The Valparaiso University volleyball team took the first two sets at Illinois State Saturday evening as it took aim at completing a weekend sweep in MVC action, but the Redbirds came back and won the final three sets as the Crusaders fell, 3-2 (19-25, 21-25, 25-22, 25-19, 15-12).
How It Happened
- Valpo looked to take control of the opener earlier, going on a 5-1 spurt – including two kills apiece from senior Taylor Graboski (Upper Sandusky, Ohio/Upper Sandusky) and junior Katherine Carlson (Lake Orion, Mich./Notre Dame Prep) – to pull ahead 12-7. The Redbirds responded with a 6-1 run to tie the frame at 13-all, but the Crusaders scored the next three points to take the lead and held the outright advantage the rest of the way.
- The second set featured 10 tie scores, the latest coming at 15-15, before Valpo pulled away. The Crusaders scored six of the next seven points following the final tie, taking advantage of four ISU errors to go on the spurt as they carried a two-set advantage into the in-game break.
- Illinois State led for much of the third set, but the Crusaders battled back late in search of the sweep. The Redbird advantage was 20-16 before a Graboski kill sparked a 5-1 run – capped by a block from Graboski and freshman Brittany Anderson (East Chicago, Ind./Bishop Noll) – to pull Valpo into a 21-21 tie. The squads were tied again at 22-22, but the Redbirds recorded the final three points of the frame to extend the match.
- The Crusaders were unable to slow down the ISU attack in set four, as the Redbirds tallied 18 kills on .326 hitting in forcing a decisive fifth set. Valpo held an early 6-5 lead before Illinois State scored seven straight to take control.
- Illinois State carried the momentum from the fourth set into the fifth frame, jumping out to an 8-1 lead in the race to 15. The Redbird advantage was 13-8 before the Crusaders attempted one final rally, as a kill from Carlson and two by Graboski brought Valpo within 13-11. Valpo was unable to extend the spurt, however, as the teams sided out the rest of the way and Illinois State closed out the win.
Inside the Match
- The five-set affair marked the first time this season that the Crusaders have gone the distance in a match.
- Valpo narrowly clipped Illinois State in the hitting percentage department on Saturday, .196-.194, but the Redbirds held a 70-55 advantage in the kills department.
- Graboski continued her strong senior season, finishing with 21 kills on .419 hitting and five blocks – all team highs. With 1,051 career kills, the senior is now just 46 kills away from Valpo’s all-time top-10 in the category.
- Carlson recorded her seventh double-double of the season Saturday as she tallied 12 kills and 14 digs.
- Freshman Rylee Cookerly (Brownsburg, Ind./Brownsburg) led five Crusaders in double figures in digs with 20. Redshirt junior Allison Ketcham (Mishawaka, Ind./Marian) totaled 15 digs, while Anderson finished with 14 digs to go with 47 assists.
- Illinois State’s Jaelyn Keene tied an arena record with 29 kills on Saturday.
After playing just three of their first 18 matches of the season at the ARC, the Crusaders (9-9, 2-4 MVC) play their next three at home, starting with a Friday night match in MVC play versus Indiana State. First serve against the Sycamores is set for 7 p.m. The match can be heard live on WVUR (95.1 FM, Valparaiso), with links for the live audio and live stats available via ValpoAthletics.com.