The Valparaiso University volleyball team took down an in-state foe Wednesday evening, in the process moving within one victory of hitting the 20-win milestone for a 14th straight season, as the Crusaders defeated IPFW at the ARC, 3-1 (25-27, 26-24, 25-17, 25-21).
The Crusaders’ service game kept them in the first set, as Valpo tallied six service aces in the first set alone to overcome a .318-.152 hitting advantage in the frame for the Mastodons. An ace from junior Rachel Bruinsma (New Era, Mich./Western Michigan Christian) gave Valpo the lead during a late 4-1 spurt which made it 24-22 Crusaders, but three straight points for IPFW flipped the advantage. A service error knotted the set at 25-all, but IPFW picked up a kill and then a solo block to take the opener.
The second set looked to be all Valpo early on, as the Crusaders ran out to an early 7-2 lead. Valpo held off a mid-set run from the Mastodons, scoring three straight points after IPFW had closed to within 16-15. Leading 23-18, however, the Crusaders surrendered four consecutive points to see their lead cut to one. A block from Bruinsma and redshirt freshman Kayla Currier (Frankfort, Ill./Lincoln-Way East) gave Valpo set point at 24-22, but back-to-back points by IPFW forced extra points for a second straight set. This time, however, it would be Valpo coming out on top, as kills by junior Emily Campbell (Grand Rapids, Mich./Forest Hills Central) and Bruinsma sent the match into the in-game break at one set apiece.
Valpo would never trail in the third set, going ahead 10-5 early on in large part due to five kills from freshman Katherine Carlson (Lake Orion, Mich./Notre Dame Prep). IPFW would get as close as two points at 16-14 and was still within three at 19-16, but Campbell tallied three kills in a 5-0 spurt as the Crusaders took control, eventually closing the set on a kill from libero Allison Ketcham (Mishawaka, Ind./Marian).
The fourth set was nearly as back-and-forth as the opening frame, featuring 10 ties and four lead changes. While the Crusaders hit .292 with 19 kills in the set, to just 10 kills on .135 hitting for the Mastodons, IPFW hung around. The teams traded the lead as the set passed the midway point, at one point siding out on 11 out of 12 serves. With the score 21-20 Crusaders, Valpo came up big, stringing together three straight points on kills from Carlson and sophomore Taylor Graboski (Upper Sandusky, Ohio/Upper Sandusky) and a block by Graboski and senior Kelsey Berrington (Britton, Mich./Tecumseh). On Valpo’s second match point chance, Campbell emphatically put away an overpass to secure the win.
Campbell would lead all players Wednesday with 20 kills, while Graboski tallied 13 kills and Carlson 12 on .324 and .357 hitting, respectively. A trio of Crusaders finished the night with double-doubles, as Carlson and Campbell each tallied 16 digs to go along with 39 assists and 11 digs from Berrington. Ketcham started the match at outside hitter for the first set before moving to libero the final three sets, registering a team-best 17 digs. Ketcham and Bruinsma each tallied three aces, while Currier and Graboski both were in on four of Valpo’s eight team blocks.
Nicole Rightnowar led IPFW (6-18) with 18 kills on Wednesday and added 14 digs, while Somer Johnson tallied 14 kills and Sarah Heckman recorded 10. Olivia Hahn posted a match-best 30 digs in the losing effort.
Valparaiso (19-5) looks for 20 wins and an important Horizon League victory Friday night when the Crusaders host Wright State at 7 p.m. at the ARC. The match can be seen live on ESPN3.com, with live stats also available via ValpoAthletics.com.