On a Senior Night where the Valpo volleyball program was celebrating four players who will wrap up their collegiate careers in the coming weeks, the Beacons attempted to make it back-to-back come-from-behind victories. But visiting Illinois State spoiled the party, earning a 3-1 (25-21, 18-25, 25-22, 27-25) victory over Valpo Saturday evening.
How It Happened
- Illinois State led for nearly the entirety of the opening set. The Redbirds held as much as an eight-point lead and still led by seven at 24-17. Valpo tried to put together an epic rally, reeling off four points in a row to move back within three, but Illinois State converted on its fifth set point chance to take the opener.
- After hitting just .070 in the first set, Valpo rebounded to hit an eye-popping .452 in the second set. The Beacons took the lead for good in the frame with a four-point run, including a kill and a solo block by Bella Ravotto (Mishawaka, Ind./Marian), to go ahead 10-6. Illinois State got no closer than two the rest of the way and Valpo methodically pulled away to level the match at one set apiece.
- Set three looked it like was going to be all Valpo early on, as the Beacons scored the first five points — two coming on blocks by senior Rachel Speck (Whitmore Lake, Mich./Whitmore Lake). But Illinois State rallied and pulled ahead approaching the midway point of the set, as a 5-0 run of its own gave the Redbirds a 12-11 lead.
- That set up a back-and-forth final half of a set which eventually featured 10 ties, with neither team able to string together more than two points in a row after the Illinois State 5-0 run. The two teams were tied at every point from 12-12 to 20-20, before the Redbirds scored back-to-back points to claim a two-point edge at 22-20.
- Valpo twice cut the lead to one point, but was unable to even the set once more as the Redbirds scored the final two points to take a 2-1 lead in the match.
- The Beacons led for much of the fourth set, until Illinois State strung together four points in a row late to pull ahead, 22-20. Valpo came back with two points in a row to tie things up and the teams then combined for three straight sideouts, giving the Redbirds match point at 24-23.
- A kill from Ravotto sent the set to extra points, and a block by juniors Mallory Januski (Bourbonnais, Ill./Bradley-Bourbonnais) and Victoria Bulmahn (McCordsville, Ind./Mt. Vernon) gave Valpo a chance to force a fifth set. But Illinois State came up with the final three points of the match to earn the road win.
Inside the Match
- Following Saturday’s match, the program honored Speck, Jillie Grant (Maumee, Ohio/Anthony Wayne), Maddy Boyer (Batavia, Ill./Batavia) and Kara Cooper (LaPorte, Ind./LaPorte) in its annual Senior Night ceremony. The group has been instrumental in Valpo’s success in MVC play over their careers and was a big part in the Beacons’ run to the NIVC title match last season.
- With Saturday’s defeat, Valpo will be playing on Sunday at the MVC Tournament. The Beacons will be either the fifth or the sixth seed, depending on Wednesday’s results.
- Valpo was led offensively Saturday by Gretchen Kuckkan (Lafayette, Ind./Central Catholic [Indiana State]), who hit .333 with 18 kills — the second-highest effort of her career in the kills department.
- Ravotto came up with 11 kills as well and also added 18 digs for her 10th double-double of the year.
- Cooper chipped in nine kills, while Januski — who hit .400 — and Boyer added eight apiece.
- Januski also led all players in blocks for the fourth consecutive match, tallying five rejections. The junior owns 111 total blocks on the year, tied for ninth-most by a Valpo player in the 25-point era.
- Redshirt freshman Addy Kois (Osceola, Ind./Penn) handed out 30 assists and Bulmahn 21 Saturday evening. Bulmahn recorded a pair of service aces as well, giving her 30 this season — tied for ninth-most by a Valpo player in the 25-point era.
- Freshman Emma Hickey (Granger, Ind./Penn) once again paced Valpo in digs with 24, bumping her season total to 671. Hickey sits seventh in program history in the 25-point era and ninth overall. She is 15 digs away from Rylee Cookerly’s 2017 total of 686, a mark which currently stands as Valpo’s freshman record, the MVC freshman record and 10th place overall in MVC history.
Valpo (21-8, 9-8 MVC) closes the regular season Wednesday evening at 6 p.m. as the Beacons welcome UIC to the ARC. The match can be seen live on ESPN+.