The Valpo volleyball team held off multiple UIC match points in the third set of the regular season finale Wednesday evening at the ARC to extend the match and had an opportunity to send the match to a fifth set, but at the end, the Flames earned a 3-1 (25-19, 25-17, 29-31, 29-27) victory over the Beacons. Freshman libero Emma Hickey (Granger, Ind./Penn) broke both the Valpo and the MVC freshman single-season digs record, while junior middle Mallory Januski (Bourbonnais, Ill./Bradley-Bourbonnais) broke her career high in the kills department.
How It Happened
- UIC took the lead for good early in set one with four consecutive blocks. The Flames’ lead reached as many as seven points and Valpo was unable to get any closer than three points after the early run.
- The Flames scored five in a row midway through set two to turn a 10-9 Valpo lead into a 14-10 UIC advantage. The Beacons cut the lead to two points on multiple occasions, the latest coming at 17-15, but the Flames scored eight of the set’s final 10 points to go up 2-0 in the match.
- In contrast to the first two sets, Valpo led most of the way in set three and held a four-point advantage at 20-16 as it looked to extend the match.
- UIC stormed back with seven points in a row to move within two points of closing a sweep at 23-20, but kills from fifth-year Jillie Grant (Maumee, Ohio/Anthony Wayne) and Januski were part of a three-point spurt to tie the set at 23-all.
- The rest of the set was a battle to see which team could string together the winning points. The Flames had three chances to complete the sweep with match points at 24-23, 25-24 and 26-25, but each time UIC was turned away by Beacon kills — senior Kara Cooper (LaPorte, Ind./LaPorte), Grant and Januski.
- Valpo earned set point opportunities at 27-26, 28-27 and 29-28, only to see the Flames convert on kills to tie things up. Finally, on their fourth try at 30-29, a solo block from Cooper closed out the extended set and sent the match to a fourth frame.
- Valpo led through the middle stages of set four and held as much as a four-point advantage. But UIC again came up with a run, this one a 10-3 stretch to turn a 14-10 Valpo lead into a 20-17 edge for the Flames.
- Valpo had another answer in its pocket, however, scoring six of the next seven points — including two kills and a block from junior Olivia Blackketter (Bloomington, Ind./Bloomington South [Winthrop]) — to go ahead 23-21. After a UIC kill, the Flames committed a service error to give Valpo two set points at 24-22.
- The Beacons were unable to force the fifth set, however, as UIC scored three in a row to go ahead 25-24. Valpo held off three more UIC match point chances, but at 28-27 — their fourth try of the set and seventh of the match to close things out — the Flames picked up another kill to complete their victory.
Inside the Match
- Hickey entered Wednesday’s match 15 digs from Rylee Cookerly’s freshman year total of 686 digs, which stood as both the Valpo and the MVC single-season record for a freshman. Hickey notched a team-high 16 digs Wednesday evening to surpass Cookerly and end the night with the freshman record.
- With 687 digs on the season, Hickey ranks fifth overall in a single season in Valpo history and 10th in a single season in MVC history. She is 13 digs away from becoming just the third NCAA D-I freshman in the last 12 seasons to reach 700 digs as a rookie.
- Januski posted a huge night offensively for the Beacons on Wednesday, totaling a team-high 16 kills to best her previous career high of 14. The junior also hit at a match-best .556 clip and paced Valpo as well with four blocks.
- Grant reached double figures in kills for the 37th time in her career, hitting .323 with 12 kills. She came up just one dig shy of a double-double.
- Junior Victoria Bulmahn (McCordsville, Ind./Mt. Vernon) dished out 24 assists, while redshirt freshman Addy Kois (Osceola, Ind./Penn) tallied 22 helpers.
- Senior Bella Ravotto (Mishawaka, Ind./Marian) joined Hickey in double figures in digs with 14 digs, her 75th career match with at least 10 digs. Ravotto jumped two spots on Valpo’s career digs chart on Wednesday, moving into 16th place in program history with 1,270 career digs — just one shy of the top-15.
- After hitting just .083 over the first two sets, the Beacon offense tallied 37 kills and hit .303 over the final two frames. But UIC held a 20-kill advantage on the night over Valpo and hit .320 for the match, the best single-match hitting percentage by a Valpo opponent this season.
Valpo (21-9, 9-9 MVC) will be the sixth seed for the upcoming MVC Tournament and will face seventh-seeded Murray State in first-round action this Sunday, Nov. 20 at 6 p.m. from Evansville, Ind. All tournament matches will be broadcasted live on ESPN+.