The Valparaiso volleyball team was unable to overcome a sluggish start to the match for a second straight night, dropping a 3-0 (25-5, 25-22, 25-19) decision to Milwaukee Saturday afternoon at the ARC in a matchup of the Horizon League’s last two unbeaten teams in league play.
“No question, we were due for this loss tonight,” said Crusader head coach Carin Avery. “We have been playing sluggish at practice this week, and came out this weekend in the matches playing the same way. I give Milwaukee a lot of credit – they passed the ball extremely well, and their defense was unbelievable tonight. Obviously when you hold a team to 21 kills, you’re doing a lot of things well defensively.”
The opening set went much like Friday night’s opening frame for the Crusaders, as Milwaukee led start to finish in running away with it. The Panthers scored the final 13 points of the set, sided out on each of Valpo’s six serves and hit at a .577 clip for the set as compared to the Crusaders’ -.114.
The second set was much tighter, as trailing 12-8, the Crusaders scored five of the next six points to tie the set at 13-all. The teams struggled for control, with Valpo finally earning its first lead at 19-18 on a kill by senior Sarah Dooms (Greenwood, Ind./Center Grove).
Milwaukee scored four straight to take a 22-19 lead, but the Crusaders answered with three straight on a kill from senior Janelle Hobbs (Hartland, Wis./Arrowhead), a block by juniors Morgan Beil (St. Louis, Mo./Marquette) and Kelsey Victor (Logansport, Ind./Logansport) and a Panther error to tie it at 22-22. But Milwaukee recorded kills on each of the final three points of the set to take a 2-0 lead into the in-game break.
The third set also proved to be a back-and-forth affair, with 12 ties and seven lead changes. A 5-0 run which included a kill and two blocks by senior Ellen Vanden Berg (Little Chute, Wis./Little Chute) gave the Crusaders a 13-10 advantage at the midway point. But Milwaukee responded with eight of the next 11 points to re-take the lead, and while Valpo briefly tied the set at 18-18, the Panthers ended the match by scoring seven of the final eight points.
The Crusaders struggled offensively, hitting just .044 for the match and totaling just 21 kills as a team. On the back line, Valpo tallied 43 digs, led by 12 from freshman Emily Campbell (Grand Rapids, Mich./Forest Hills Central), while at the net, the Crusaders ended the night with six blocks.
“Just as we did last night, we made an enormous number of unforced errors – we have to figure out why we keep making so many of those errors, and have to figure out how to eliminate those,” said Avery. “Then, to Milwaukee’s credit, whenever we did keep the ball in play, they did a great job defensive transitioning and winning points.”
Julie Kolinske led Milwaukee (8-8, 4-0 Horizon) with 13 kills and was supported by 11 kills each from Nicole Latzig and Myanna Ruiz. Taylor Golabowski led all players with 24 digs, while Ruiz (14 digs) and Kayla Price (29 assists, 10 digs) each picked up double-doubles.
Valparaiso (13-4, 2-1 Horizon) looks to get back on the winning track next weekend in northeast Ohio, as the Crusaders start a three-match road trip at Youngstown State Friday evening at 6 p.m. CT. Links for live stats and live video through the Horizon League Network will be available at ValpoAthletics.com.