Facing host Army West Point in its finale at the Black Knights Invitational Saturday afternoon, the Valparaiso University volleyball team rallied from down two sets to one to earn a 3-2 (19-25, 25-21, 19-25, 25-21, 15-12) victory to close out the opening weekend of play. Junior Taylor Graboski (Upper Sandusky, Ohio/Upper Sandusky) led the Crusader challenge, matching her career high with 15 kills without committing an attack error.
How It Happened
- Army West Point led nearly start-to-finish to claim the opening set, but the Crusaders responded in the second set. Trailing 21-20, Valpo reeled off the final five points of the frame, capped by a kill from sophomore Katherine Carlson (Lake Orion, Mich./Notre Dame Prep) to even the match at one set apiece.
- The Black Knights pulled away around the midway point of the third set to go ahead two sets to one, but again Valpo answered. The Crusaders hit .310 in the fourth set – posting 15 kills against just two attack errors – and claimed the lead for good at 7-6 to force a decisive fifth set.
- Army West Point led early in the fifth set at 4-2 before a three-point spurt by the Crusaders gave them the lead – they would never trail again in the final frame.
- Valpo would maintain just a narrow lead for most of the set as Army West Point tied it on numerous occasions, the latest coming at 12-12. But a tip kill from Carlson and an error by the Black Knights gave Valpo match point, and following a timeout, Carlson’s fourth kill of the fifth set closed out the victory.
Inside the Game
- The Crusaders were out-killed by Army West Point, 66-55, but committed just 17 attack errors to the Black Knights’ 26.
- Graboski’s 15 kills matched a career high she set against Oakland last season as a sophomore. She did it Saturday on 37 swings, hitting at a .405 clip for the match.
- Graboski was backed up offensively by 14 kills from Carlson and 13 by senior Emily Campbell (Grand Rapids, Mich./Forest Hills Central), as the latter two reached double figures for the third straight match apiece. Campbell moved into sixth place this weekend in Crusader history in career kills, with her mark of 1,190 leaving her just five out of fifth position.
- Senior Rachel Bruinsma (New Era, Mich./Western Michigan Christian) started at libero for the first time in her career and took full advantage, setting a new career high with 27 digs – nearly doubling her previous career best of 14 digs. Campbell added 17 digs as well for a double-double.
- For a second straight day, sophomore Lizzie Zaleski (Oak Lawn, Ill./Marist) posted a new career best in assists, tallying 30 in Saturday’s victory. She posted her third double-double of the weekend as well, finishing with 10 digs.
- Sophomore Kayla Currier (Mokena, Ill./Lincoln-Way East) closed out a strong opening weekend at the net with six blocks, tying for match-high honors. For the second straight day, senior Jamie Lacheta (Warsaw, Ind./Warsaw) tied her career best with four blocks as well.
- Valpo posted a 2-1 mark on the weekend against a strong field, as each of its three opponents finished within the top-two of their respective leagues last season. Both Hofstra and Army West Point were 20-win programs a season ago as well.
The Crusaders (2-1) head down to Alabama next weekend to play in the Trojan Invitational, hosted by Troy. Valpo opens tournament play Friday afternoon, Sept. 2 against New Mexico State and will take on Austin Peay in addition to the host Trojans.