Missed opportunities in a trio of tight sets doomed the Valparaiso University volleyball team on Friday night at the ARC, as the Crusaders lost in Horizon League play for the first time this season to defending league champion Oakland, 3-1 (25-23, 16-25, 27-25, 25-23).
The Crusaders rallied to put themselves in position to claim the opening set, as after trailing 10-3 early, they came all the way back to take their first lead at 15-14. Up 20-18, Valpo surrendered three consecutive points to the Golden Grizzlies, but then scored three of the next four – the final coming on a solo block from junior Emily Campbell (Grand Rapids, Mich./Forest Hills Central) – to move to within two points of the set at 23-22.
But Oakland would score the final three points of the set, sandwiching a pair of kills from Cassie Pelloni around a Sammy Condon service ace which clipped the tape and fell over, to take the 1-0 lead. The second set came easy to the Crusaders, however, as they jumped out to a 9-3 advantage and never led by less than five points the rest of the way in sending the match into the in-game break tied at one set apiece.
After trailing briefly early in set three, Valpo looked poised to claim the frame, leading late by as many as five points at 22-17 and earning set point at 24-21 following a block by junior Rachel Bruinsma (New Era, Mich./Western Michigan Christian) and freshman Katherine Carlson (Lake Orion, Mich./Notre Dame Prep). But three straight Oakland kills forced the set into extra points, and although Valpo had a fourth chance at set point at 25-24 following a setter dump by senior Kelsey Berrington (Britton, Mich./Tecumseh), the Golden Grizzlies scored the final three points to claim the set and seize momentum.
Valpo led early in the fourth set, but a 5-1 spurt mid-set gave Oakland some breathing room and a 15-11 lead. The Golden Grizzlies’ lead was still four points late at 23-19 before Valpo scored back-to-back points to move within two points. An Oakland kill gave the Golden Grizzlies match point at 24-21, but the Crusaders were able to hold off two chances at the match with kills by sophomore Allison Ketcham (Mishawaka, Ind./Marian) before a kill from Jessica Dood closed out the contest in Oakland’s favor.
Sophomore Taylor Graboski (Upper Sandusky, Ohio/Upper Sandusky) paced the Crusader offense on Friday, hitting .412 with a career-high 15 kills. Campbell added 13 kills, but also committed 10 attack errors, while Ketcham chipped in 11 kills. Berrington handed out 46 assists.
Defensively, Ketcham led the way with 24 digs for her seventh double-double of the season, while junior Morganne Longoria (Burlington, Wis./Burlington) picked up 21 digs. Berrington tallied 15 digs, surpassing the 1,000-dig milestone for her career midway through the first set. Bruinsma was in on five of Valpo’s seven team blocks and has combined for 12 blocks over the last two matches after being part of just 48 blocks over her first two and a half years as a Crusader.
Melissa Deatsch paced four Oakland (8-9, 2-1 Horizon) players in double figures in kills with 16 terminations. Alli Gutschow tallied a match-best 27 digs, while Amanda Baker posted eight blocks.
Valparaiso (15-3, 3-1 Horizon) continues its five-match homestand next Friday evening versus Milwaukee at the ARC. First serve is slated for 7 p.m., and the match will be broadcast live on ESPN3.com, with live stats available via ValpoAthletics.com.