One of the most successful seasons in program history came to a close for the Valparaiso University volleyball team on Thursday evening in New Orleans, La., as Tulane defeated Valpo in the quarterfinals of the 2018 National Invitational Volleyball Championship, 3-1 (25-18, 22-25, 25-13, 25-20). Despite Thursday’s defeat, Valpo still closes the season tied for the second-most wins in a year in program history with 27, including the program’s first-ever postseason victories, and set a new NCAA record in the 25-point era for digs in a season.
How It Happened
- The homestanding Green Wave scored four of the match’s first five points, but Valpo quickly rallied to tie the score at six apiece, but would never gain the lead outright in the opening set.
- A four-point spurt for Tulane pushed its lead to 16-11and forced a timeout, but out of the stoppage, Valpo scored three straight to cut the deficit to two points.
- The Green Wave scored the next two, but three more in a row for Valpo – coming on kills from seniors Katherine Carlson (Lake Orion, Mich./Notre Dame Prep) and Allison Ketcham (Mishawaka, Ind./Marian) and a block by sophomore Brittany Anderson (East Chicago, Ind./Bishop Noll) and freshman Haley Hart (Frankfort, Ill./Lincoln-Way East) – brought Valpo within 18-17 and forced a Tulane timeout.
- The Green Wave would end the set on a 7-1 run out of their timeout to claim the opening frame.
- The second set was the most tightly contested of the match, featuring 13 ties and seven lead changes. Valpo led early, but it would be Tulane which led for most of the first half of the frame before a 4-0 spurt for the Brown and Gold – capped by consecutive kills from Hart – put Valpo in front, 13-12.
- The teams would play within a two-point spread for the next 10 serves before a three-point Tulane spurt put the Green Wave ahead, 19-17. Valpo answered with the next three, getting kills from Ketcham and senior Sydney Bronner (Frankenmuth, Mich./Frankenmuth) around a Tulane error, to reclaim the lead 20-19.
- The sides traded sideouts over the next six points, the final one putting Valpo back in front 23-22 on a block by Anderson and Hart. Tulane then committed back-to-back hitting errors as the second set finished in Valpo’s favor and the match evened up at a set apiece.
- Tulane controlled the third set from the start, scoring seven of the frame’s first eight points. The Green Wave hit at a staggering .609 clip for the set in taking the 2-1 lead in the match.
- Tulane led in the early stages of set four, but Valpo wouldn’t allow the Green Wave to gain separation, and back-to-back kills from Anderson and Carlson gave Valpo its first lead of the fourth set at 11-10.
- Out of a timeout, the Green Wave went on a 5-1 run to reclaim the lead, and while a Hart kill briefly slowed Tulane’s momentum, it responded with three more points in a row to go ahead 18-13. Valpo would get back to within three twice in the later stages of the set, and would eventually hold off two Tulane match point chances, but the Green Wave converted on their third attempt to advance to the NIVC semifinal.
Inside the Match
- Valpo got a strong performance on the attack from a pair of seniors in their final collegiate match. Carlson put down a match-high 21 kills – the third-highest output of her career. Meanwhile, Bronner – in just her third match back from injury – tallied 10 kills, just one off her season high, and hit at a .421 clip.
- Hart added eight kills on .316 hitting as well, and also had a team-high three blocks
- Anderson dished out 44 assists over the four sets, while sophomore Rylee Cookerly (Brownsburg, Ind./Brownsburg) tied for match-high honors with 17 digs and Ketcham added 15 digs.
- Tulane put together the best offensive performance by a Valpo opponent this season, hitting at a .366 clip for the match.
Inside the Season
- Valpo’s 27 wins are tied for the second-most in a single season in program history, just two off the program record. The pair of NIVC wins are the program’s first-ever postseason wins as well.
- Included among the 27 wins were 11 victories in Missouri Valley Conference play, as well as one MVC Tournament win, in the conference ranked eighth in the nation in RPI.
- This year’s squad moved into the top-five in program history for a single season in five different statistical categories, highlighted by the squad’s new school record for digs in a season (2,613). With its 20th dig of Thursday night’s match, Valpo surpassed the 2017 UNI team to set a new NCAA mark for most digs in a season in the 25-point era.
- Valpo also set a new team single-season record for attacks (5,697), and posted marks among the top-five in program history in assists (1,805, 3rd), blocks (310.5, 4th) and kills (1,938, t-5th).
- Individually, three sophomores cracked the program’s single-season charts in their respective categories. Anderson finished out the campaign with 1,539 assists, second-most in a season in program history. Cookerly closed the year with 739 digs to move into third on that chart, while Peyton McCarthy (Cincinnati, Ohio/Seton) posted 130 blocks, tied for ninth on Valpo’s single-season list.
- Anderson and Cookerly have both cracked career charts as well despite being only halfway done with their respective Valpo careers. Anderson now own 2,774 career assists and will enter her junior year just seven away from seventh position in Valpo history in the category. Meanwhile, Cookerly has tallied 1,425 digs in her first two seasons to sit tenth in program history in digs.
Saying Goodbye to the Seniors
- Five Valpo seniors saw their time with the program come to an end with Thursday night’s loss.
- Ketcham closes her Valpo career having played more matches – 147 – than any other player in Valpo volleyball history. She finishes her playing career second in program history in attacks (4,371), fourth in digs (1,958 – the highest-ranking non-libero) and seventh in kills (1,232).
- Carlson racked up 1,273 kills over her four years to rank sixth in Valpo history in that category. She also finished her career fourth in attacks (4,061) and fifth in service aces (137), as well as tallying 1,409 digs – a total that would have cracked the top-10 if not for Cookerly.
- Two other Valpo seniors hit 500 career kills in Thursday’s season finale. Bronner hit .262 for her career with 505 kills and recorded 307 blocks, 51 of which were solo rejections – ninth-best in Valpo history.
- Lizzie Zaleski (Oak Lawn, Ill./Marist) finishes her career with exactly 500 career kills and also tallied 573 assists and 138 blocks.
- The final member of the senior quintet, Kayla Currier (Mokena, Ill./Lincoln-Way East), served this season as a student assistant after being sidelined due to injury. Currier tallied 255 kills and 127 blocks in her time on the court for Valpo.
Thoughts From Coach Avery
“This season has been truly great for our program – I’m not sure I can say anything else about what it has meant, because I’ve said it all already. I’m very proud of the seniors and our entire team – they truly are champions in competition, classroom and community.”