The Valparaiso volleyball team bounced back from its first loss of the season with a pair of solid outings on Saturday, defeating both SIU Edwardsville (25-16, 25-14, 24-26, 25-20) and Evansville (25-17, 19-25, 25-18, 25-18) by identical 3-1 counts to close out play at this weekend’s tournament in Evansville, Ind.
The Crusaders came out and blitzed SIU Edwardsville in the first two sets thanks to impressive offense. Valpo hit .382 with three attack errors in the first set, and then stepped up another notch in the second frame, hitting .405 with just two errors. SIUE was within two points just past midway of the opener at 15-13, but the Crusaders scored 10 of the set’s final 13 points, and then Valpo used a 16-4 spurt in the second set to take control.
The Cougars rallied in the third set, thanks in large part to 12 Valpo hitting errors, and actually earned multiple set point chances at 24-21. The Crusaders held off three set points, thanks to kills from freshman Emily Campbell (Grand Rapids, Mich./Forest Hills Central) and senior Janelle Hobbs (Hartland, Wis./Arrowhead) and an SIUE attack error, but back-to-back kills from the Cougars gave them the third frame and extended the match to a fourth set.
It was all Valpo early in set four, as it jumped out to an 8-2 lead, but the Cougars rallied and took the lead at 15-14. The set was still tied up at 18-all before the Crusader offense flexed its muscle one last time. Valpo went on a 6-0 run, all coming on kills – three terminations by senior Sarah Dooms (Greenwood, Ind./Center Grove), two by redshirt junior Kelsey Victor (Logansport, Ind./Logansport) and one from junior Morgan Beil (St. Louis, Mo./Marquette) to move within one point of the victory, which would eventually come on a kill from Campbell.
It was apropos that the final kill came from Campbell, capping a stellar match from the Crusader rookie. Campbell closed the win over the Cougars with a match-best 20 kills and also picked up 20 digs, the first 20-20 performance by a Valpo player since November of 2009. Beil and Victor were both extremely efficient offensively, hitting .529 and .474, respectively, with 11 kills apiece, while Dooms chipped in 10 kills.
Sophomore Kelsey Berrington (Britton, Mich./Tecumseh) handed out 30 assists in the win, while senior Ariel Cudney (LaPorte, Ind./LaPorte) registered 28 assists to go with 12 digs. Dooms also recorded a double-double, posting a team-high 24 digs, and freshman Morganne Longoria (Burlington, Wis./Burlington) added 18 digs as well. Senior Ellen Vanden Berg (Little Chute, Wis./Little Chute) was in on seven of the Crusaders’ 10 team blocks.
Cori Harris and Kelsey Augustine led SIU Edwardsville (2-6) with 10 kills each, and Chelsea Colclasure paced all players with 26 digs. Augustine also tied for match-high honors with Vanden Berg by posting seven blocks.
“We were super excited to get back on the floor this morning after not playing well on Friday night, and I think that showed in sets one and two,” said Crusader head coach Carin Avery. “In the last two sets, we just allowed ourselves to make some silly mistakes and SIU Edwardsville made some good adjustments. The good news is, despite that, we kept the third set tight and we won the fourth set, so we figured out how to win despite some struggles.”
The nightcap against tournament host Evansville saw the Crusaders gain control early in each of their three set victories. Valpo got out to a 4-1 lead in the opening set on Saturday evening and never trailed, putting together a 6-2 spurt with Evansville within two points at 10-8 to create separation en route to going up one set to none. The Crusaders were forced to fight from behind in the back half of the second set and were still within one point at 20-19, but Evansville closed the frame with five straight points to even the match.
The Crusaders would leave little doubt to the outcome of the third set, as tied at six, Vanden Berg posted a kill and then stepped back to the service line for nine straight points as Valpo cruised to the set win. The fourth and final frame proved to be more of the same, as the Crusaders got out to a 14-3 start in rolling to the victory.
Dooms paced Valpo against Evansville (5-5) with 15 kills, while Victor hit .462 with 14 kills and Beil posted 11 kills on .450 hitting. Berrington and Cudney contributed 25 and 23 assists, respectively. Longoria set a new career best early in her young Crusader career with 28 digs, to go along with 11 apiece from Campbell, Berrington and Cudney. Hobbs set a new career best by being part of nine of Valpo’s 13 team blocks, and Vanden Berg posted seven blocks for the second straight match.
Ashley Ring led Evansville (5-5) with 13 kills, but also committed 13 hitting errors in the Valpo win. Katie Klages recorded 25 digs, while Rachel Tenhoor led the Purple Aces with six blocks.
“We played extremely well tonight against Evansville,” said Avery. “Our offense did a very good job, and defensively, we served very well – we took them out of system a bit and forced them to do things they didn’t want to do, which was reflected in their low hitting percentage. On our end, we eliminated a lot of the errors we made in our last two matches. Both sets we lost today, I felt our errors were a big part of that, giving the other team way too many chances to gain momentum.”
Valparaiso (10-1) looks to continue its strong start to the 2013 season at the Blue & White Classic in Buffalo, N.Y. next weekend. The Crusaders will face host Buffalo to kick off tournament play Friday evening, September 20 at 6 p.m. CT.