Trailing by two sets Friday evening in Peoria, Ill., the Valpo volleyball team was up to the task, rallying to take the final three sets and earn a 3-2 (19-25, 23-25, 25-19, 25-22, 15-12) victory over Bradley to move into a tie for third place in the MVC standings. With the win, the Beacons secured their 20th winning season in 22 campaigns under head coach Carin Avery.
How It Happened
- Trailing two sets to none, Valpo came out with a flourish to open the third set, scoring six of the first seven points. Later, the Beacons got three straight kills from Mallory Januski (Bourbonnais, Ill./Bradley-Bourbonnais), followed by a block by Januski and Sam Warren (Kentland, Ind./South Newton) to push the lead into double digits at 15-5.
- Bradley rallied to get as close as five points down the stretch of the third frame, but the outcome was never in doubt as Valpo extended the match.
- The Braves got out to an early three-point lead in the fourth set, setting up a back-and-forth struggle through the middle portion of a set which eventually featured 12 ties and six lead changes.
- The last of the 12 ties came at 18-18, as the Beacons followed that stalemate with five of the next six points. Warren combined with Miranda Strongman (Wolverine Lake, Mich./Walled Lake Central [LIU]) on a block, Victoria Bulmahn (McCordsville, Ind./Mt. Vernon) and Bella Ravotto (Mishawaka, Ind./Marian) tallied kills and Addy Kois (Osceola, Ind./Penn) capped the run with an ace. On its second set point chance, Elise Swistek (LaPorte, Ind./New Prairie) put away a kill to send the match to the decisive fifth frame.
- Bradley was on the front foot to start the fifth set, and three straight points for the Braves gave them a 7-4 lead approaching the halfway point of the frame.
- A service error gave the serve back to Valpo, however, and Swistek took full advantage with a pair of service aces during a four-point run on her serve which turned the tables and gave Valpo a 9-7 lead.
- A Bradley kill cut the lead to one, but Januski responded with a kill to restore the two-point edge, and Abby Boyle (Byron Center, Mich./Byron Center) came in to serve perhaps her two most impactful points of the season. The first led to Bradley sending a free ball over, which turned into a kill for Warren, and the second was a service ace which pushed the lead out to 12-8.
- Bradley got no closer than two points the rest of the way, and Valpo closed out the come-from-behind win on its second match point chance thanks to a kill by Strongman.
- Valpo was forced to rally for the match win despite outhitting Bradley in each of the first two sets. The Beacons were within one point at 19-18 in the first set before Bradley finished with a 6-1 run. In the second frame, Valpo held multiple six-point leads and was still ahead 23-19 late until the Braves strung together six straight points to go up 2-0 in the match.
Inside the Match
- Valpo’s victory Friday assures the Beacons of finishing at least two games above .500, giving the program its 20th winning season in 22 seasons under Avery.
- The win also moved the Beacons into a tie for third place in the MVC standings with Illinois State — the opponent for their matchup Saturday night.
- Remarkably, this is the fourth straight matchup between Valpo and Bradley which has gone the full five sets. All four meetings have finished in Valpo’s favor.
- Friday night’s win was Valpo’s fifth straight road conference victory. It is the first time the program has won five consecutive league road matches since 2012 in the Horizon League, when Valpo earned road wins over Loyola, Wright State, Green Bay, Milwaukee and Youngstown State in a 41-day span — this five-match road winning streak has come in the last 21 days.
- Valpo matched its team record for service aces in a five-set match in the 25-point era Friday, recording a season-best 11 aces.
- Two Beacons tallied three aces to lead the way. Swistek registered three aces to go with 15 kills — a mark which tied for match-high honors and was her third straight match in double figures — and 11 digs.
- Kois has seven service aces in her last two matches after tallying three aces as well on Friday. She dished out 30 assists in the win over the Braves as well to set a season best.
- Libero Emma Hickey (Granger, Ind./Penn) contributed a pair of service aces and racked up a match-best 39 digs. Her seventh career match with at least 30 digs, it marked a season best and was tied for third-most in a five-set match in the 25-point era.
- Hickey is now within 35 digs of cracking Valpo’s all-time top-15 in the category.
- Strongman matched Swistek for match-high honors with 15 kills, tying her career best in the process. She also paced the Beacons on Friday with five blocks.
- Ravotto posted another double-double with 11 kills and 18 digs. The fifth-year outside recorded 10 or more digs for the 90th time in her collegiate career and is now just 14 digs away from 1,600 at Valpo.
- Olivia Blackketter (Bloomington, Ind./Bloomington South [Winthrop]) set a career best with nine kills, hitting at a .333 clip, while Januski added nine kills as well.
Valpo (17-10, 9-5 MVC) faces a key matchup with Illinois State in Normal, Ill. on Saturday evening at 5 p.m. The match can be seen live on ESPN+.