The Valpo volleyball team ended the EIU Volleyball Invitational in Charleston, Ill. on a high note Saturday afternoon, sweeping ULM (25-21, 25-19, 25-13) for its second victory of the weekend. Fifth-year Miranda Strongman (Wolverine Lake, Mich./Walled Lake Central [LIU]) tied Valpo’s single-match record for service aces in the 25-point era with five and did so in awesome fashion, closing the match with five aces on her final six serves.
How It Happened
- The first set was the tightest of the day, featuring 13 tie scores and five lead changes. Neither side led by more than two points until, trailing 16-15, the Beacons put together a 5-1 spurt — featuring kills from four different players — to go ahead 20-17.
- ULM came back with consecutive points to close to within one, but Valpo responded with another 4-1 spurt — including a service ace by freshman Mara Thomas (Bogart, Ga./Athens Academy) and a kill from freshman Kennedy Arp (Byron Center, Mich./South Christian) — to earn set point at 24-20. On their second chance, the Beacons closed the frame thanks to a kill by fifth-year Bella Ravotto (Mishawaka, Ind./Marian).
- The story of the second set was the Valpo attack, as the Beacons hit a sizzling .483 for the frame with 16 kills and just two attack errors on 29 swings.
- Despite the Valpo proficiency on the attack and the fact the Beacons led from the start, ULM stayed within striking distance until late, as the Warhawks were still within two at 20-18. Valpo closed the set on a 5-1 run, however, including kills on each of its final two points by sophomore Emma Hickey (Granger, Ind./Penn) to take a 2-0 lead in the match.
- Valpo took the lead for good early in set three, as Hickey posted two more kills around a service ace to make it 7-4 Beacons. Valpo led by as many as seven points passing the mid-point of the set.
- The Beacon advantage was five at 18-13 when they regained the serve on an ULM service error. That sent Strongman back to the service line, where she served out the match in style. The first point came on a kill from sophomore Maddie Moan (Woodstock, Ill./Woodstock [Milwaukee]), followed by consecutive aces by Strongman. An attack error by the Warhawks made it 22-13, and Strongman took care of the rest herself with three more aces in a row to finish up the sweep.
Inside the Match
- There were numerous strong performances up and down the roster on Saturday, but Strongman’s late rush of service aces jumps off the page. The five aces match the most by a Valpo player in the 25-point era in any length match and are tied for fifth-most in a three-set match in any era at Valpo.
- Again, it took Strongman a span of just six serves to dish up those five service aces.
- The last Valpo player to rack up five aces in a single set was Ariel Cudney on Nov. 19, 2010 versus Green Bay in the quarterfinals of the Horizon League Tournament. Similar to Strongman, Cudney’s five aces came as she served 11 straight points to end a set, but even Cudney needed 10 serves to rack up her five aces.
- Strongman surpassed her previous career best of three aces with her quintet of aces Saturday.
- Head coach Carin Avery utilized her depth throughout Saturday’s win, rotating players in and out of the lineup and playing some players in different roles. In all, 15 players saw action in the victory, 11 of those appearing in multiple sets.
- Making her first start at outside hitter in college, Hickey looked right at home on the attack, racking up nine kills to tie for match-high honors while hitting at a .412 clip. The sophomore, who did shed the libero jersey for a set at outside hitter last season in the NIVC at Ohio, picked up nine digs defensively as well.
- Hickey playing up front opened the door for junior Abby Boyle (Byron Center, Mich./Byron Center) to make her first collegiate start at libero and she took advantage, easily leading all players with 17 digs to smash her previous career best of 10.
- One day after making her collegiate debut, Arp started in the middle for Valpo and was stellar, matching Hickey with nine kills on just 12 swings to hit .750. She picked up a pair of blocks as well.
- Making her Valpo debut, Moan needed just seven swings to rack up five kills as she hit .714. Redshirt sophomore Sam Warren (Kentland, Ind./South Newton) also notched five kills on .385 hitting, while Strongman hit .444 with four kills and five digs to go with her five aces.
- Redshirt sophomore Addy Kois (Osceola, Ind./Penn) handed out a match-high 18 assists and posted a .500 setting percentage, while senior Victoria Bulmahn (McCordsville, Ind./Mt. Vernon) dished out 13 assists.
- As a team, Valpo hit .344 for the match, the team’s best hitting percentage since hitting .356 on Sept. 9, 2022 against Morgan State.
- The Beacons committed just eight attack errors in the victory, their lowest number of attack errors since committing just eight miscues in a sweep of DePaul on Aug. 31, 2018.
Valpo (2-1) steps away from tournament action briefly for a midweek match at Illinois on Tuesday evening. First serve is slated for 6 p.m., and the match can be seen live on BTN+.