It was quite a bounce-back performance from the Valpo volleyball team on Friday evening, as the Beacons went into Illinois State and showed the 3,257 fans in Redbird Arena just what Valpo Volleyball is all about, striking down the preseason favorite Redbirds in four sets (25-14, 17-25, 25-16, 25-13).
How It Happened
- The eventual outcome of the match was foreshadowed from the jump, as the Beacons scored the first six points of the match. Senior Miranda Strongman (Wolverine Lake, Mich./Walled Lake Central [LIU]) was involved in four of those points, picking up two kills and chipping in on a pair of blocks.
- The Redbirds got no closer than five points the remainder of the set as Valpo eventually closed the opening frame on a kill by senior Maddy Boyer (Batavia, Ill./Batavia). Valpo hit .375 with 15 kills in the first set and limited Illinois State to .050 hitting.
- It was a battle for control of the second set, as both sides made runs in a frame which contained six ties and three lead changes. In the end, though, it was the Redbirds with the largest and latest run, as ISU closed the set on a 12-2 run to even the match at one set apiece.
- A six-point run midway through the third set on the serve of junior Victoria Bulmahn (McCordsville, Ind./Mt. Vernon), a stretch which included a pair of kills by senior Bella Ravotto (Mishawaka, Ind./Marian), turned a 10-8 deficit into a 14-10 Valpo lead.
- The Beacons prevented the Redbirds from stringing together consecutive points the rest of the set, and another kill from Ravotto closed out the frame in Valpo’s favor and gave the Beacons a 2-1 lead in the match.
- The Valpo defense forced ISU into 10 attacking errors in the fourth set, six of which were Beacon blocks, on its way to closing out the match.
- Four of those blocks came in the first 13 points of the set as Valpo jumped out to a 9-4 lead, and that proved to be more than enough as the Beacons prevented the Redbirds from ever posting consecutive points in the final frame. Fittingly, the match ended on a rejection by Strongman and senior Kara Cooper (LaPorte, Ind./LaPorte).
Inside the Match
- Friday’s win not only came over the Valley’s preseason favorite, but over the opponent which has been the biggest thorn in Valpo’s side since joining the conference. The victory was just Valpo’s second in 12 matchups against the Redbirds as MVC foes.
- Valpo had not held Illinois State to fewer than 18 points in a set to 25 in any of the first 11 matchups between the two programs since joining the Valley, and then did so in all three set wins on Friday.
- The defense was the impetus behind Friday night’s victory, as the Beacons racked up 85 digs and 14 blocks — both the team’s second-best single-match marks of the season. Valpo also limited ISU to .067 hitting, the second-lowest hitting percentage by an opponent this year.
- At the net, Strongman and junior Mallory Januski (Bourbonnais, Ill./Bradley-Bourbonnais) led the way with seven blocks apiece. Januski set a career high in the category, while it was her high in the Valpo uniform for Strongman.
- Cooper matched her career best by picking up six rejections, while Boyer was in on four blocks as well.
- In the back row, sophomore Elise Swistek (LaPorte, Ind./New Prairie) tied her career best by tallying a match-high 27 digs. She was seconded by freshman libero Emma Hickey (Granger, Ind./Penn), who notched 23 digs — her 11th effort of at least 20 digs out of 16 matches this year.
- Ravotto added 10 digs as well as part of her sixth double-double of the season, as the senior also led all players with 13 kills. Valpo’s balanced attack saw four other players record either six or seven kills.
- Bulmahn dished out 16 assists, redshirt freshman Addy Kois (Osceola, Ind./Penn) picked up 13 assists and Hickey did well with out-of-system distribution to tally eight assists.
- As mentioned in the lede, Friday night’s official attendance from Redbird Arena was 3,257, the largest crowd by box score attendance Valpo has played in front of in the tenure of head coach Carin Avery.
Valpo (14-2, 2-2 MVC) looks for a sweep of the central Illinois road trip for the first time since joining the Valley on Saturday evening, as the Beacons play Bradley at 5 p.m. The match can be seen live on ESPN3.