Three matches in four days proved to be no problem to kick off the Missouri Valley Conference schedule for the Valparaiso University volleyball team, as Valpo returned home on Monday and won its 10th consecutive match with a 3-0 (25-21, 25-14, 25-18) sweep of Southern Illinois at the ARC. Valpo improves to 16-2 for just the second time in program history and now sits at a perfect 3-0 in MVC action.
How It Happened
- The first set would be the tightest of the evening, as the two squads were tied 12 times and exchanged the lead on six occasions. Valpo looked to take control with a four-point spurt midway through the set, going ahead 15-13, but SIU would battle back and tie the score at 17-17 and 18-18.
- A kill from senior Allison Ketcham (Mishawaka, Ind./Marian) broke the latter tie and gave Valpo the lead for good, as it scored the next five points – capped by a solo block from sophomore Peyton McCarthy (Cincinnati, Ohio/Seton) – to go ahead 23-18. SIU scored the next three points to close within 23-21, but another Ketcham kill gave Valpo set point, and a rejection by McCarthy and senior Lizzie Zaleski (Oak Lawn, Ill./Marist) ended the opener in Valpo’s favor.
- The second set proved to be a much easier task for the Brown and Gold, as an early 5-0 spurt which featured kills by three different Valpo players pushed the advantage to 10-4, and SIU would get no closer than four points the rest of the way. Valpo limited the Salukis to just six kills in the set, finishing out the frame with a block from McCarthy and sophomore Brittany Anderson (East Chicago, Ind./Bishop Noll) to go ahead 2-0.
- The story of the third set was the attacking prowess of senior middle Sydney Bronner (Frankenmuth, Mich./Frankenmuth) and sophomore right side Ally Cummings (Novi, Mich./Novi). Bronner tallied five kills on just eight swings in the closing frame, while Cummings posted five kills without an error as well on 13 swings.
- Valpo ran away with the final set around the midway point, putting together an 8-1 run to push its lead to 16-7. SIU would make one final surge late, scoring four points to cut a nine-point advantage to five at 20-15, but could get no closer. Anderson closed out the win emphatically with a solo block to continue the program’s winning streak.
Inside the Match
- The win pushes Valpo’s record to 16-2 through 18 matches, just the second time in program history the Brown and Gold have earned 16 wins through 18 contests. The 2014 squad also started 16-2 before suffering its third defeat in match number 19.
- The 10-match winning streak is the program’s longest since the aforementioned 2014 team won 13 straight. Valpo now boasts six winning streaks of 10 or more matches in program history, five of which have occurred with head coach Carin Avery at the helm.
- Opening the Valley season with three straight sweeps, it is the first time since Oct. 27-Nov. 6, 2015 that Valpo has won in straight sets in three consecutive conference matches.
- It also is the first time Valpo has opened the conference season with at least three straight sweeps since the 2003 squad reeled off five straight 3-0 decisions to open Mid-Con play that year.
- It was a balanced team effort in Monday’s win, as the team’s 37 kills were spread over eight different players and no individual had more than eight kills.
- That team-high kill total came courtesy of Bronner, who hit .316 with eight kills in the victory.
- Cummings added seven kills in just two sets of action and swung at a .333 clip, while senior Katherine Carlson (Lake Orion, Mich./Notre Dame Prep) posted six kills, seven digs and three service aces.
- Anderson filled up the stat sheet Monday, ending the night with 27 assists, four kills, five digs and three blocks – two of which were solo stuffs.
- Sophomore Rylee Cookerly (Brownsburg, Ind./Brownsburg) led the Valpo effort in the back row, recording a match-high 17 digs. The sophomore is now just three digs shy of 1,000 for her career, midway through her second season.
- Ketcham picked up 12 digs as well, leaving her just eight digs away from the top-five career totals in program history. Sophomore Melissa Flynders (Mokena, Ill./Providence Catholic) chipped in with 11 digs.
- McCarthy posted a team-high five blocks to increase her MVC-best average to 1.23 blocks/set. As a team, Valpo totaled 10 rejections – its eighth match of the year in double figures in the category.
Valpo (16-2, 3-0 MVC) continues Valley play on Friday night at the ARC as it hosts Drake at 7 p.m. The match can be seen live on ESPN+.