The Valparaiso volleyball team started on fire offensively and got huge performances from both of its middle hitters Friday evening in Horizon League action at Youngstown State, riding the momentum all the way to a 3-0 (25-17, 28-26, 27-25) sweep of the Penguins in Youngstown, Ohio.
Junior Morgan Beil (St. Louis, Mo./Marquette) led the way for the Crusaders offensively, racking up a match-high 14 kills on just 21 swings in the sweep. Her .667 hitting percentage was the second-best single-match effort of her career. Meanwhile, senior Ellen Vanden Berg (Little Chute, Wis./Little Chute) was nearly as impressive, hitting .478 on the evening with 12 kills.
“It was nice to get back on the court again tonight after last weekend,” said Crusader head coach Carin Avery. “We did a lot of great things offensively tonight, and we came up with some really big plays in our comebacks. It was nice to see us down at points tonight and be able to grind our way back.”
The duo combined for 10 of their 26 kills in the first set, helping Valpo take the opening frame for the first time in the last three matches. The Crusaders did not commit an attack error in the first set, hitting .395 with 15 kills on the offensive side of the ball while holding the Penguins to .170 hitting. Valpo claimed the lead for good at 6-5, and used a four-point spurt mid-frame to go ahead 14-8, from which point the Crusaders held YSU at bay.
Neither of the final two sets would come nearly as easy to Valpo. It looked like it might be easy early in the second set, as the Crusaders jumped ahead 7-2, but YSU fought back and eventually claimed its first lead of the set at 17-16. Following a timeout, Valpo scored five straight, getting two kills apiece from Vanden Berg and senior Sarah Dooms (Greenwood, Ind./Center Grove) and an ace by senior Ariel Cudney (LaPorte, Ind./LaPorte), to go ahead 21-17.
The Penguins scored six of the next eight to tie the set at 23-all, and while a YSU attack error gave Valpo set point at 24-23, a service error forced extra points at 24-24. Beil tallied a kill, but yet another service error returned the serve to the Penguins, and a Valpo attack error provided YSU a set point chance at 26-25. But redshirt junior Kelsey Victor (Logansport, Ind./Logansport) picked up a kill to keep the set alive, and following a Penguin error, Victor and Vanden Berg combined on a block to close out the set in the Crusaders' favor, giving them a 2-0 lead in the match.
The third set proved to be the most back-and-forth of the night, with 10 tie scores and five lead changes. Much like the second set, one team jumped out to an early 7-2 lead, only this time it was Youngstown State. As in the previous frame, however, the trailing team fought back, as the Crusaders clawed back to take the lead at 15-14 on the back of a 5-0 run.
The flip-flopping would continue, with the Crusaders scoring three straight points on two Dooms kills and an ace from freshman Morganne Longoria (Burlington, Wis./Burlington) to go ahead 20-18 before four straight YSU points. Valpo responded with two straight, but the Penguins answered with the same to earn two set point chances at 24-22.
Kills by first Beil and then freshman Emily Campbell (Grand Rapids, Mich./Forest Hills Central) kept the set alive, however, as the two teams went extra points for the second straight set. YSU moved within one point of forcing a fourth set with a kill to make it 25-24, but Campbell responded with a kill to tie it at 25-all. Beil then recorded her 14th termination of the night to push the Crusaders to the brink of the sweep, and a Penguin attack error made it a 3-0 Valpo win.
The Crusaders hit a robust .311 in the sweep, tallying 48 kills against just 11 attack errors as a team. Dooms backed up the stellar performances of Beil and Vanden Berg on the attack with a solid effort as well, hitting .333 with 12 kills. Cudney handed out 22 assists on the evening, while sophomore Kelsey Berrington (Britton, Mich./Tecumseh) added 17 assists. Defensively, Longoria posted a team-high 14 digs, while Dooms and Berrington each ended the night with double-doubles after recording 13 and 10 digs, respectively.
Youngstown State (10-9, 2-2 Horizon) received 14 kills from Alexis Egler, but no other Penguin tallied more than eight kills. Erika West posted a match-best 16 digs.
Valparaiso (14-4, 3-1 Horizon) looks for a perfect swing through northeast Ohio on Saturday afternoon, as the Crusaders take on Cleveland State. First serve is set for 3 p.m. CT, and live stats and live video will be available through ValpoAthletics.com.