Valpo volleyball sophomore libero Emma Hickey (Granger, Ind./Penn) became the quickest player in program history to reach 1,000 career digs on Tuesday evening as the Beacons faced UIC in MVC action, but the visiting Flames spoiled the end of the night as Valpo fell by a 3-1 (25-18, 20-25, 25-18, 25-21) final for its first defeat in Valley play.
How It Happened
- Valpo never led in the opening set, with an early 5-1 UIC spurt giving the Flames a 9-5 advantage en route to the first-set victory.
- The Beacons gained control of the second frame with four straight points early on — including a kill and a block by senior Mallory Januski (Bourbonnais, Ill./Bradley-Bourbonnais) — to go ahead 8-4.
- Valpo pushed its lead to as many as six points in the second half of the set, and while UIC cut the lead to three points at 19-16, the Beacons prevented the Flames from scoring consecutive points the rest of the way as they evened the match at one set apiece.
- The third set was the most back-and-forth of the evening, containing 11 ties and eight lead changes. Valpo led by three points on multiple occasions early in the frame, and while UIC battled back to go in front multiple times, the Beacons prevented the Flames from ever extending their lead past one point through the middle stages of the set.
- In the battle for control, the two squads were tied at 10, 11, 12, 13, 14, 15, 16 and finally at 17-17. At that point, the one run which would prove to be decisive broke in favor of UIC, as the Flames ended the set on an 8-1 run to take a 2-1 lead in the match.
- Valpo led through the early stages of the fourth set, but was never able to push its lead above two points. Approaching the midway point of the frame, UIC reeled off a 5-1 spurt to turn a 10-9 Valpo edge to a 14-11 Flames lead.
- The Beacons battled back, with consecutive kills from junior Elise Swistek (LaPorte, Ind./New Prairie) tying the set at 15-all. The two teams were tied at 16-16 before back-to-back points for UIC gave the Flames the lead for good, as Valpo got back to within one point at 18-17 and later at 21-20, but was never able to again tie the set.
Inside the Match
- With her 16th dig of the match early in the third set, Hickey became the 24th player in Valpo volleyball history to hit the 1,000-dig milestone for her career.
- Hickey reached the milestone in just 49 matches, the fastest player in both Valpo history and MVC history to crack four digits in digs. Previous Valpo liberos Taylor Root and Rylee Cookerly both hit 1,000 digs in the 52nd match of their respective careers.
- Meanwhile, Cookerly previously shared the fastest to 1,000 among Valley players with Illinois State’s Courtney Pence, who also hit the mark in her 52nd career match.
- Hickey ended the evening with 1,014 career digs, as she went on to total a match-high 30 digs — the fifth 30+ dig performance of her collegiate career. She also matched a career best with 10 assists, in the process posting her second career double-double.
- Swistek paced Valpo offensively with 14 kills, just one off her career best, and added 11 digs as well for a double-double.
- Fifth-year middle Miranda Strongman (Wolverine Lake, Mich./Walled Lake Central [LIU]) reached double figures in kills for the third straight match to open Valley play, finishing with 10 kills on .320 hitting.
- Freshman Mara Thomas (Bogart, Ga./Athens Academy) saw extended action at setter in Valpo’s 6-2 Tuesday and took advantage to post the first double-double of her collegiate career, recording season highs of 15 assists and 14 digs.
- Senior Victoria Bulmahn (McCordsville, Ind./Mt. Vernon) dished out a team-best 20 assists.
Valpo (10-6, 2-1 MVC) continues its challenging start to the MVC slate this weekend with the Iowa road trip, starting with a Friday night match at UNI. First serve is slated for 6 p.m. and will be broadcast live on ESPN+.