A night at the ARC which began with recognition of Valpo volleyball head coach Carin Avery for breaking the Valpo Athletics career wins record by a head coach across all sports concluded with the Beacons celebrating Avery’s 480th win at the helm of the program, a hard-fought five-set (25-18, 21-25, 25-23, 17-25, 15-8) victory over Missouri State to open MVC play.
How It Happened
- Valpo scored four of the first five points of the opening set and never relinquished the lead in the opener. The key run was a 7-1 stretch mid-set which pushed an 11-9 advantage to 18-10, a spurt which included a pair of kills for senior right side Olivia Blackketter (Bloomington, Ind./Bloomington South [Winthrop]).
- The second set started off in the Bears’ favor, as MSU scored four of the first five points. Valpo battled back to tie the frame at 5-5, but the Bears pushed their lead back out to four points at 11-7.
- Again, the Beacons rallied, tying the score at 12, 13 and 14 before finally putting together consecutive points to pull ahead at 16-15. Valpo got its lead to two at 18-16, but MSU responded with five points in a row to take the lead for good and eventually even the match at one set apiece.
- The two squads battled for the edge throughout the first half of set three. Finally, with the score tied at 11-11, the Beacons reeled off eight points in a row to seize control with the lead extended to 19-11. Leading 15-11 during that run, Valpo came out on top to end an epic rally, as a point which lasted one minute, 42 seconds concluded on a solo block by fifth-year middle Miranda Strongman (Wolverine Lake, Mich./Walled Lake Central [LIU]).
- The lead reached nine points at 21-12, but the Beacons eventually needed every point of that advantage. MSU scored five in a row to cut its deficit to four, and then with the score 23-18, scored three in a row to make it a two-point set. An MSU service error gave Valpo three set points at 24-21, and on their third chance, the Beacons finished it off on a kill from senior middle Mallory Januski (Bourbonnais, Ill./Bradley-Bourbonnais).
- Valpo got the early jump in set four with a 4-1 edge before the Bears put together a 9-1 run to take the lead for good, going on to force the decisive fifth set.
- The Beacons never trailed in the final frame, with a 4-1 spurt bookended by kills from redshirt sophomore Sam Warren (Kentland, Ind./South Newton) giving them an early 5-2 cushion. MSU got no closer than two points the rest of the way, and a service error by the Bears eventually finished out the victory.
Inside the Match
- Valpo owns a 30-9 (.769) record at home at the ARC since the start of the spring 2021 season, including a perfect 4-0 home mark this season.
- Friday’s five-set win was the program’s fifth in its last six MVC matches which have gone the distance.
- Eye-popping numbers showed up all over Friday’s box score, maybe most notably the attack line for Januski. The senior, who set Valpo’s single-season hitting percentage record last year and is ahead of her own pace this season, took a career-high 36 swings, but did not let it affect her prolificacy. Januski tallied a match-high and career-best 19 kills, outdoing her previous high of 16 kills, while hitting at a .417 clip.
- Januski’s 19 kills also are a season high by any Valpo player.
- Strongman came up with 13 kills on .324 hitting and led all players with six blocks, setting season highs in both categories.
- Fifth-year outside Bella Ravotto (Mishawaka, Ind./Marian) finished with her third double-double of the year, posting 10 kills and 19 digs.
- Ravotto’s career digs total is up to 1,442 digs, leaving her just 34 away from cracking the program’s career top-10 chart.
- Warren stuffed the stat sheet with eight kills on .292 hitting, one kill away from her career best, a career-high six digs and three blocks, all of the solo variety.
- After not playing for three and a half sets, freshman Kennedy Arp (Byron Center, Mich./South Christian) stepped up when called upon at right side, contributing three kills on eight swings without an error and joining in on a pair of blocks.
- Senior setter Victoria Bulmahn (McCordsville, Ind./Mt. Vernon) racked up a season-high 32 assists and added 11 digs for her third double-double of the year. Redshirt sophomore setter Addy Kois (Osceola, Ind./Penn) finished with 24 assists and nine digs.
- Sophomore libero Emma Hickey (Granger, Ind./Penn) posted 34 digs in Friday’s win, the third-highest single-match total of her collegiate career. With that effort, she enters Saturday’s match just 29 digs shy of becoming the 24th player in Valpo history with 1,000 career digs.
- Junior outside hitter Elise Swistek (LaPorte, Ind./New Prairie) registered 26 digs as well, her sixth effort of 20+ digs at Valpo.
- As a team, the Beacons totaled 113 digs on Friday, just two digs shy of the program’s single-match top-five in a five-set match.
- Valpo recorded 10 team blocks in the victory, the fourth time this season it has reached double figures in rejections.
Valpo (9-5, 1-0) will look for a perfect opening weekend to MVC play on Saturday when it takes on Southern Illinois at 6 p.m., live on ESPN+. Between sets two and three, the 2003 team will be recognized as they celebrate the 20th anniversary of their Mid-Continent Conference championship.