The Valpo volleyball team extended its winning streak to eight consecutive matches to open the 2022 campaign Friday in Akron, Ohio at the Akron Invitational, utilizing the entire squad to take down Morgan State, 3-0 (25-13, 25-12, 25-13), in the morning match and then grinding out a four-set win over the host Zips (21-25, 25-14, 25-18, 28-26) in the evening. The pair of wins moves the Beacons within one win of matching the best start to a season in program history.
How It Happened – Morgan State
- An early six-point spurt on the serve of freshman Emma Hickey (Granger, Ind./Penn), featuring two kills apiece from sophomore Elise Swistek (LaPorte, Ind./New Prairie) and redshirt freshman Sam Warren (Kentland, Ind./South Newton), put Valpo ahead 7-2 and had the Beacons well on their way to starting the day with a set one win. The offense hit at a .478 clip in the opening set — its best single-set performance of the season.
- Valpo scored nine of the first 10 points of the second set en route to cruising to a 2-0 lead in the match.
- The Beacons made sure the third set would not be close early on as well, as redshirt freshman Addy Kois (Osceola, Ind./Penn) had a pair of service aces as part of a 7-0 run to start the final frame.
How It Happened – Akron
- Valpo led by four points on multiple occasions in the first set, but could never pull away, and the Zips made the Beacons pay. Trailing 18-17, Akron scored eight of the final 11 points in the opening frame to take the 1-0 lead in the match.
- The Beacons bounced back by cruising to the win in set two, with a 9-0 run on the serve of junior Victoria Bulmahn (McCordsville, Ind./Mt. Vernon) turning an 8-7 deficit into a 16-8 advantage. Valpo limited Akron to -.091 hitting in the set as it evened up the match at one set apiece.
- After hitting just .088 combined over the first two frames, the Beacons’ offense got going in set three, hitting .345 to help Valpo take the lead for the match. The key run came mid-frame, as Valpo reeled off six straight points to extend a 10-8 lead to 16-8.
- The fourth set looked to be all Akron, as the Zips led by six points multiple times, the latest coming at 15-9. But Valpo battled back, eventually tying the set at 18-18, and then rallying from a two-point deficit to make it 21-all.
- After trailing sideouts a couple times, a solo block from senior Gretchen Kuckkan (Lafayette, Ind./Central Catholic [Indiana State]) gave Valpo match point at 24-23. An Akron kill forced extra points, but senior Bella Ravotto (Mishawaka, Ind./Marian) came through with a kill for another chance to end the match at 25-24.
- A kill and a solo block for the Zips, however, turned the tables and gave Akron an opportunity to extend the match to a fifth set. But Akron committed an attack error to even the set at 26-26, and another Ravotto kill provided Valpo a third chance to close the contest, and this time the Beacons finished out thanks to an Akron error.
Inside the Matches
- Valpo has won its first eight matches of the season for the fourth time in program history. The 2015 team holds the program record by starting 9-0, while the 2003 and 2013 squads both opened 8-0 before suffering their first loss.
- With Friday’s pair of wins, Valpo is one win away from claiming its third in-season tournament title of the season. The program has won three in-season tournaments in a single year on four occasions previously (2006, 2010, 2014, 2018).
- All 16 players who were dressed for the Beacons on Saturday played in the sweep of Morgan State, with only five players seeing action in all three sets. Valpo hit a season-best .356 in that win, while limiting the Bears to -.012 hitting, the lowest by a Valpo opponent this season.
- The offense hit at a season-low .153 clip in the win over Akron, but the defense came to the rescue, limiting the Zips to .113 hitting. The Beacons tallied 15.5 team blocks in the nightcap, fourth-most in a four-set match in the 25-point era by a Valpo team.
- Senior Miranda Strongman (Wolverine Lake, Mich./Walled Lake Central [LIU]) was the only Beacon to tally more than four kills in the balanced effort versus Morgan State, as she posted eight kills on .467 hitting.
- Meanwhile, the win over Akron was all about the performance of senior Kara Cooper (LaPorte, Ind./LaPorte). Coming off All-Tournament honors last weekend, Cooper smashed her previous career best, racking up a team-best 18 kills on .382 hitting.
- Through eight matches this season, seven different Valpo players have at least shared team-high honors in the kills column at least once.
- Kois posted her second double-double of the season in the win over Morgan State, registering 15 assists and a match-best 11 digs. Ravotto picked up her 15th double-double at Valpo in the Akron match, finishing with 13 kills and 12 digs.
- After recording three service aces in the morning win, Hickey stood out with a match-high 25 digs in the back row in the victory over Akron.
- Four different Beacons matched or exceeded their career bests for blocks in the win over the Zips, led by eight rejections from senior Rachel Speck (Whitmore Lake, Mich./Whitmore Lake) to double her previous career high.
- Ravotto set a new career best with four blocks, while junior Mallory Januski (Bourbonnais, Ill./Bradley-Bourbonnais) and Kuckkan tied their career highs with five and four, respectively. Cooper chipped in on five rejections as well, one off her career best.
Valpo (8-0) takes aim at matching the best start in program history and securing a third straight tournament title on Saturday when it plays at Cleveland State at 11 a.m. CT. The match will be broadcast live on ESPN+.