The Valparaiso volleyball team used an efficient offensive performance to begin the 2014 season on a winning note Friday afternoon at the NCCU Invitational, committing just nine attack errors and hitting at a .286 clip in a 3-1 (25-23, 25-16, 26-28, 25-20) victory over Wofford.
The Crusaders hit over .300 in each of the three sets they win in the season opener, and peaked in the decisive fourth set, hitting .355 and making just one attack error. Only four of Valpo’s hitting errors on the evening were of the unforced variety.
“It was very exciting to get back on the court today,” said Crusader head coach Carin Avery. “We played a very scrappy Wofford team today, and I’m so proud of our team. We played different lineups in all four sets and were able to stay competitive in every set. It showed that we have a lot of depth on this team and that a lot of different people can rise to the occasion when called upon.”
Sophomore Emily Campbell (Grand Rapids, Mich./Forest Hills Central) led the way offensively for Valpo on Friday, tallying 13 kills in the winning effort while also pacing the Crusaders with three service aces. Fifth-year senior Kelsey Victor (Logansport, Ind./Logansport) was very efficient as well, hitting .409 with 12 kills, while freshman Allison Ketcham (Mishawaka, Ind./Marian) debuted with five kills on 11 swings without committing an attack error.
A back-and-forth opening set to open the 2014 season featured eight ties and five lead changes and went right down to the wire. The Crusaders held a 23-21 lead before back-to-back points from the Terriers tied things up at 23 apiece. But a Wofford attack error gave Valpo set point, and the defense would secure the opener for the Crusaders, as Campbell and Victor combined on a block.
The second set was much easier for the Crusaders to claim, as they limited Wofford to just nine kills on .083 hitting in the frame and led by a good margin for most of the set. But Wofford would claim the third set in extra points to extend the match.
Valpo trailed for most of the first half of the fourth set, but just past the halfway point, took control of the frame. Back-to-back service aces from sophomore Rachel Bruinsma (New Era, Mich./Western Michigan Christian) briefly gave the Crusaders a 14-13 edge, but after a service error tied the set at 14-all, Valpo would score seven straight points to take control. A Wofford attack error returned the serve to the Crusaders, and Campbell stepped back to the service line and served up the next six points. Leading 21-14, Valpo’s lead wouldn’t fall below four points the rest of the way.
Senior Morgan Beil (St. Louis, Mo./Marquette) chipped in nine kills on .368 hitting to Valpo’s offensive effort on Friday. Junior Kelsey Berrington (Britton, Mich./Tecumseh), after setting in a 6-2 for most of her first two seasons, set all the way around the rotation on Friday and handed out 35 assists while also tallying 11 digs. On the back line, sophomore Morganne Longoria (Burlington, Wis./Burlington) led the way with 23 digs, while at the net, Victor and junior Nicole Lambert (St. Charles, Ill./East [Radford]) each tallied a team-best three blocks.
Wofford (0-1) out-killed the Crusaders on the evening 59-47, but 24 attack errors and 20 service errors hurt the Terriers’ cause. Taylor Baird led all players with 20 kills, while Katelynn Slade tallied a match-best 29 digs.
Valparaiso (1-0) closes out the NCCU Invitational on Saturday with a pair of matches as it attempts to add another in-season tournament trophy to its trophy case. The Crusaders take on Campbell at 2 p.m. CT before facing the host Eagles at 6 p.m.