For the second time this season, Valparaiso rallied from a two-set deficit against league leader Cleveland State, but seven attack errors in the fifth set doomed the Crusaders on Saturday in Cleveland, Ohio, as the Vikings pulled out a 3-2 (25-20, 25-17, 11-25, 21-25, 15-11) victory over Valpo.
“I am proud of the team for coming back after being down today,” said Crusader head coach Carin Avery. “I thought Cleveland State played unbelievable in the first two sets. I am disappointed in how we lost the fifth set – hitting in the negatives. Kelsey was beyond good for us both last night and tonight – she had a great weekend.”
The Crusaders were unable to slow down the Vikings’ offensive attack in the first two sets, as CSU hit .433 in the first set and .368 in the second frame, combining for just three hitting errors. Valpo was solid on the attack, hitting .216 in both sets, but never outright led in either frame. The Crusaders closed to within 20-18 following a three-point spurt in the opening set and within 18-15 in the second set, but could get no closer as CSU went into the in-game break up two sets to none.
Valpo flipped the script out of the break, completely dominating in all aspects in the third set. The Crusaders scored four of the first five points en route to an 11-2 lead and cruised from there. Valpo hit .393 with 13 kills in extending the match, while holding Cleveland State to just eight kills and forcing nine attack errors.
Another early run in the fourth set proved vital for the Crusaders. Valpo ran off six consecutive points to open the frame and pushed its advantage to seven points on numerous occasions, the latest coming at 18-11. The Vikings scored four straight points to make a set of it, and eventually would close back to as close as one point at 22-21. But a kill from junior Janelle Hobbs (Hartland, Wis./Arrowhead) pushed the lead back to two points, and back-to-back CSU attack errors moved the match into the decisive fifth set.
The Crusaders started the final set with three straight points, as redshirt sophomore Kelsey Victor (Logansport, Ind./Logansport) and sophomore Morgan Beil (St. Louis, Mo./Marquette) combined on a block, followed by a service ace from freshman Kelsey Berrington (Britton, Mich./Tecumseh) and a kill by Beil. Cleveland State answered with three straight of its own to tie the frame, and the teams would trade points until a five-point run gave the Vikings an 11-6 edge.
Valpo fought back with four straight of its own, starting with a block from Berrington and junior Ellen Vanden Berg (Little Chute, Wis./Little Chute). Senior Mary Dent (Chicago, Ill./Von Steuben) posted back-to-back kills, and an attack error by the Vikings moved the Crusaders within 11-10. But CSU scored the next three to earn match point, and while Valpo fought off one chance on a Vanden Berg kill, a kill by Kerry Winchester eventually closed the match in the Vikings’ favor.
One night after posting a career high in kills, Victor smashed it on Saturday, putting down a match-high 21 kills on .500 hitting. Beil was the only other Crusader in double figures in kills, however, tallying 12 kills. Berrington handed out a career-high 43 assists, while senior Taylor Root (Jenison, Mich./Jenison) led the effort on the back line with 33 digs, moving into sixth in NCAA history in the category in the process. Victor and Vanden Berg each were part of five blocks.
Kara Koch led Cleveland State (20-6, 12-1 Horizon), which clinched the outright regular season title with the win, with 18 kills, while Marie Frease and Jackie Dabbelt added 10 kills apiece. Frease also led all players with six blocks.
Valparaiso (18-11, 8-4 Horizon) returns home for the final weekend of regular season play as it looks to earn the second seed for the league championship and a bye into the semifinals. The weekend kicks off Saturday evening against Green Bay at 7 p.m. The match will be broadcast live on the radio on WVUR, 95.1 FM, along with video on the Horizon League Network. Links for the live audio and video, as well as live stats, will be available at www.valpoathletics.com.