It was a typical battle in Missouri Valley Conference action at the ARC Friday night, and while the Valpo volleyball team trailed Bradley after three sets, 2-1, the Beacons kept at it to extend the match to a fifth set, where they completed the 3-2 (25-27, 25-23, 19-25, 25-21, 15-11) come-from-behind victory. The win, which secured Valpo a berth in the MVC Tournament, was highlighted by a career best in kills from senior right side Maddy Boyer (Batavia, Ill./Batavia) and by freshman libero Emma Hickey (Granger, Ind./Penn) coming just one dig away from the program’s single-match record.
How It Happened
- Bradley got out to the early lead in the decisive fifth set and led by two points at 5-3. An attack error by the Braves sent junior Victoria Bulmahn (McCordsville, Ind./Mt. Vernon) to the service line, where she delivered a pair of aces around a kill from senior Bella Ravotto (Mishawaka, Ind./Marian) to give Valpo the 7-5 lead.
- A Bradley block cut the lead to one before senior Kara Cooper (LaPorte, Ind./LaPorte) and fifth-year Jillie Grant (Maumee, Ohio/Anthony Wayne) recorded kills on consecutive points to push it back to three. After a Valpo attack error, Grant came up with another kill and junior Mallory Januski (Bourbonnais, Ill./Bradley-Bourbonnais) put away an overpass as the advantage reached 11-7.
- The Braves scored back-to-back points to make it 11-9, but Valpo prevented Bradley from stringing together more than one point the rest of the way. Januski and Grant combined on a block for a 12-9 lead, Grant tallied yet another kill to make it 13-10 and Januski knocked home another kill to give Valpo match point at 14-11. Fittingly, Boyer’s career high in the kills department was capped by the match-deciding termination.
- Six of Boyer’s kills came in the fourth set, while Januski had four blocks in the fourth frame alone to help extend the match to the fifth set. Valpo took the lead for good early in the set with a run of four straight points and Bradley got no closer than three points in the second half of the frame. Eventually, a kill by Boyer clinched the set.
- Valpo trailed big early in set one, as the deficit reached as many as seven points. The Beacons battled back to tie the set at 16-16, but were unable to pull in front at that point, and Bradley pulled out to earn set point at 24-21.
- Valpo scored the next four points to not only hold off three set points, but to go in front and take its first lead of the set at 25-24 on a kill by senior Miranda Strongman (Wolverine Lake, Mich./Walled Lake Central [LIU]). But the Braves picked up back-to-back kills and then converted their fourth set point chance to take the 1-0 lead in the match.
- Much like set one, the early stages of set two were all Bradley, as the Braves pulled out to a quick 8-1 lead. But also much like set one, Valpo was able to rally, evening the set for the first time since 0-0 at 13-13.
- Six times between 13-13 and 21-21, Valpo had the serve with a chance to take the lead, only to see Bradley side out. The Braves posted consecutive points to lead 23-21 late, but a service error returned the serve to Valpo and back-to-back attack errors gave the Beacons their first outright lead of the set and set point at 24-23. Januski came up with the big kill on the next point to level the match at one set apiece.
- Valpo led 10-8 approaching the halfway mark of set three before the Braves scored six of the next seven to take the lead for good, eventually going up 2-1 in the match.
Inside the Match
- Valpo secured a berth in the MVC Tournament with Friday night’s victory. With two matches remaining in the conference slate, the Beacons can finish anywhere from the third seed to the seventh seed.
- Friday’s result also assured Valpo of finishing at least .500 in MVC play for the fourth time in the last five seasons.
- Friday’s win was Valpo’s second of the year over Bradley in the full five sets. The Beacons are 4-2 in Valley play this year in five-set affairs and 6-2 overall this season when the match goes the distance.
- Boyer was the highlight of the evening for Valpo offensively, easily surpassing her previous career high of 16 kills with a 20-kill night. The senior also took a career-high 52 swings and was in on four blocks defensively.
- Hickey nearly set a program single-match record for any length match on Friday night, racking up a match-high 42 digs in the back row. The freshman came up just one dig shy of Rylee Cookerly’s record of 43, but still became just the third player in program history to register 40 or more digs in a match, joining Cookerly and Karen Kulick.
- Hickey’s mark set a program record for a five-set match, while it is the highest dig total by an MVC player in the last two seasons.
- With 647 digs on the year, Hickey is now just 14 away from cracking Valpo’s overall single-season top-10 and is 39 away from the freshman record held by Cookerly.
- Hickey also posted 10 assists setting out of system, a season high for her first career double-double.
- Speaking of setting, redshirt freshman Addy Kois (Osceola, Ind./Penn) matched her season high with 36 assists in the win and picked up 14 digs as well.
- Grant posted a season-best 15 kills on .302 hitting and added 15 digs for a double-double, while Ravotto (11 kills, 14 digs) and Bulmahn (17 assists, 16 digs) each notched double-doubles too.
- Take last Saturday out of the equation and Januski would have registered a career best in blocks in Friday’s win, as the junior was part of eight of Valpo’s 13 team blocks — the eighth time in MVC play the Beacons have tallied at least 10 rejections.
- Valpo finished the night with 111 digs, its second-highest tally in that department this season.
Valpo (21-7, 9-7 MVC) looks not only for a weekend sweep, but to send its senior class out with a win on Senior Night Saturday evening at the ARC when the Beacons host Illinois State at 5 p.m. The match can be seen live on ESPN3.