Earning the first postseason victory in program history felt so good for the Valparaiso University volleyball team that they decided to repeat the feat on Friday evening. Valpo needed just three sets (25-21, 25-16, 25-18) to defeat host Miami on Friday and advance to the quarterfinals of the 2018 National Invitational Volleyball Championship.
How It Happened
- Valpo surrendered the first three points of the match, but bounced back with the next three to set up a back-and-forth first set.
- Valpo extended its lead to 14-11 just past the midway point of the set before four straight points from the RedHawks returned the lead to Miami.
- It was still a one-point Miami edge at 17-16 in the opener before a key three-point spurt from Valpo’s freshmen – Jillie Grant (Maumee, Ohio/Anthony Wayne) picked up a service ace in between a pair of rejections from Haley Hart (Frankfort, Ill./Lincoln-Way East) as Valpo took a 19-17 advantage.
- The teams would trade sideouts on each of the next eight points, as Valpo maintained a slim lead. Then, with the score 23-21, a Miami attack error gave Valpo set point and senior Katherine Carlson (Lake Orion, Mich./Notre Dame Prep) registered a kill on the first chance to end the first frame in Valpo’s favor, 25-21.
- Valpo led for nearly the entire second set. The big run started with the Brown and Gold holding a 9-6 lead, as Valpo would tally nine of the next 11 points to extend its advantage into double figures at 18-8. All facets of the game contributed to the run, as Valpo tallied a pair of kills, two blocks and two service aces during the spurt.
- Miami would score the next four points to get to within 18-12 and force a Valpo timeout, but would get no closer than six points the rest of the way as Valpo went ahead two sets to none.
- The RedHawks enjoyed a two-point edge early in the third set at 7-5, but another big Valpo run would put it in control of the eventual final frame of the match. It would end up being a 10-2 run, highlighted by a trio of kills from senior Sydney Bronner (Frankenmuth, Mich./Frankenmuth), as Valpo pulled out to a 15-9 lead.
- Miami scored five of the next seven points to cut its deficit to 17-14, but a kill and then an ace from Carlson pushed the lead back to five. The RedHawks answered with two straight before sophomore Brittany Anderson (East Chicago, Ind./Bishop Noll) put down a second-touch attack for a kill, starting a three-point spurt that pushed the lead to six. It was academic from there, as a Miami service error would eventually close the sweep in Valpo’s favor.
Inside the Match
- Much like Thursday’s match, avoidance of unforced errors proved to be key on Friday. Valpo hit .241 with 37 kills against just 10 attack errors – five of which were Miami blocks – while the RedHawks hit just .100 with 33 kills against 21 errors.
- Carlson led the way for Valpo on the attack, hitting .263 with a match-best 12 kills while also adding eight digs.
- The balanced effort saw Bronner finish with eight kills on .375 hitting, senior Lizzie Zaleski (Oak Lawn, Ill./Marist) with six kills and Hart with five kills on .444 hitting.
- Anderson tallied 30 assists in the win and is just five shy of reaching 1,500 assists for the season.
- Sophomore Rylee Cookerly (Brownsburg, Ind./Brownsburg) led the back row play for Valpo with a match-best 19 digs. In the process, the sophomore – who now owns 722 digs this year – moved into Valpo’s career top-10 in digs despite being in just her second season with 1,408 career digs.
- Had it not been for Cookerly, Carlson would have ended the night 10th in program history in career digs, as she surpassed 1,400 career digs as well Friday.
- Hart was part of three of Valpo’s five team blocks on Friday, while sophomore Peyton McCarthy (Cincinnati, Ohio/Seton) picked up a rejection – her 130th of the year, moving her into ninth place on Valpo’s single-season chart.
- As a team, Valpo now owns 305.5 blocks this season, fourth-most in a single season in program history.
- Valpo’s 27 victories are tied for the second-most wins in a season in program history. Only the 2004 squad, which won 29 matches, has surpassed the 27-win mark.
Thoughts From Coach Avery
“I'm just so excited for our seniors. They grind and grind, they work hard, they love volleyball, they love Valpo and they love their team. I'm so excited for them and for our entire team that we get to move forward and on to the final eight.”
“We did a great job tonight following our game plan. We had a specific game plan in mind when it came to serving and blocking, and we followed it to a T. That's why I think we were victorious tonight.”
Valpo (27-10) will head to Tulane, which defeated Cal Baptist on Friday, for the quarterfinal matchup on Thursday, Dec. 6 at 6 p.m. CT.