The Valparaiso University volleyball team started off the final weekend of the regular season in style, going up two sets at Missouri State and, after the Bears rallied to force a fifth set, dominating the final set to earn a 3-2 (25-23, 25-21, 25-27, 16-25, 15-7) victory for the program’s first-ever win over Missouri State. With the win, Valpo secured fourth place in the MVC standings and the fourth seed for the upcoming MVC Tournament.
How It Happened
- The first set saw big swings back and forth, with multiple runs by each team. Missouri State led 3-0 and 4-1 before Valpo scored six in a row – including three kills from senior Katherine Carlson (Lake Orion, Mich./Notre Dame Prep) and two kills and a block from freshman Haley Hart (Frankfort, Ill./Lincoln-Way East) – to go up 7-4.
- Valpo’s lead was 10-6 before eight straight points from the Bears gave them a 14-10 lead. But Valpo responded with five straight points, and then with Missouri State leading 17-16, reeled off six straight to go ahead 22-17.
- The Bears scored five of the next six to close within 23-22, but an MSU attack error gave Valpo set point, and on its second opportunity, Carlson came up with a kill to give Valpo the opener.
- The second set featured one big run apiece in the middle of the set. Valpo led 12-11 before Missouri State scored six of the next seven points to go ahead 17-13. But Valpo came right back with a 6-0 run of its own on the serve of freshman Jillie Grant (Maumee, Ohio/Anthony Wayne) to take a 19-17 lead.
- Missouri State would not string together consecutive points the rest of the way, as Valpo eventually earned set point following an attack error from the Bears to make it 24-21, and Carlson came through with another set-ending termination as Valpo took a 2-0 lead.
- The third set was as tight a battle as you can get, featuring 20 tie scores and six lead changes. Missouri State led approaching the end stages 20-19 before Valpo rattled off four straight points, capped by a service ace from Grant, to move within two points of the sweep at 23-20.
- But the Bears had another charge left in them, scoring the next four to earn set point at 24-23. Valpo would hold off two MSU set point chances, but the Bears converted on their third to force the match to a fourth set.
- Valpo scored the first two points of the fourth set, but it would be all Missouri State the rest of the way, as the Bears hit .452 with 18 kills in the frame to force the decisive fifth frame.
- Missouri State scored the first point of the fifth frame on a Valpo service error, but that would be the only time Valpo trailed in the final set. Valpo scored four of the next five to force an MSU timeout at 4-2.
- The squads traded sideouts on the next three points, as the Bears were within 5-4. But Hart put down an overpass to return the serve to the Crusaders, and freshman Gabby Daniels (Mill Valley, Calif./Saint Francis) served the next four points – including a service ace – as Valpo extended its lead to 10-4.
- From there, it was academic, as Valpo scored the final three points of the match, capped fittingly by Hart’s 15th kill of the night, to close out the win.
Inside the Match
- The win improved Valpo to 23-9 overall and 10-8 in MVC play, securing fourth place in the conference standings and the fourth seed in the conference tournament next week.
- Valpo had lost all five previous matchups against Missouri State, including all three since joining the MVC.
- Friday was just the 14th time in Carin Avery’s 17-year tenure at Valpo that an opponent has forced a fifth set after Valpo led 2-0 – the Brown and Gold now own an 8-6 record in those matches.
- While she didn’t quite lead the squad in kills, the unquestionable highlight of the night was the performance of the freshman Hart. Coming into the weekend with a career high of seven kills, Hart more than doubled that Friday evening, finishing with 15 kills on .367 hitting and adding four blocks as well.
- Hart was out-paced offensively by only Carlson, who hit .267 while tying for match-high honors with 17 kills and adding 14 digs. The senior now owns 1,186 career kills – just six away from seventh in program history and nine away from sixth.
- Senior Allison Ketcham (Mishawaka, Ind./Marian) led Valpo’s back-row effort with 21 digs – her fifth match with at least 20 digs this season – and added 11 kills as well.
- Sophomore Peyton McCarthy (Cincinnati, Ohio/Seton) rounded out the quartet of Valpo attackers with double-figure kill totals, tallying 10 kills.
- Sophomore Brittany Anderson (East Chicago, Ind./Bishop Noll) moved into the top-10 on Valpo’s single-season assists chart on Friday, as her 46 helpers in the win gave her 1,278 assists on the year – just three away from ninth position.
- Sophomore Rylee Cookerly (Brownsburg, Ind./Brownsburg) tallied 14 digs on Friday and now owns 603 digs this season, good for ninth in a single season in program history.
Valpo (23-9, 10-8 MVC) closes out the regular season on Saturday evening at 7 p.m. at Southern Illinois. Live stats will be available via ValpoAthletics.com.