It was a total team effort as the Valpo volleyball team closed the regular season Sunday at Evansville, as all 14 players in uniform played in a 3-1 (25-21, 19-25, 25-22, 25-16) victory over the Purple Aces. With the win, Valpo enters the Missouri Valley Conference Championship as the fifth seed and will open tournament play against fourth-seeded Bradley Thursday afternoon at 2 p.m.
How It Happened
- Valpo tried to jump out to an insurmountable lead in the opening set, as junior Jillie Grant (Maumee, Ohio/Anthony Wayne) had two kills and a service ace during a 7-1 run which gave Valpo a 9-4 lead.
- Evansville came back with a 7-1 run of its own to take a brief 11-10 lead.
- The margin remained two points or fewer until a kill from Grant gave Valpo a 19-16 advantage. The Purple Aces came back with the next two points, but Valpo responded with four in a row — including two kills by senior Jaclyn Bulmahn (McCordsville, Ind./Mt. Vernon) — to go up 23-18. Valpo eventually ended the set on a kill by Grant on its third set point chance.
- Evansville scored the first four points of the second set as it led start to finish to even up the match.
- Valpo closed to within two points multiple times during the second half of the frame, the latest coming at 19-17 before the Purple Aces ended the set with a 6-2 spurt.
- Evansville used a 9-1 run to turn a three-point deficit into a 14-9 lead midway through the third set.
- The Aces still led 16-12 before Valpo scored four in a row — two coming on kills from Peyton McCarthy (Cincinnati, Ohio/Seton) — to even things up at 16-all.
- The teams traded the lead multiple times in the late stages of the set. Evansville led 22-21, but Valpo scored the final four points of the set — capped by a service ace from Rylee Cookerly (Brownsburg, Ind./Brownsburg) — to take the 2-1 lead in the match.
- The fourth set was decided early on, as Valpo scored six of the frame’s first seven points. The lead never fell under four points, and Valpo eventually closed out the victory on a kill by freshman Mallory Januski (Bourbonnais, Ill./Bradley-Bourbonnais).
Inside the Match
- Sunday’s win clinched a top-half finish in the MVC standings for Valpo. Valpo and Illinois State are the only two MVC programs to finish in the top half of the final conference standings in each of Valpo’s four seasons in the MVC.
- Valpo has now finished above its preseason poll rank in each of its four seasons in the Valley.
- Valpo claimed at least one match in eight of its nine series against MVC opponents this year, with Missouri State the only exception.
- Valpo secured a winning record for the season with Sunday’s win as well, the 17th time in the 19 seasons under head coach Carin Avery the program has posted a record above .500.
- One night after being limited to a season-low 33 kills on .117 hitting, Valpo hit .248 as a team with 60 kills in Sunday’s win.
- Bulmahn led the way offensively with 15 kills on .250 hitting, while Grant posted 14 kills and 10 digs.
- McCarthy enjoyed her second consecutive big match on both sides of the net, hitting .409 with 11 kills and matching her season high for the second straight contest with six blocks.
- Freshman Victoria Bulmahn (McCordsville, Ind./Mt. Vernon) handed out 45 assists and tallied 12 digs and three blocks as well.
- Cookerly surpassed the 2,500-dig mark for her career in Sunday’s win, posting a team-high 20 digs. With 2,514 career digs, she enters the MVC Tournament just four shy of the top-15 in NCAA history in the category.
- All 14 players in uniform saw action on Sunday, highlighted by the collegiate debut of Januski, who finished with a pair of kills — including match point — two blocks and an assist.
Valpo (11-9, 10-8 MVC) takes on Bradley at the MVC Championship at 2 p.m. on Thursday from Illinois State. The match can be seen live on ESPN+.