It was only apropos that, celebrating Senior Night at the ARC on Sautrday night, senior Taylor Graboski (Upper Sandusky, Ohio/Upper Sandusky) capped off a sweep with a thunderous kill as the Valparaiso University volleyball team took down Southern Illinois, 3-0 (25-22, 25-20, 25-12) to close out the regular season. Prior to the match, Graboski and Catherine Ament (New Carlisle, Ind./New Prairie) were honored for their four years of service to the Crusader program.
How It Happened
- Valpo gained separation in the opening set with a four-point spurt – which included a service ace from freshman Brittany Anderson (East Chicago, Ind./Bishop Noll) – to go ahead 12-8.
- Later in the set, with the Crusader advantage at 14-12, Valpo scored five of the next six points – highlighted by a kill and an ace by redshirt junior Allison Ketcham (Mishawaka, Ind./Marian) – to gain its largest lead at 19-13.
- Valpo still led by six at 21-15, but the Salukis would rally to within 21-18. The Crusaders eventually gained set point at 24-20, and after SIU held off two chances, Valpo ended the set on its third opportunity thanks to a kill by junior Katherine Carlson (Lake Orion, Mich./Notre Dame Prep).
- SIU led through much of the first half of the second set and enjoyed a 15-12 lead at the media timeout. But in a set which saw Valpo tally a remarkable 21 kills, the Crusaders scored six of the next seven points – all via the kill, including two terminations apiece from Ketcham and freshman Jaclyn Bulmahn (McCordsville, Ind./Mt. Vernon) – to go ahead 18-16.
- Three straight Saluki points, including back-to-back service aces, returned the lead to SIU at 19-18. Following a timeout, however, the Crusaders reeled off a 7-1 run which was capped by a kill from freshman Peyton McCarthy (Cincinnati, Ohio/Seton) to close the set and take a 2-0 lead into the in-game break.
- An early 7-1 run put Valpo in control of the third set for good, as only once during the frame did SIU score back-to-back points. Graboski closed her home career with a flurry, tallying Valpo’s last four kills of the match – including the termination to complete the sweep.
Inside the Match
- Saturday’s victory was the 84th for the Crusaders in the four seasons that Ament and Graboski have been a part of the program.
- With Saturday’s win, Valpo finished the regular season with a 17-15 record to secure a finish above .500 this year. The Crusaders also finished in a tie for fifth place in the MVC standings at 8-10.
- Graboski led a Valpo offense which enjoyed its best match of the season on Saturday, as the Crusaders tallied 46 kills against just nine attack errors to finish the match hitting .306.
- Graboski posted 12 of those kills on .407 hitting – her 16th effort of at least 10 kills this season.
- All five of the Crusaders’ front row hitters picked up at least six kills on Saturday and hit at least .267. Carlson joined Graboski in double figures with 10 kills on .320 hitting and added 11 digs for a double-double.
- Junior Sydney Bronner (Frankenmuth, Mich./Frankenmuth) finished with eight kills on just 16 swings as she hit .438, while Ketcham did not commit an attack error, hitting .333 with seven kills. McCarthy rounded out the Valpo attackers with six kills on .267 hitting.
- Anderson handed out 38 of Valpo’s 43 assists on the night as the Crusaders posted their highest hitting percentage of the year.
- Valpo finished the match with seven service aces, matching its highest single-match total since Sept. 15. Bulmahn tallied two of the aces as she finished the weekend with three aces and no service errors on 23 serves after serving just three times all season entering the weekend.
- Freshman Rylee Cookerly (Brownsburg, Ind./Brownsburg) paced Valpo’s effort in the back row with a match-high 17 digs, while Ketcham also reached double figures with 12 digs.
Valpo (17-15, 8-10 MVC) opens play at the Missouri Valley Conference Tournament from Normal, Ill. on Thursday evening at 7:30 p.m. As the sixth seed, the Crusaders will face the host and third-seeded Illinois State in their first-round matchup. The match can be seen live on The Valley on ESPN3, with links for the live coverage available via ValpoAthletics.com.