The Valparaiso University volleyball team fell short in its quest to make it a perfect four-match road swing in Horizon League play, as the Crusaders suffered a 3-1 (25-21, 25-19, 29-31, 25-21) defeat Saturday afternoon at Milwaukee.
The Crusaders led the Panthers 14-11 midway through the first set, but Milwaukee strung together six straight points to take the lead for good, and Valpo would get no closer than two points the rest of the way. Then in the second set, Milwaukee limited Valpo to .000 hitting, as the Crusaders never led and entered in the in-game break down two sets to none.
It looked like Valpo had the advantage in the third set, leading 19-16 and then again at 23-21 before Milwaukee scored three straight points to earn a match point. A block from senior Kelsey Berrington (Britton, Mich./Tecumseh) and sophomore Taylor Graboski (Upper Sandusky, Ohio/Upper Sandusky) extended the set, and a kill by junior Emily Campbell (Grand Rapids, Mich./Forest Hills Central) gave Valpo set point at 25-24. The Crusaders would have five set point chances that the Panthers would hold off, but a kill from sophomore Allison Ketcham (Mishawaka, Ind./Marian) gave Valpo a sixth chance at 30-29, and a Graboski termination finished off the frame and forced a fourth set.
Valpo looked like it was in good position early in the fourth set, claiming an early 7-2 advantage en route to leading by as many as seven points, the latest coming at 12-5 following back-to-back blocks from freshman Sydney Bronner (Frankenmuth, Mich./Frankenmuth). But Milwaukee went on a 12-2 run to go ahead 17-14, and while the Crusaders responded with four straight points to briefly take one more lead, the last spurt went to the Panthers, as UWM closed out the match on a 5-1 run.
Campbell paced Valpo and tied for match-high honors with 19 kills on Saturday, in the process moving past Sarah Dooms into seventh place on the Crusaders’ career kills chart. Ketcham added 12 kills as well, but the Panthers limited Valpo to just .127 hitting for the match – the Crusaders’ worst hitting percentage of the year. Junior Morganne Longoria (Burlington, Wis./Burlington) led Valpo with 19 digs, while Bronner picked up a team-high seven blocks and added five kills despite playing just the final two sets.
Maggie Dunbar picked up 19 kills to lead Milwaukee (9-19, 7-8 Horizon) on Saturday afternoon, while Sammi Herron tallied 14 kills. Myanna Ruiz totaled a match-best 31 digs and Celine Jones was in on eight of the Panthers’ 14 team blocks.
Valparaiso (23-7, 9-5 Horizon) will close out the regular season at home next weekend, looking to secure its seed for the Horizon League Championship. The weekend begins Friday afternoon with a special 5 p.m. first serve for the Crusaders against Youngstown State. The match will be available live on ESPN3.com, with live audio and stats also available via ValpoAthletics.com.