The Valparaiso University volleyball team tangled with a UNI team receiving votes in the AVCA top-25 poll on Saturday night at the ARC in front of a raucous crowd, but Valpo would see its 11-match winning streak come to an end as the Panthers edged their way to a set four win to close out a 3-1 (25-20, 19-25, 25-21, 25-23) decision.
How It Happened
- Valpo held an early 3-1 lead in the opening set, but UNI scored eight of the next 10 points to take control. The Panthers extended their lead to as many as eight points late in the frame, and despite a late spurt from Valpo to close the gap to four points at 24-20, UNI converted its third set point chance to close out the opener.
- UNI jumped out to a quick 7-3 advantage to force a Valpo timeout in set two, but the Brown and Gold rallied quickly, tying the set at 11-all as sophomore Peyton McCarthy (Cincinnati, Ohio/Seton) posted two blocks, a kill and a service ace during the stretch.
- With the Panthers leading 17-16, senior Lizzie Zaleski (Oak Lawn, Ill./Marist) picked up a kill to return the serve to Valpo, and senior Allison Ketcham (Mishawaka, Ind./Marian) stepped back to the line and served the next four points – capping the run with an ace – as Valpo pulled out to a 21-17 lead.
- A service error briefly quelled the momentum, but Zaleski snatched it right back with another kill. A UNI attack error was followed by a service ace from freshman Gabrielle Daniels (Mill Valley, Calif./Saint Francis), and on their second set point chance, the Brown and Gold ended the set on another Zaleski kill to even the match at one set apiece.
- UNI came out to a 9-4 lead in set three, but again Valpo battled back, tying the score on multiple occasions around the midway point of the set. With the score 13-13, the Panthers scored five straight to go ahead 18-13 before Valpo responded with kills from Ketcham and sophomore Ally Cummings (Novi, Mich./Novi) as part of a three-point spurt which cut the deficit to 18-16. But UNI scored the next four and went on to claim the third set.
- Valpo pulled ahead to a 14-11 lead in the fourth set, but UNI reeled off an 8-0 run to go up by five points. But a four-point run for the Crusaders which included two kills from McCarthy and one from senior Katherine Carlson (Lake Orion, Mich./Notre Dame Prep) brought Valpo back within 20-19.
- The two squads traded a pair of sideouts before a UNI hitting error tied the set at 22-22. But with the set coming down to a race to three points, the Panthers scored three of the final four points to close out the win.
Inside the Match
- Saturday’s loss snapped Valpo’s 11-match winning streak and dealt the team just its third defeat of the season. Despite the loss, Valpo remains tied with Stephen F. Austin for the most victories in the nation at 17.
- Valpo was the first team in MVC play this season to take a set from UNI.
- Sophomore Rylee Cookerly (Brownsburg, Ind./Brownsburg) led the Valpo defensive effort as it limited UNI to just .194 hitting for the match, picking up a season-best 29 digs. Cookerly has now picked up at least 20 digs on eight occasions this year.
- Ketcham added 14 digs in the back row, while sophomore Brittany Anderson (East Chicago, Ind./Bishop Noll) recorded 11 to go with 35 assists as she finished with a double-double.
- Offensively, a pair of Valpo hitters swung at better than a .400 clip Saturday. Carlson finished with a team-high 14 kills on .406 hitting, while Zaleski followed up an outstanding effort on Friday with 13 more kills on .409 hitting Saturday.
- UNI, which improved to 10-6 overall and 4-0 in MVC play with the win, was led by 19 kills on .472 hitting from Piper Thomas.
Valpo (17-3, 4-1 MVC) has a light slate next week, as just one match is on the docket – a Friday night visit from Loyola. First serve is set for 7 p.m., and the match can be seen live on ESPN3.