A stellar performance on both sides of the ball was easily enough for the Valparaiso volleyball team to sweep host South Dakota State, 3-0 (25-20, 25-15, 25-17) Saturday afternoon to close out a perfect weekend at the Jackrabbit Invitational in Brookings, S.D. The tournament title was the 18th in-season crown for the Crusaders under head coach Carin Avery.
The effort all weekend was led by tournament MVP Kelsey Berrington (Britton, Mich./Tecumseh). The junior setter averaged 11.18 assists/set for the weekend in helping lead Valpo to the three victories, including 28 assists in Saturday’s win. Berrington guided the offense as it hit at a .286 clip for the tournament while also contributing 22 digs.
Joining Berrington on the All-Tournament Team were senior Morgan Beil (St. Louis, Mo./Marquette) and freshman Allison Ketcham (Mishawaka, Ind./Marian). Beil hit a team-high .403 for the tournament with 28 kills, capping the weekend with seven kills on .583 hitting and three blocks in Saturday’s victory. Ketcham posted 33 kills over the three matches, including a team-high 16 kills in Friday afternoon’s win over Stephen F. Austin, and added 29 digs as well.
“It was a great weekend of volleyball for us,” said Avery. “It has been a very long time since we have hit at such a high percentage for an entire weekend. It was a great total team effort this weekend, and that is what I am most proud of. Everybody stepped up at different, crucial times this weekend. It has been fun to watch this team as it gets better.”
While the opening set was the closest in final score, the Crusaders actually led it start to finish, as they jumped out to a 7-2 early advantage. Valpo pushed the lead in the opener out to as much as 22-12 before an 8-1 run by the Jackrabbits brought it to within 23-20. The Crusaders responded with a kill from fifth-year senior Kelsey Victor (Logansport, Ind./Logansport) to earn set point, and an SDSU error ended the opener in Valpo’s favor.
It was a back-and-forth battle in the early going of set two, but when the Crusaders gained momentum, they did so in a big way, going on a 15-5 run with the score tied at 10-all to claim the second set. Then, in the final set, Valpo reeled off five straight points early to go ahead by an 11-5 score and never relinquished the lead in earning the sweep.
Sophomore Emily Campbell (Grand Rapids, Mich./Forest Hills Central) continued her strong early-season play with another match-best effort, picking up 16 kills on .375 hitting to pace the offense. Ketcham chipped in eight kills to go with Beil’s efficient seven-kill performance.
The Crusaders used a strong defensive effort in addition to their performance on the offensive side of the ball to secure Saturday’s sweep, as South Dakota State (3-4) committed 25 attack errors to go with its 25 kills. Junior Morganne Longoria (Burlington, Wis./Burlington) led Valpo on the back line with 10 digs, while at the net, Victor was in on a match-best five rejections as Valpo totaled eight team blocks.
Valparaiso (6-1) continues early-season play next weekend at the Skyhawk Invitational in Martin, Tenn. Tournament play starts for the Crusaders Friday afternoon at 4:30 p.m. CT against Western Carolina.