For it to happen once in one season is rare enough. For it to happen twice, against the same opponent, is almost unheard of. But Friday night in Chicago proved to be that one-in-a-million moment, as for the second time this season, the Valparaiso University volleyball team rallied from down two sets to earn a 3-2 (15-25, 22-25, 25-16, 25-20, 15-12) victory over Loyola, led by a career-best effort from senior Katherine Carlson (Lake Orion, Mich./Notre Dame Prep).
How It Happened
- Trailing by two sets for the second time this year against the Ramblers, Valpo came out at the start of the third frame and set the tone early, scoring three of the first four points en route to an early 10-4 lead.
- Loyola would cut the lead to three points at 10-7, but Valpo came back with four straight points – including a kill and an ace from senior Allison Ketcham (Mishawaka, Ind./Marian) – to push the advantage to 14-7.
- The Ramblers made one final push in the third frame, closing to within 17-14 to force a Valpo timeout. Out of the timeout, sophomore Brittany Anderson (East Chicago, Ind./Bishop Noll) took care of an overpass to return the serve to Valpo.
- Junior Alana Brown (Napa, Calif./Vintage) then stepped back to the service line, delivered an ace and then a tough serve which resulted in a joust at the net which Anderson won to make it 20-14 Valpo. Loyola was unable to put together consecutive points the rest of the way as Valpo pushed the match to a fourth set.
- The fourth frame would be the Carlson show for Valpo, as the senior outside hitter put together the most impressive set of her career. Carlson finished the set with 11 kills – matching Loyola’s total team output for the set – and no attack errors on just 15 swings.
- Loyola had control early at 6-2, but Valpo was able to keep the set from getting out of reach and battled back, eventually taking the lead on a four-point run mid-set, which included two Carlson kills, to go ahead 14-13.
- The teams battled for control, as after Valpo took the lead, Loyola scored three of the next four points to claim a 16-15 advantage. But the Brown and Gold reeled off eight of the next 10 points, a stretch capped by consecutive kills from Carlson, to go up 23-18, and the teams traded sideouts the rest of the way as the match went to a decisive fifth set.
- After strong offensive performances in the third and fourth sets, it would be Valpo’s block which was highlighted in the fifth set. The frame started with a rejection from freshman Haley Hart (Frankfort, Ill./Lincoln-Way East) and sophomore Peyton McCarthy (Cincinnati, Ohio/Seton), as Valpo would score the first three points of the set.
- A trio of two-point spurts from the two teams ensued, the third bringing Loyola to within 5-4. Valpo responded with the next five points, including a pair of blocks which McCarthy was in on, to pull ahead 10-4 and seemingly take control.
- It would not be that simple for Valpo, though, as Loyola came right back with six consecutive points to even things up at 10-apiece. Finally, a block from Anderson and Ketcham stopped the Ramblers’ momentum.
- The teams traded sideouts over the next few points, with a setter dump from Loyola’s Delilah Wolf tying it up at 12-all. Ketcham came up with a nice serve receive on the next point and got a first-ball kill out of the middle inside the back line to again return the serve to Valpo with a 13-12 lead.
- After all her offensive exploits on the evening, it was a defensive play from Carlson which proved to be big late, as the senior stepped up at the pin with a solo block – just the 13th solo rejection of her career – to give Valpo match point at 14-12.
- Fittingly, for the way the final set played out, a block would close out the come-from-behind win, as Hart and senior Lizzie Zaleski (Oak Lawn, Ill./Marist) teamed up to shut down a Rambler attack and finish out the victory.
- The first two sets belonged to the Ramblers, as Loyola scored 12 of the final 15 points of the first set to pull away in the opener and then held Valpo off in set two as it rallied to within one point on two occasions late.
Inside the Match
- Valpo has now rallied for a five-set victory 10 times in head coach Carin Avery’s tenure at the helm of the program in 98 instances of trailing 2-0 through two sets. Prior to this season, Valpo had rallied from down 2-0 to win 3-2 just once in the last five years.
- Valpo had not come back from down two sets for a win against the same opponent twice in one season prior to Friday’s win. In fact, in Avery’s time at Valpo, only one opponent had suffered that fate twice at all – Valpo defeated Oakland 3-2 after being down 2-0 in 2002 and 2009.
- The win was Valpo’s 22nd of the season and gives the team nine MVC wins this year, already surpassing its total from last year with four more regular season matches to play.
- The victory also moves Valpo into a tie for third place in the MVC standings with Bradley. The Brown and Gold are now 1.5 games up on Missouri State for fourth place. Valpo is also two games up on Loyola in sixth and 3.5 games up on Drake on seventh, with the tiebreaker by virtue of season sweeps over both.
- Carlson was simply magnificent from the outside for Valpo in earning the win Friday night. Not only were her 24 kills a new career high and a Valpo season high, it matches the most kills by a Valpo hitter since 2015. In the process, Carlson moved into ninth place in program history in career kills.
- The senior also hit .444, her best single-match hitting percentage since hitting .480 as a freshman in September of 2015 against UIC. She tallied 16 digs as well for her 12th double-double of the year.
- Four Valpo hitters reached double figures in kills in the win on Friday. Zaleski posted 12 kills from the right side, while McCarthy – who didn’t see action in the first set – came off the bench with 12 kills and four blocks. Ketcham registered 11 kills and 14 digs as well.
- Anderson recorded her team-high 13th double-double of the year as she handed out 56 assists – just one off her career high – and tallied 14 digs in the back row.
- As a team, Valpo set season bests with 69 kills and 65 assists.
- Reigning MVC Defensive Player of the Week Rylee Cookerly (Brownsburg, Ind./Brownsburg) led all players on Friday with 24 digs. After picking up just six digs through the first two sets, Cookerly totaled 18 over the three frames which Valpo won.
- Valpo reached double figures in blocks for the 10th time this season and the first time since its previous five-set win over the Ramblers, registering 11 total team blocks – six of which came in the fifth set alone. Hart led the way with five blocks to match her career high, while adding five kills on just nine swings offensively.
Thoughts From Coach Avery
“I’m very proud of our team’s resilience tonight – especially after the way Monday’s match went, we could have easily given up tonight. I give a ton of credit to our seniors. I put a lot of pressure on them to lead after set two, and they came out and really helped turn things around.”
“I thought Haley played a big part of us coming back, and it was nice to get Peyton going as well. Katherine stood out as well – she, by far, played the best match of her career.”
“We needed tonight’s match, since the race for the final four spots in the tournament is so tight. These next two weekends are going to be very important for us as we fight for a spot to get into the tournament.”
Valpo (22-7, 9-5 MVC) returns home for its final weekend at the ARC this season next weekend. The weekend begins with a 7 p.m. match against Bradley on Friday night, Nov. 9. The match can be seen live on ESPN3.