For the first time since joining the Missouri Valley Conference, the Valpo volleyball team posted a 2-0 record on a weekend road swing through central Illinois, battling on Saturday evening for a five-set victory (25-22, 26-24, 25-27, 24-26, 15-9) at Bradley. With the win, the Beacons improve to 15-2 on the season.
How It Happened
- Each of the first four sets went down to the wire, as three went to extra points and the one that didn’t was within one point at 23-22.
- Bradley led by as many as three points in the opening set, but it was Valpo which claimed an important three-point lead late with three consecutive points, as sophomore Elise Swistek (LaPorte, Ind./New Prairie) sandwiched a pair of kills around a termination by senior Kara Cooper (LaPorte, Ind./LaPorte) to gives the Beacons a 23-20 advantage.
- The Braves came back with the next two points, but junior Mallory Januski (Bourbonnais, Ill./Bradley-Bourbonnais) came through with a kill to give Valpo set point at 24-22 and then combined with senior Maddy Boyer (Batavia, Ill./Batavia) on a block to close out the opener in favor of the Beacons.
- The second set went back and forth, with seven lead changes. Again, however, neither squad could gain more than a three-point lead.
- Valpo led 21-19 approaching the final stages, but the Braves came back with five of the next six points to gain set point at 24-22. The Beacons held off a pair of set points with kills from Cooper and Januski to force extra points.
- A red card assessed to Bradley with the score 24-24 resulted in a point being credited to Valpo, giving the Beacons their own set point at 25-24. They converted on their first chance, with Swistek registering a kill to give Valpo the 2-0 lead in the match.
- Bradley led nearly start-to-finish in the third set — however, that belies how the late stages of the frame went. The Braves had their first chance to extend the match at 24-20, but Valpo came through with kills on four straight points to force extra points. The Beacons actually held off a fifth set point chance as well at 25-24 before Bradley closed the third set on its sixth opportunity to push the match to a fourth set.
- Valpo looked to close the match in four sets, leading by six points on multiple occasions — the latest coming at 14-8. Bradley rallied, however, and evened the fourth frame quickly at 17-17.
- The Beacons held a slim 21-20 edge before four straight Bradley points gave the Braves set point at 24-21. Much like the third set, Valpo rallied to force extra points, fending off three set points before Bradley came through on its fourth to force a decisive fifth frame.
- The start of the fifth set went the opposite of what Beacon fans would have hoped for, as Bradley scored four of the first five points.
- But the combination of a quick timeout from head coach Carin Avery and a lengthy review on the following point — an attack error by Bradley which was upheld — helped to right the ship. Valpo went on a 9-1 run, highlighted by two kills and a block apiece from Boyer and senior Bella Ravotto (Mishawaka, Ind./Marian), to pull out to a 10-5 lead.
- The Beacons saw out the match from there, as Bradley didn’t score consecutive points the rest of the way. A kill by Boyer was the final nail in the coffin of the victory.
Inside the Match
- Valpo claimed victories in both matches in central Illinois for the first time since joining the Valley. Saturday’s win was the program’s first at Bradley since 2017 — the team’s first season in the MVC.
- The Beacons now own a 15-2 overall record this year, matching the 2015 team for the third-most wins in a season in program history before suffering a third loss. The 2018 team went 17-2 before its third loss, while the 2014 squad was 16-2 before taking a third defeat.
- Saturday was Valpo’s third five-set match in its five Valley matches to date. Overall this year, the Beacons are 4-1 in five-set matches. Saturday marked the second time Valpo has won in five sets after being up 2-0 and then dropping sets three and four.
- Each and every set of Saturday’s match was closely contested, and at the end of the night, the match contained 37 tie scores and 18 lead changes across the five frames. The 37 tie scores are the most in a Valpo match since the 2018 MVC semifinals against UNI, which also contained 37 ties.
- Saturday evening’s contest set season highs for Valpo as a team with 71 kills and 102 digs.
- Leading the way offensively was senior Miranda Strongman (Wolverine Lake, Mich./Walled Lake Central [LIU]), who did not commit an attack error in her 37 swings en route to a team-best 15 kills, hitting .405 on the night. Strongman matched her career high for kills in the victory.
- The middles’ offense was working well on Saturday night, as Strongman’s team-best contribution was joined by a career-high 14 kills from Januski on .333 hitting.
- Swistek chipped in 14 kills as well, one off her career best, while Cooper rounded out the quartet of Valpo players in double figures with 12 kills.
- Swistek easily posted a double-double on Saturday night, her fourth of the season. Along with her 14 kills, the sophomore notched 25 digs — two off her career best which she matched on Friday night.
- Swistek was one of three Beacons to finish Saturday’s win with a double-double, as both of their setters reached the threshold as well. It was a season-best in digs for both Victoria Bulmahn (McCordsville, Ind./Mt. Vernon), who finished with 33 assists and 17 digs for the 26th double-double of her career, and Addy Kois (Osceola, Ind./Penn), who totaled 26 assists and 16 digs.
- Freshman libero Emma Hickey (Granger, Ind./Penn) picked up 26 digs on Saturday, reaching 20+ digs for the 12th time in 17 matches this season.
Valpo (15-2, 3-2 MVC) returns home to the ARC to host two of the MVC’s three newcomers next weekend. First up is a Friday night matchup with Murray State at 6 p.m., a match which can be seen live on ESPN3.