Tied at one set apiece entering the third set Friday at Evansville, the Valparaiso University volleyball team rolled to a win in the third set and then won the key points late in the fourth set in a 3-1 (25-12, 18-25, 25-15, 25-22) victory over the Purple Aces. Freshman libero Rylee Cookerly (Brownsburg, Ind./Brownsburg) broke Valpo’s record for digs in a season by a freshman in the victory.
How It Happened
- Valpo scored the first five points of the match in never trailing in the first set. The Crusaders tallied 15 kills in the opening frame while limiting Evansville to .000 hitting.
- The Crusaders held a slight lead past the midway point of the second set, as three straight kills from junior Katherine Carlson (Lake Orion, Mich./Notre Dame Prep) put Valpo ahead 13-11. But Evansville scored eight of the next nine points to take a 19-14 lead and eventually finish out the second set, tying the match at one set apiece.
- Valpo rebounded in the third set, hitting .229 with 12 kills while Evansville swung at a -.026 clip for the set, tallying just eight kills against nine attack errors. Trailing 6-5 early in the set, the Crusaders scored five consecutive points to open an 11-2 run as they controlled the frame the rest of the way.
- A back-and-forth fourth set saw Evansville claim an early 9-4 lead before the Crusaders responded with four straight points. Valpo would earn the lead for the first time at 12-11 on a kill from junior Lizzie Zaleski (Oak Lawn, Ill./Marist).
- The teams would struggle to gain control of the set. Evansville gained a pair of one-point leads at 15-14 and 16-15, but both times Valpo answered – the second time with a 5-1 spurt which threatened to give the Crusaders control for good, as they held a 20-17 lead. But the Purple Aces scored the next three points to force a timeout with the frame even at 20-all.
- Out of the stoppage, junior Sydney Bronner (Frankenmuth, Mich./Frankenmuth) gave the Crusaders a huge lift, tallying back-to-back kills. After an Evansville kill, another Bronner termination made it 23-21Valpo. The two teams traded sideouts – Valpo’s coming on a kill from Carlson – before an attack error by the Purple Aces closed out the match in the Crusaders’ favor.
Inside the Match
- With the win, Valpo improved to 16-13 overall and 7-8 within MVC play. The victory solidified the Crusaders’ spot within the top six spots in the standings, as Valpo sits in fifth – one game up on Indiana State for fifth place, and two games ahead in the loss column on Southern Illinois, which faces the difficult Drake-UNI duo this weekend.
- Cookerly picked up a match-high 27 digs to lead the way as Valpo – the nation’s leader in digs/set – recorded 85 digs in the four-set win. Cookerly now owns 598 digs on the season, ninth-most in a single year in program history. She surpassed Taylor Root’s 2009 campaign (586 digs) to set the new standard for digs by a freshman.
- Evansville finished the match with a slight advantage in kills over the Crusaders, 51-49, but Valpo committed just 15 attack errors to the Purple Aces’ 34, leading to a .209-.096 edge in hitting percentage for the Crusaders.
- Leading the way offensively was Carlson, who posted a new season best with 16 kills on .341 hitting. The junior added 16 digs as well.
- Bronner was errorless on the attack on Friday, putting down 13 kills on 28 swings for a .464 hitting percentage. The junior also paced Valpo defensively at the net with six blocks, helping the Crusaders tally 10 total team blocks.
- Joining Cookerly and Carlson in double figures in digs were redshirt junior Allison Ketcham (Mishawaka, Ind./Marian) – who finished with 20 digs for her sixth effort of 20+ digs on the year; and freshman Brittany Anderson (East Chicago, Ind./Bishop Noll) – who handed out 42 assists to go with 13 digs.
- Senior Taylor Graboski (Upper Sandusky, Ohio/Upper Sandusky) recorded four blocks on Friday, including a pair of solo efforts, to move up the Crusader career charts. The senior now ranks ninth in program history with 352 career blocks and seventh with 59 career solo rejections.
Valpo (16-13, 7-8 MVC) looks to complete a road trip sweep on Saturday night as the Crusaders head to Terre Haute to take on Indiana State at 6 p.m. CT. Live stats for the match can be found via ValpoAthletics.com.