marquette) to go ahead 19-11 and cruise to the win in the opener.
A mid-set run was the impetus for the second-set win, as an 8-1 spurt turned a two-point lead into a 19-10 advantage. Vanden Berg was in on three blocks during the run, while Dent tallied a pair of kills as Valpo went ahead 2-0. There was little doubt in the final frame, as a 14-2 run, featuring two kills and a block each from Dent and Hauch, was plenty for the Crusaders to complete the sweep of the Mocs and close the tournament on a high note.
The balanced Crusader offense saw no player tally more than eight kills against Chattanooga. Victor led the way, hitting .438 with eight kills, while Dooms matched her hitting percentage on seven kills. Vanden Berg also picked up seven terminations, going along with a team-high six blocks, and Hauch added six without an error as well. Cudney recorded 17 assists and Berrington 14, while the back line was led by Root's 15 digs.
Valparaiso (8-6) opens Horizon League play Friday night at UIC at 7 p.m. Live stats for the match will be available through www.valpoathletics.com.