The Valpo volleyball team saw both of its outside hitters achieve career highs in the kills column on Sunday at the ARC, as senior Jaclyn Bulmahn (McCordsville, Ind./Mt. Vernon) posted 23 kills and junior Jillie Grant (Maumee, Ohio/Anthony Wayne) tallied 22 kills, while sophomore Bella Ravotto (Mishawaka, Ind./Marian) posted a career-best 23 digs defensively, but it wouldn’t be enough as Southern Illinois took a tight fifth set to earn a 3-2 (25-17, 17-25, 27-25, 22-25, 15-13) victory in MVC play.
How It Happened
- The key to the decisive fifth set came fairly early on, as the Salukis scored five points in a row to turn a 4-3 deficit into an 8-4 lead. The teams traded the next four points as SIU’s lead remained four at 10-6.
- Back-to-back kills from Bulmahn cut the deficit to two points at 10-8, and following an SIU kill, the senior recorded another termination to make it 11-9. That was followed by a block from senior Ally Cummings (Novi, Mich./Novi) and junior Haley Hart (Frankfort, Ill./Lincoln-Way East), and when Ravotto registered a service ace, the set was tied at 11-11.
- SIU scored each of the next two points, however, to pull back ahead 13-11. A Saluki service error was followed by an identical miscue from Valpo, giving SIU match point at 14-12. Valpo held off one match point thanks to a kill from Grant, but with the Brown and Gold looking to extend the match into extra points, SIU converted a first-ball kill to close out the match.
- While the fifth set ultimately decided the match, the end of the third set — in which both teams hit nearly .400 as the offenses went full tilt at each other — might have been the turning point in the contest. Valpo looked like it had taken control, as with the score tied at 19, it recorded three straight kills — one from Grant and back-to-back rally-enders from senior Peyton McCarthy (Cincinnati, Ohio/Seton) — to earn a 22-19 edge.
- Even after SIU scored three of the next four, Valpo earned set point at 24-22 on a kill from Bulmahn. But SIU came back with back-to-back kills to force extra points at 24-all.
- Hart picked up a kill to give Valpo its third set point opportunity, but again the Salukis responded with a kill, and then picked up another kill and a block in succession to rally late for the set win.
- Valpo rebounded with a fourth-set win to force the fifth frame, taking the lead for good with a four-point spurt to pull ahead 16-12. SIU closed to within two three times, the last after staving off three Valpo set points, but a kill from Grant closed the fourth in Valpo’s favor.
- For as tight as the final three sets were, the first two were relatively one-sided. SIU held Valpo to .049 hitting in the first set and used a 7-0 run to create separation late. The Brown and Gold responded with a tremendous offensive performance in the second set, hitting .444 — their best single-set percentage this year — with 18 kills and never trailing to even the match at a set apiece.
Inside the Match
- The performance of Valpo’s outside hitters was the story of the box score on its side of the ledger Sunday. Bulmahn led the way with 23 kills on just 42 swings, hitting at a .500 clip.
- The 23 kills and .500 hitting percentage both marked career highs for the senior. In fact, after entering last weekend with a career best of 15 kills in her first three-plus seasons, Bulmahn has now tallied 19, 15 and 23 kills in Valpo’s last three matches.
- The .500 hitting percentage is tied for fifth in Valpo history during the 25-point era for a five-set match and tied for seventh across all eras.
- Meanwhile, Grant also smashed her previous career high of 17 kills as she registered 22 terminations on Sunday while hitting .271. She added 14 digs as well for a double-double.
- Hart added 13 kills as well, just two off her career best, as she reached double figures in the category for the fourth consecutive contest.
- Freshman Victoria Bulmahn (McCordsville, Ind./Mt. Vernon) continued the strong start to her career setting the Valpo offense, tallying 62 assists as the Valpo offense hit at a .236 clip, while also adding 16 digs for a double-double.
- Victoria Bulmahn’s 62 assists are fourth-most in the Valpo record books in a five-set match in the 25-point era, and are the most by a single player since Kelsey Berrington dished out 64 assists against North Dakota State on Oct. 19, 2014.
- Meanwhile, in the back row, Ravotto notched her second consecutive career-best effort in the digs category as she tallied 23 digs. Heading into last Monday’s match at Missouri State, Ravotto owned a career high of 17 digs, but has registered 20 and 23 digs in Valpo’s last two matches.
- For the fifth straight match, it was senior Rylee Cookerly (Brownsburg, Ind./Brownsburg) leading all players in the back row, as she tallied 30 digs — her sixth career match with 30 or more digs.
- Along the way Sunday, Cookerly surpassed Evansville’s Katie Klages for seventh place in MVC history in career digs. With 2,234 career digs, Cookerly is just nine digs shy of sixth position in MVC history and 15 away from third place in Valpo’s record book.
- Sunday was already Valpo’s third five-set match within MVC play, all of which have gone against the Brown and Gold.
- Much like its two defeats last week at Missouri State, Valpo held advantages in kills (72-68) and digs (108-91) on Sunday versus SIU, but was bested by the Salukis in blocks (13-5) and hitting percentage (.255-.236).
- The loss to SIU on Sunday was Valpo’s first defeat against the Salukis in their last six meetings. It also marked SIU’s first-ever win at the ARC.
Valpo (2-4, 1-4 MVC) looks for a split against Southern Illinois in Monday’s finale of the back-to-back series. First serve is set for 4 p.m., and the match will be broadcast live on ESPN3. A radio broadcast will also be available on WVUR and online at ValpoAthletics.com.