The Valpo volleyball team did its part to make sure it was a perfect Homecoming Saturday on campus, completing the sweep of the day’s two athletic events with a dramatic 3-2 (21-25, 28-26, 25-20, 15-25, 17-15) victory over Drake Saturday evening at the ARC.
How It Happened
- Drake took the lead from the jump in the opening set, and Valpo was never able to gain an outright advantage. The Beacons did close to within one point on a few occasions late in the set, the latest coming at 22-21, but the Bulldogs rattled off three in a row to win the opener.
- On the flip side, the second set featured 17 ties and seven lead changes in a back-and-forth battle. Drake pulled out to an early 5-2 lead, but that would be the only point in the frame where the advantage for either team was more than two points.
- Approaching the end of the set, the Beacons trailed 22-21 before going in front on a Drake service error and a kill from Maddy Boyer (Batavia, Ill./Batavia). The teams then traded sideouts for eight consecutive points, with Valpo earning set point at 24-23, 25-24 and 26-25, but being unable to close out the set.
- Finally, on their fourth set point chance at 27-26, the Beacons delivered the winner, as Boyer teamed with Mallory Januski (Bourbonnais, Ill./Bradley-Bourbonnais) on a block to even the match at one set apiece.
- While not as nip-and-tuck as the second set, the third frame did contain 12 tie scores of its own. Valpo stayed away from trouble on the attack, committing just one hitting error in the set.
- The critical stretch in the third set came at the final tie score, as the two sides were knotted up at 15 apiece. Valpo scored five of the next six points, highlighted by an emphatic solo block from Elise Swistek (LaPorte, Ind./New Prairie), to go ahead 20-16, and the teams basically traded points from that juncture. A kill by Miranda Strongman (Wolverine Lake, Mich./Walled Lake Central [LIU]) closed out the set and gave Valpo the 2-1 lead in the match.
- The fourth set was all Drake, as the Bulldogs scored nine of the first 10 points and never looked back. Drake hit .429 with 18 kills in the set and limited Valpo to just eight kills as the match went the full five sets.
- The story of the fifth set was Valpo pulling away before Drake rallied. A four-point run early on, featuring a kill and two blocks from Strongman, gave the Beacons a 5-2 edge, but the Bulldogs scored three of the next four to close to within 6-5.
- Valpo answered with four of the next five points, including two kills by Kara Cooper (LaPorte, Ind./LaPorte) and a Strongman service aces, to push back out to a four-point lead at 10-6. But Drake again came back, scoring four of the next five to cut Valpo’s lead to 11-10.
- The teams traded sideouts on the next five points, and when Cooper put down another kill, the Beacons found themselves with two match point chances at 14-12. A pair of Drake kills extended the match, however, and after Strongman came up with a kill to make it 15-14 Valpo, the Bulldogs again put up a kill of their own to tie the set yet again.
- Once again, it was Cooper with a big kill to give Valpo a fourth chance at the match at 16-15, and this time, it was the defense which finished things off, as Boyer and Januski combined on a rejection to close out the win.
Inside the Match
- Saturday’s win improves Valpo’s record to 13-1 on the season, the second-most wins in program history before taking a second loss. The 2014 team went 14-1 before suffering its second defeat.
- Coming off a five-set loss the night before against UNI, it was another grueling five-setter on Saturday night for the Beacons. This marked the first time Valpo dropped a five-set match in conference play and then came back the next night, went five sets and earned a win since October 2015.
- Valpo won despite Drake holding a 75-62 advantage in kills. The Beacons did commit seven fewer attack errors than the Bulldogs and held a .262-.251 edge in hitting percentage, thanks in part to 12 team blocks.
- Strongman came off the bench on Saturday to deliver a big performance. She set new highs in her time at Valpo for both kills (12) and blocks (5), the latter tying for team-high honors. Strongman also hit at a .500 clip and delivered a pair of service aces, including a key one in the fifth set.
- Bella Ravotto (Mishawaka, Ind./Marian) paced Valpo in the kills column Saturday with 15, one off her season best, and added 15 digs as well for her second straight double-double.
- Januski added 10 kills on .320 hitting and was in on four blocks as well.
- After setting her career high with 36 assists on Friday night, Addy Kois (Osceola, Ind./Penn) delivered 34 helpers on Saturday and Victoria Bulmahn (McCordsville, Ind./Mt. Vernon) added 20 assists.
- Emma Hickey (Granger, Ind./Penn) has now posted 20 or more digs in 10 of the first 14 matches of her collegiate career after pacing the squad with 27 on Saturday night. Swistek notched 15 digs as well in the winning effort.
- Cooper matched Strongman for team-high honors with five blocks and also hit .471 with eight kills, four of which came in the decisive fifth set.
Valpo (13-1, 1-1 MVC) gets just one day away from competition before concluding a hectic opening weekend of Valley play, as the Beacons will travel to MVC newcomer UIC for a Monday night contest. First serve is slated for 6 p.m., and the match can be seen live on ESPN+.