There might be no more perfect ending to a match to epitomize the spirit of the Valpo volleyball program than what occurred Sunday evening, as a diving pancake by Victoria Bulmahn (McCordsville, Ind./Mt. Vernon) led directly to a kill as the sixth-seeded Beacons closed out a 3-0 (25-22, 25-19, 26-24) sweep of seventh-seeded Murray State in the opening round of the 2022 MVC Championship in Evansville, Ind. With the win, Valpo advances to play third-seeded UIC in second-round action Monday evening at 6 p.m.
How It Happened
- Murray State jumped out to a 5-1 lead in the opening set, but Valpo turned the frame around quickly to avoid dropping the first set for a fifth straight match. The Beacons used a 5-0 run, which included a kill and a block from junior Mallory Januski (Bourbonnais, Ill./Bradley-Bourbonnais), to turn a 6-3 deficit into an 8-6 lead.
- The Racers rallied to tie the set at 11, but MSU would not lead outright again, as Valpo scored five of the next six points — three of which came courtesy of senior Miranda Strongman (Wolverine Lake, Mich./Walled Lake Central [LIU]) on two kills and a block — to go up 16-12.
- Murray State got within two points multiple times in the late stages of the set, the latest after holding off two set points to close to within 24-22, but the Beacons closed out the opener on a kill from Januski.
- Valpo scored the first three points of the second set and led by three points multiple times before Murray State rallied to take its first lead at 10-9.
- Trailing 11-10, Valpo reeled off three straight points before MSU answered with three of the next four to tie the frame at 14-all.
- The Beacons scored the next four in a row, including a kill and a block from senior Maddy Boyer (Batavia, Ill./Batavia), to go up 18-14, but the Racers responded with three in a row to close within one point.
- After the teams traded sideouts, Valpo ended the set on a 6-1 run to go up 2-0 in the match. Strongman posted three kills during the spurt, including the decisive termination to close out the set.
- The third set proved to be a set of runs. Murray State led by three points early on, as the Racers scored four of the first five points of the frame. Valpo came back and used a 5-1 spurt to take an 11-7 lead in the set.
- The Beacons kept Murray State from reclaiming the advantage through the midpoint of the set and still led 17-15 approaching the end stages, but the Racers went on an 8-2 run to go up 23-19.
- Kills from Strongman, fifth-year Jillie Grant (Maumee, Ohio/Anthony Wayne) and senior Kara Cooper (LaPorte, Ind./LaPorte) cut the Racer lead to one at 23-22, but MSU came up with a kill to earn set point at 24-22.
- The resilient Beacons didn’t let the impending fourth set face them, however, as terminations from first Grant and then Cooper forced extra points. Grant came up with another kill off the Murray State block to earn Valpo’s first match point opportunity of the match, which set up the aforementioned Bulmahn pancake, turned into a kill by Cooper to close out the tournament-opening sweep.
Inside the Match
- Valpo has won its opening match at the MVC Championship for a fourth consecutive tournament it has competed in (excepting the spring 2020 tournament it had to withdraw from).
- Sunday was the first time in eight conference tournament matches since joining the Valley that Valpo’s match took just three sets, in either direction. Valpo’s last conference tournament three-set match was a 3-0 defeat at Cleveland State in the 2015 Horizon League Tournament.
- The Beacons’ offensive balance was again on display Sunday, as five different players totaled anywhere from six to 11 kills.
- Grant paced Valpo with 11 kills on .290 hitting and narrowly missed a double-double as she tallied nine digs as well. It marked the third time this season she has led Valpo in kills, as eight different Beacons have paced the team in kills at least three times this year.
- Boyer, who had posted a double-digit effort in kills in each of Valpo’s last two MVC Championship appearances, did so again on Sunday, hitting .421 with 10 kills and three blocks.
- Strongman was strong out of the middle on both sides of the net, hitting .444 with nine kills and tying for team-high honors with four blocks.
- Cooper added six kills and four blocks, while senior Bella Ravotto (Mishawaka, Ind./Marian) chipped in six kills and 11 digs, in the process moving into the top-15 in program history in career digs.
- Bulmahn picked up her ninth double-double of the season Sunday, finishing with 21 assists and 13 digs, while redshirt freshman Addy Kois (Osceola, Ind./Penn) handed out 16 assists.
- Keeping up her season-long trend, freshman libero Emma Hickey (Granger, Ind./Penn) led all players with 19 digs. Hickey has tallied 706 digs this season, third-most by an NCAA D-I freshman in the last 12 seasons.
- Hickey ranks fifth in a single season in program history and seventh in a single season in MVC history in digs.
Valpo (22-9) looks to avenge a pair of regular season defeats against UIC as it faces the third-seeded Flames in second-round action on Monday evening. First serve is set for 6 p.m. on ESPN+.