The Valpo volleyball team moved one step closer to claiming the 2021 Missouri Valley Conference championship on Thanksgiving afternoon, winning its first-round match over Evansville by a 3-1 (25-20, 16-25, 25-22, 25-17) final. With the victory, Valpo head coach Carin Avery earned the 500th victory of her collegiate coaching career.
How It Happened
- Valpo surrendered the first four points of the match to the Purple Aces, but quickly rallied, taking the lead in the opener for good at 9-8 on a kill from Peyton McCarthy (Cincinnati, Ohio/Seton).
- McCarthy’s kill kicked off an 8-2 stretch for the Beacons as they roared out to a 16-10 advantage. Haley Hart (Frankfort, Ill./Lincoln-Way East) was part of three consecutive blocks during the run and added a kill as well.
- Evansville scored five in a row to close to within 16-15, but Valpo came right back with five straight points of its own — a spurt which included a service ace by Rylee Cookerly (Brownsburg, Ind./Brownsburg) and consecutive kills from McCarthy — to extend back out to a 21-15 lead. Valpo eventually ended the opening set on another kill by McCarthy to take the 1-0 lead in the match.
- The Purple Aces jumped out to a 13-1 lead in the second set en route to evening the match at one frame apiece.
- The third set proved to be the tightest set of the afternoon, as the two sides were tied 11 times. The key stretch came just past the midway point of the set with Evansville leading 15-13.
- Elise Swistek (LaPorte, Ind./New Prairie) picked up back-to-back kills to kick off a 9-2 run which turned Valpo’s two-point deficit into a five-point lead. The run concluded with three consecutive kills from Kara Cooper (LaPorte, Ind./LaPorte).
- It looked like Evansville had moved back within one point late at 23-22, but a Valpo challenge resulted in a net violation found in the review on the Purple Aces to give the Beacons set point at 24-21. On their second attempt to close the set, an Evansville attack error ended the third set in the Beacons’ favor.
- The key moment in the fourth set came early on, as Valpo held a slight 8-7 advantage before the Purple Aces committed a service error. Swistek stepped back to the service line and did not relinquish the serve until Valpo extended its lead to 16-7. The freshman had a pair of service aces during the run, while Hart had two more kills during the spurt.
- The Beacons’ lead would not fall below five points the rest of the way, and Valpo closed out the first-round win on a solo block from Bella Ravotto (Mishawaka, Ind./Marian).
Inside the Match
- Valpo has advanced to the semifinals of the MVC Championship in each of its last three times participating in the tournament, and now owns a 3-3 record in conference tournament play in the five seasons since joining the Valley.
- The Beacons went 3-0 against Evansville this season, improving Avery’s record to 10-1 in third matchups against a team Valpo beat twice during the regular season.
- Valpo improved to 19-0 on the season when winning the first set.
- McCarthy paced Valpo’s offensive attack with 14 kills on .303 hitting Thursday.
- McCarthy was joined in double figures in the kills column by Ravotto, who picked up 10 kills. The junior has tallied 10 or more kills nine times this year, and Valpo is a perfect 9-0 when she reaches double figures in the category.
- Cooper matched a season best with nine kills.
- Both of Valpo’s setters recorded double-doubles on Thursday. Brittany Anderson (East Chicago, Ind./Bishop Noll) notched 18 assists and 11 digs, while Victoria Bulmahn (McCordsville, Ind./Mt. Vernon) registered 16 assists and 10 digs.
- Hart was part of eight of Valpo’s 11 team blocks. The senior has tallied 23 blocks over Valpo’s last three matches and now has 116 blocks on the season — tied for fifth-most by a Valpo player in the 25-point era.
- Cookerly led Valpo’s back-row effort with 19 digs, while Swistek picked up 14 digs to go with three service aces.
500 For Avery
- Thursday’s win was also a milestone for Carin Avery, as she won the 500th match of her collegiate career.
- Avery now owns a 500-239 (.677) record as a collegiate head coach.
- In her 20 seasons at Valpo, Avery has posted a 445-215 (.674) record.
Valpo (22-8) advances to Friday’s MVC semifinal against top-seeded Loyola. First serve is slated for 3:30 p.m., and the match can be seen live on ESPN+.