Playing in sweltering heat for a second consecutive night, the Valparaiso University volleyball team came up just short in three close sets Saturday evening at the ARC against Drake (25-23, 25-22, 29-27) in Missouri Valley Conference action.
How It Happened
- After Drake led throughout the first two-thirds of the opening set, the Crusaders used a 4-1 spurt which included two blocks and a kill by senior Taylor Graboski (Upper Sandusky, Ohio/Upper Sandusky) to take a 21-18 lead.
- Drake responded with three straight points, but Graboski combined with freshman Brittany Anderson (East Chicago, Ind./Bishop Noll) to return the lead to the Crusaders’ side of the scoreboard, and an attack error from the Bulldogs made it 23-21 Valpo. Drake picked up four consecutive kills, however, to close out the opening set in its favor.
- Drake pulled ahead by four points approaching the midway point of the second set until a 7-2 run – capped by four consecutive points, which included a block by Anderson and fellow rookie Peyton McCarthy (Cincinnati, Ohio/Seton) and kills from both rookies – gave Valpo a 15-14 advantage.
- That would be the Crusaders’ last outright lead of the set, though, as Drake scored five of the next six points to pull ahead, 19-16. Valpo answered with back-to-back points on a McCarthy kill and a block from McCarthy and freshman Ally Cummings (Novi, Mich./Novi), but was unable to string together consecutive points the rest of the frame.
- The third set initially looked like it would be a runaway for Drake, as the Bulldogs leapt out to a 9-3 lead out of the in-game break, but the Crusaders would rally to make it the tightest set of the match. Drake still led by five points at 20-15 before a Graboski kill and consecutive Bulldog errors cut it to a two-point deficit.
- The squads traded sideouts on the next four points before another Drake error made it 22-21. Three more sideouts ensued, with the last giving the Bulldogs match point at 24-22. But a kill from junior Lizzie Zaleski (Oak Lawn, Ill./Marist) was followed by a decisive termination of an overpass by Graboski to send the set to extra points.
- A kill for the Bulldogs gave them a third set point chance before another Zaleski kill evened the set at 25-all. Anderson and Graboski then combined on another block to give the Crusaders their first chance to extend the match to a fourth set.
- But that would turn out to be Valpo’s lone set point chance, as Drake closed the match by scoring four of the final five points – the last of which came on a Crusader attack which was eventually adjudged to have been outside the antenna.
Inside the Match
- McCarthy made her first career start on Saturday as a middle, meaning that four of the Crusaders’ seven starters were freshmen.
- McCarthy took advantage of the starting nod, setting new season bests with seven kills and four blocks.
- Graboski led the way for Valpo on Saturday, tallying 12 kills on .417 hitting and a match-high five blocks.
- Graboski has now reached double digits in kills in three straight matches and has seven efforts of at least 10 kills this season.
- The senior will enter Monday’s match at SIU just 12 kills shy of becoming the 15th player in program history to reach the 1,000-kill milestone for her career.
- Redshirt junior Allison Ketcham (Mishawaka, Ind./Marian) posted a team-best 21 digs, her fourth match with at least 20 digs on the year.
- Anderson narrowly missed a double-double, as she handed out 38 assists and tallied nine digs. The freshman also chipped in on four Crusader blocks to match her season best.
- Zaleski saw her most extensive action of the season in the front row in the third set and posted a strong performance, finishing with four kills on eight swings.
- Drake ended the match with a 53-43 advantage in kills and out-hit Valpo, .212-.166. The Bulldogs also out-dug the Crusaders, 77-68, but Valpo ended with a 9-7 advantage in blocks.
- The Crusaders dropped to 0-2 in MVC play with the loss, but their first two matches in The Valley came against a nationally-ranked UNI squad and a Drake team which entered MVC play with the conference’s top non-conference winning percentage.
Valpo (7-7, 0-2 MVC) finishes out a stretch of three matches in four days and starts off four straight matches away from home on Monday evening at Southern Illinois. Action from Carbondale is set to get underway at 7 p.m., and the match can be seen live on The Valley On ESPN3.