For the second straight Horizon League match, the Valparaiso volleyball team rallied from a two-set deficit to force a decisive fifth set, but the Crusaders were unable to come out with the win Friday night, as Cleveland State downed Valpo, 3-2 (25-17, 25-19, 21-25, 22-25, 15-10).
Senior libero Taylor Root (Jenison, Mich./Jenison) set a new career high for digs while matching Valpo's record for a five-set match as well, posting 39 digs on Friday evening. Root's 39 digs, which are tied for second-most overall in a single match in Crusader history, give her 2,401 on her career, moving her into a tie for 18th in NCAA history.
"I'm proud of the girls for coming back - forcing a fifth set after being down two sets is not easy," said Crusader head coach Carin Avery. "But ultimately, we still have to work on slowing down the attack. When Cleveland State's top four hitters are hitting that well and we're not slowing them down, we're not going to beat them."
The Crusaders found themselves down two sets at the hands of a potent Cleveland State attack, as the Vikings hit .315 with 36 kills over the first two frames. CSU jumped out to a quick 11-3 lead in the opener, and Valpo was unable to get any closer than four points the rest of the way. Then, after a back-and-forth first half of the second set, Valpo found itself ahead 16-15 following a kill by senior Mary Dent (Chicago, Ill./Von Steuben). But the Crusaders scored just three points in the set, as the Vikings ended the set on a 10-3 spurt to head into the in-game break up two sets.
Coming out of the locker room, CSU scored the first three points of set three, but Valpo rattled off the next five, including two kills each by junior Sarah Dooms (Greenwood, Ind./Center Grove) and redshirt sophomore Kelsey Victor (Logansport, Ind./Logansport). The Vikings briefly regained the lead at 7-6, but the Crusaders quickly re-claimed the advantage for good. The set was tight most of the way, until at 15-14, Valpo scored four straight to gain some breathing room. Victor had another kill during the spurt, while Dooms teamed up with sophomore Morgan Beil (St. Louis, Mo./Marquette) on a block and junior Sarah Chrabaszcz (Reedsburg, Wis./Reedsburg Area) picked up a service ace. The Vikings got no closer than two the rest of the way as the Crusaders extended the match.
Set four was also tightly contested through the midway portion, as at one point, the squads traded sideouts in a stretch of 10 out of 11 points. It was Valpo with the narrow advantage most of the way, and it was Valpo which pushed its lead out as the set neared critical mass. Leading 17-15, the Crusaders got a kill from junior Ellen Vanden Berg (Little Chute, Wis./Little Chute) and a block from Beil and junior Janelle Hobbs (Hartland, Wis./Arrowhead) to force a CSU timeout at 19-15. The Vikings scored the next point, but Valpo answered with three straight, including a kill by Dent and a service ace from freshman Kelsey Berrington (Britton, Mich./Tecumseh), to lead 22-16. The Crusaders earned set point at 24-20, and while CSU saved two chances, a Vanden Berg kill eventually sent the match to the fifth frame.
Cleveland State never trailed in the decisive set, jumping out to a quick 6-2 lead. Valpo put together a spurt in response, closing to within 7-6 on a block from Hobbs and Vanden Berg, but the Vikings responded with three straight points to go up 10-6. The Crusaders got to within two points at 10-8 and 11-9, but both times CSU answered with points to keep Valpo at bay.
Beil paced the Crusaders with 18 kills on .385 hitting, while Vanden Berg ended the night with 13 kills on .357 hitting and was also in on a team-best five blocks. Dooms posted a double-double with 11 kills and 17 digs, while Chrabaszcz also finished in double figures with 10 digs.
"We need more than two attackers to show up every match," said Avery. "That's been our problem all year and is part of the reason we're 10-9, because we've only had two players hitting near where they should be every match."
Kara Koch led all players with 23 kills for Cleveland State (12-6, 4-1 Horizon), which also received 16 kills by Kerry Winchester and 15 kills from Marie Frease. The Vikings hit .247 as a team while out-killing the Crusaders 71-61. Dayna Roberts dished out a match-high 61 assists, while Maggie Hannon paced the Vikings with eight blocks.
Valparaiso (10-9, 2-2 Horizon) looks to rebound on Saturday evening as it hosts Youngstown State at the ARC at 5 p.m. The match can be heard live on WVUR (95.1 FM, Valparaiso) and seen live on the Horizon League Network, with links for the live audio, video and stats available at www.valpoathletics.com.