Resiliency, fight, scrappiness. Those are attributes which Valpo volleyball has embraced over the years, and which applied just as much to the team’s season opener at Loyola on Monday afternoon. Trailing two sets to none, down 7-1 in the third set and playing without a true setter, Valpo battled to the final point, as it rallied to take sets three and four before falling just short in the fifth set as the Ramblers came away with a 3-2 (25-18, 25-9, 23-25, 15-25, 15-10) win.
How It Happened
- Trailing 7-1 in the third set and down two sets, Valpo came out strong out of a timeout with a four-point spurt to close to within two.
- The two-point deficit proved to be a tough one for the Brown and Gold to get over, as six separate times from 7-5 to 13-11, Valpo made it a two-point set, only for Loyola to respond with a point of its own.
- Loyola looked like it might put away a sweep as it pulled ahead 18-13, but three straight Valpo points again made it a two-point frame.
- Valpo finally punched through the two-point deficit all the way to the other side with a four-point spurt, with a block from junior Haley Hart (Frankfort, Ill./Lincoln-Way East) and sophomore Maddy Boyer (Batavia, Ill./Batavia) tying the set at 20-20 and then a Loyola error putting Valpo on top.
- The Ramblers scored two straight to regain the lead, but a pair of Loyola errors put Valpo ahead and a block from Hart and sophomore Bella Ravotto (Mishawaka, Ind./Marian) made it set point at 24-22. On its second chance, Valpo extended the match to a fourth set thanks to a kill from Hart.
- The fourth set was never in doubt, as Valpo led start to finish thanks to an early 6-2 run. Valpo hit .258 with 13 kills in the frame while limiting Loyola to seven kills on -.108 hitting in forcing a decisive fifth set. Hart tallied four blocks in the fourth set alone, while Ravotto posted seven kills in the fourth frame.
- A kill by junior Jillie Grant (Maumee, Ohio/Anthony Wayne) and a Rambler error gave Valpo a brief 2-0 lead in the final set, but Loyola scored 10 of the next 12 points to take control as it closed out the win.
- The opening set proved to be a set of runs. With Loyola leading 7-4, Valpo reeled off an 8-1 run — including a pair of kills from senior Jaclyn Bulmahn (McCordsville, Ind./Mt. Vernon) — to take a 12-8 lead.
- But the Ramblers responded immediately with five consecutive points of their own to pull back ahead, and then with the score 15-14, scored eight of the next 10 points to pull away.
- The second set went Loyola’s way, as the Ramblers hit .455 with 12 kills while Valpo registered just two kills.
Inside the Match
- Monday’s match was the first contest for the Valpo volleyball program since the 2019 MVC Tournament semifinal, a span of 423 days.
- Monday marked the first time any Valpo team opened the season with a conference match since the 1992 Valpo football squad kicked off the year against Ashland in a Midwest Intercollegiate Football Conference matchup.
- Valpo played its season opener without a true setter in uniform Monday. This is not the first time Valpo has been forced to play this style of volleyball, as it closed the 2016 season with 13 matches utilizing libero Morganne Longoria as its primary setter.
- Just as they did in 2016, the Brown and Gold used its libero as the primary setter, and senior Rylee Cookerly (Brownsburg, Ind./Brownsburg) delivered a career-best 17 assists — more than doubling her previous career high of eight. Cookerly also tied for team-high honors with 19 digs for her first career double-double as she surpassed 2,100 digs for her career.
- When it wasn’t Cookerly on the second ball, it was often senior Melissa Flynders (Mokena, Ill./Providence Catholic). Flynders also set a career best as she tallied six assists and tied Cookerly with a team-best 19 digs.
- At the net defensively, Valpo posted 13 team blocks on Monday, helping to limit the Rambler offense to just .129 hitting after Loyola hit .238 and .294 in a pair of sweeps last season.
- Hart matched her career high with eight blocks to lead all players, Boyer tied her career best with four rejections and Grant set a new career high with four blocks herself.
- Ravotto led the Valpo attack with 12 kills and also posted 12 digs for her fourth career double-double. It is the second straight season Ravotto has kicked off with a double-double.
Valpo (0-1, 0-1 MVC) is scheduled to play its lone nonconference match of the season on Friday afternoon at noon in a neutral-site matchup with Butler at Loyola. No video stream will be available for the match, but live stats will be available.