The Valparaiso volleyball team split a pair of matches on Saturday at the NCCU Invitational in Durham, N.C. The Crusaders fell in a tough five-set match (16-25, 25-18, 25-22, 22-25, 15-9) to Campbell to start the day, but closed the tournament on a winning note with a 3-1 (25-14, 25-18, 23-25, 25-19) victory over the host Eagles. Junior Kelsey Berrington (Britton, Mich./Tecumseh) and sophomore Emily Campbell (Grand Rapids, Mich./Forest Hills Central) represented the Crusaders on the All-Tournament Team.
“We played another extremely scrappy team today,” said Crusader head coach Carin Avery. “I'm glad we faced a team like Campbell this weekend, because they are similar to many teams in the Horizon League. We are still playing many different lineups and it was an entire team effort this weekend. All three matches we played this weekend were learning experiences for our team.”
The day got off to a great start for the Crusaders against Campbell, as Berrington served the first six points of the match, including three aces, as Valpo cruised to the opening-set win. The Crusader offense struggled in the next two sets, however, allowing Campbell to take a 2-1 lead, but Valpo rebounded in the fourth frame, hitting at a .333 clip with 17 kills and claiming the lead for good at the halfway point of the set to force a decisive fifth set.
Valpo was unable to get anything going in the final set, however, scoring consecutive points just once in the fifth frame. With the score tied at 4-4, Campbell scored four of the next five points to take the lead for good, and then scored four straight points with the score 10-8 to send the Crusaders to their first loss of the year.
Emily Campbell led all players in the day’s opening match, tallying 20 kills on .269 hitting. Senior Morgan Beil (St. Louis, Mo./Marquette) added 11 kills and five blocks, while fifth-year senior Kelsey Victor (Logansport, Ind./Logansport) chipped in 10 kills and five blocks. Berrington handed out a career-best 46 assists, registered 14 digs and led all players with four service aces. On the back line, sophomore Morganne Longoria (Burlington, Wis./Burlington) recorded a team-best 18 digs.
Alexis Hein and Jessica Groen paced Campbell (3-0) with 19 kills apiece, the latter doing it on .378 hitting. Lorin Thomas totaled 12 kills and led all players with 11 blocks.
With a number of different regulars on the court in the final match of the tournament against host North Carolina Central, the Crusaders showed little dropoff. Valpo dominated the attack in the opening set, hitting .519 as it tallied 14 kills without a hitting error, and then the Crusaders went on a 7-2 run midway through the second frame to take control as they went up 2-0. The Eagles claimed a tight third set to keep the match alive, but Valpo scored five of the final six points of the fourth set to end the weekend on a winning note.
Sophomore Jamie Lacheta (Warsaw, Ind./Warsaw) was the Crusaders’ offensive leader against the Eagles, recording a career-best 11 kills on .320 hitting. Freshman Taylor Graboski (Upper Sandusky, Ohio/Upper Sandusky) registered nine kills on .444 hitting, while junior Nicole Lambert (St. Charles, Ill./East [Radford]) hit .545 with eight kills and a team-high four blocks. Berrington dished out 22 assists to go along with 19 helpers from redshirt freshman Tarrah Lasky (Valparaiso, Ind./Valparaiso). Lacheta also tallied a team-high and career-best 16 digs for her first double-double, while sophomore Lexie Bouza (Elgin, Ill./Burlington Central) started at libero and recorded 13 digs.
Ashley McCarthy led North Carolina Central (0-3) with 15 kills, to go with 12 terminations apiece from Da’sha Brown and Kelsey Murphy. Paige Phillips handed out 40 assists for the Eagles.
Valparaiso (2-1) plays a non-league match Wednesday evening at the ARC, hosting IUPUI in the home opener at 7 p.m. The game can be seen live on the Horizon League Network and heard live on WVUR (95.1 FM, Valparaiso), with links for live video and audio, as well as live stats, available at ValpoAthletics.com.