Playing in their final home match of their careers at the ARC Saturday evening, the Valpo volleyball senior class went out victorious, taking down Bradley by a 3-1 (25-17, 23-25, 25-18, 25-19) final. All five seniors had strong performances, including Rylee Cookerly (Brownsburg, Ind./Brownsburg) reaching yet another milestone as she hit the 3,000-dig mark for her career.
How It Happened
- Valpo never trailed in the opening frame, jumping out to an 11-4 lead thanks in large part to the play of their senior middles. Haley Hart (Frankfort, Ill./Lincoln-Way East) had two kills and a block among Valpo’s first six points, and Peyton McCarthy (Cincinnati, Ohio/Seton) followed with two kills and two blocks as she was involved in four of Valpo’s next five points.
- The Beacons extended their advantage to as many as nine points in the middle portion of the set. Bradley rallied to close to within 22-17 late, but kills by Bella Ravotto (Mishawaka, Ind./Marian) and Elise Swistek (LaPorte, Ind./New Prairie) gave Valpo set point, and a Bradley attack error closed the opener in Valpo’s favor.
- A 7-0 run for the Braves early in set two gave Bradley a 12-7 lead. Valpo closed to within one late at 21-20, but Bradley reeled off the next three points to earn set point at 24-20.
- The Beacons held off three set point chances, as a pair of kills by Hart sandwiched a Braves hitting error to bring Valpo to within one point of forcing extra points. But a Bradley kill evened the match at one set apiece.
- Valpo led 10-8 approaching the midpoint of set three. Then, in the blink of an eye, it was a 19-9 advantage for the Beacons as they rattled off a 9-1 run. Maddy Boyer (Batavia, Ill./Batavia) had two kills during the run, while Hart had a solo block early in the spurt and closed the run with a kill.
- Bradley got no closer than six points the remainder of the set, and a kill from Hart capped the set to put Valpo ahead 2-1 in the match.
- The battle for control early in set four went Valpo’s way, as the Beacons scored five straight — including a kill and an ace from Ravotto — to take an 8-4 lead.
- Valpo never lost the advantage, successfully fending off the Braves’ advances each time they tried to push through. Bradley got to within two points late at 19-17, but Valpo scored three of the next four to pull out, 22-18.
- Then, senior Gabby Daniels (Mill Valley, Calif./Saint Francis) subbed in to serve and delivered a Senior Night highlight, tallying a pair of digs — including one of the one-handed variety — on her first point, which ended in a Swistek kill. Hart followed with a kill to give Valpo match point, and on the second try at it, a Bradley attack error closed out the match in the Beacons’ favor.
Inside the Match
- Valpo closed the 2021 season with an 8-1 record at home, its best home record since posting a 10-1 mark at the ARC in 2009.
- At 10-6 in MVC play, Valpo has secured a berth in the MVC Tournament and cannot finish lower than fourth in the final regular season standings. With Bradley and Illinois State both one game ahead of Valpo and playing each other next weekend, the Beacons will tie for third place with two wins next weekend.
- All five of Valpo’s seniors — a class which helped the program earn its first postseason wins with two victories in the 2018 NIVC — were instrumental in the team’s win on Saturday.
- Cookerly reached the 3,000-dig mark for her career with a dig early in the third set Saturday. She paced the Valpo effort in the back row with 17 digs and now has 3,012 career digs.
- Brittany Anderson (East Chicago, Ind./Bishop Noll) handed out a match-high 26 assists and now owns 4,437 career assists, just 40 away from moving into 14th place in MVC history in the category.
- Hart nearly posted career highs in both kills and blocks on Saturday, finishing just one shy of her personal best in both categories as she tallied 15 kills on .414 hitting and seven blocks. Three of her seven rejections were of the solo variety.
- McCarthy reached double figures in kills for the 14th time this season, hitting .250 with 10 kills and three blocks.
- Daniels picked up a service ace late in set two and registered three digs as well.
- While it was the seniors’ night, the rookie Swistek had a standout performance — perhaps her best to date in the Valpo uniform. Swistek tied Hart for match-high honors with 15 kills, smashing her previous season high of 11. She did it efficiently as well, hitting at a .433 clip, and added 12 digs for her fourth double-double of the year.
- Ravotto posted her sixth double-double of the year, picking up 10 kills and 16 digs. Valpo is a perfect 6-0 this season when the junior hits double figures in both categories.
- Led by Hart’s effort at the net, Valpo recorded 11 team blocks on Saturday night, tied for its second-most in a match this season.
Valpo (19-8, 10-6 MVC) not only has final placement in the MVC regular season standings on the mind heading into next weekend, it also is looking for the 16th 20-win season in the 20 years head coach Carin Avery has been at the helm. Valpo will play at UNI Friday evening before taking on Drake Saturday evening.