The Valparaiso University volleyball team ensured a happy trip home from New York on Saturday as the Crusaders earned a pair of four-set victories to finish off play at the Cornell Invitational, downing Binghamton 3-1 (25-17, 25-18, 19-25, 25-20) in the early afternoon before capping off the tournament with a 3-1 (32-30, 25-22, 21-25, 25-17) victory over the Big Red. Junior Sydney Bronner (Frankenmuth, Mich./Frankenmuth), who set a pair of new career highs versus Cornell, represented Valpo on the All-Tournament Team as the Crusaders tied St. John’s and Cornell for the tournament’s best record at 2-1.
After already having picked up one win earlier in the day, the Crusaders rallied from a 24-20 deficit to force extra points in the opening set against Cornell and eventually held off a total of five set points to take the key first set.
How It Happened – Binghamton
- Valpo scored the first three points of the first set and never trailed, leading by as many as nine while hitting at a .281 clip to take the opener.
- The match’s only set which featured any ties or lead changes came in the second half, which contained nine ties and six lead changes. The Bearcats led just past the midway point at 14-13, but Valpo would end the set on a 12-4 spurt to take a 2-0 lead in the match.
- Binghamton jumped out to an 8-1 lead in the third set, and while the Crusaders were able to close to within three points late, they were unable to complete the comeback as the Bearcats extended the match.
- But the fourth set belonged to Valpo, as it hit at a .294 clip compared to Binghamton’s .067 hitting to finish out the contest. The Bearcats were actually within one point at 14-13, but Valpo scored the next three points to open an 8-3 spurt which created separation.
How It Happened – Cornell
- The opening set looked like it would belong to the Big Red, as Cornell led from the start and found itself with a number of set point chances at 24-20. But Valpo would rally, starting with kills from junior Katherine Carlson (Lake Orion, Mich./Notre Dame Prep) and freshman Ally Cummings (Novi, Mich./Novi).
- Cummings combined with senior Taylor Graboski (Upper Sandusky, Ohio/Upper Sandusky) on a block to hold off Cornell’s third set point opportunity, and then Graboski recorded a kill to send the set into extra points.
- It was the Crusaders on the front foot most of the way as the set extended on, as Valpo had five set point chances turned away by the Big Red, while Cornell’s lone set point opportunity in extra points at 28-27 was turned away thanks to a kill by Cummings.
- A Carlson kill gave Valpo its sixth chance to win the set, and this time, the Crusaders came through courtesy of a Bronner kill as Valpo won the opener, 32-30.
- A glance at the final score of the second set might lead one to believe it was less dramatic, but it might have contained just as much drama. Tied at 13, Cornell reeled off five straight points to take a seemingly secure lead at 18-13.
- But again, Valpo had a big rally, scoring seven of the next eight points to take a 20-19 lead. Cornell scored to tie the frame at 20-all, but the Crusaders came through with three more points in a row to cap a 10-2 run in all, and the teams traded sideouts the rest of the way as Valpo pulled ahead 2-0.
- Valpo led past the midway point of the third set in search of the sweep, 14-10, before the Big Red put together a 12-4 spurt to take control and force a fourth set.
- The Crusaders held down Cornell’s offense in the fourth set to close out the victory, as the Big Red hit -.020 with just seven kills in the deciding frame. Tied at 14-14, redshirt junior Allison Ketcham (Mishawaka, Ind./Marian) recorded back-to-back kills to spark an 11-3 run to close out the match.
Inside the Matches
- Bronner enjoyed the best match of her career in the nightcap, hitting .524 with a career-best 12 kills offensively. Defensively, she posted a new career best as well, as the junior contributed to 10 of Valpo’s 16 team blocks for her first career double-double.
- Bronner’s 10 blocks was one shy of cracking Valpo’s all-time top-five in a four-set match, while it was the first time a Crusader had reached double digits in the category since Graboski posted 10 blocks in a match in October of 2014.
- Bronner added seven kills and four blocks in the win over Binghamton Saturday, and for the weekend averaged 1.82 kills/set on .250 hitting and 1.73 blocks/set to earn the first All-Tournament Team award of her career.
- A balanced offensive effort led to the Crusaders beating Binghamton, as Cummings, Carlson and Ketcham each picked up a team-best 12 kills – Cummings hitting at a .345 clip while doing so.
- Valpo enjoyed its best serving match of the season versus the Bearcats, tallying nine team aces – four of which were courtesy of Carlson.
- Freshman Brittany Anderson (East Chicago, Ind./Bishop Noll) did it all in the win over Binghamton, posting 43 assists and 13 digs while finishing with five kills on as many attack attempts.
- Ketcham and Carlson finished with double-doubles in the day’s first win, tallying 14 and 13 digs, respectively, while freshman libero Rylee Cookerly (Brownsburg, Ind./Brownsburg) posted a match-best 22 digs.
- Cummings and Graboski each were part of five blocks in the opener as Valpo tallied 10 total team blocks versus the Bearcats.
- Four Crusaders finished with double figures in kills in the nightcap win, as Cummings (14), Carlson (13) and Graboski (11) joined Bronner with at least 10 terminations.
- Valpo, which entered the weekend leading the nation in digs/set, continued its strong back-row play to close the tournament, as five Crusaders finished with at least 10 digs in the win over Cornell. Cookerly paced Valpo with 26 digs, while Carlson and Ketcham added 17 apiece. Cummings chipped in a season-high 12 digs as well in recording her first career double-double.
- Anderson, who is the first freshman setter to start immediately for the Crusaders setting in a 5-1 since Cyndi Norman in 2000, recorded another double-double against Cornell with 49 assists and 14 digs.
- Six different Crusaders tallied at least three blocks in the win over the Big Red to contribute to the season-best 16-block effort. Graboski added five more rejections to back up Bronner’s career mark in the category.
Valpo (4-5) steps out of tournament play for its home opener on Wednesday, Sept. 13 as the Crusaders host Eastern Illinois at the ARC at 7 p.m. Live stats and live audio, via WVUR (95.1 FM, Valparaiso), will be available at ValpoAthletics.com.