The fifth-seeded Valpo volleyball team kicked off its opening-round match of the MVC Volleyball Tournament against eighth-seeded Belmont by rolling to a first-set win, but the Beacons were unable to take advantage of chances to capture each of the next two sets as the Bruins rallied for a 3-1 (17-25, 27-25, 26-24, 25-11) victory which ended Valpo’s quest for the tournament title.
How It Happened
- Valpo took control of the opening set with a massive run, going on an 8-1 run to pull out to a 13-7 advantage. The Beacons’ lead never fell under four points the rest of the way as they claimed the opening frame.
- It looked like the second set might go much the same way, as the Beacons put together an early 9-1 run to go up 10-3. This time, however, Belmont was able to battle back and eventually pulled back ahead at 16-15.
- The Bruins scored three in a row late to earn set point at 24-22, but Valpo was able to hold off two set points thanks to a block from Miranda Strongman (Wolverine Lake, Mich./Walled Lake Central [LIU]) and Olivia Blackketter (Bloomington, Ind./Bloomington South [Winthrop]) and a kill by Elise Swistek (LaPorte, Ind./New Prairie).
- A Belmont attack error gave Valpo the chance to go up 2-0 in the match with a 25-24 lead, but the Bruins reeled off three straight points to close the set and send the match into the in-game break tied at one set apiece.
- A 5-1 spurt mid-set in the third frame pushed Valpo’s lead from 11-10 to 16-11, but Belmont came right back with six of the next seven points to tie things up.
- The Bruins held a two-point lead at 22-20 before the Beacons scored four straight, including a kill and a block by Strongman and capped by a service ace from Addy Kois (Osceola, Ind./Penn), to earn set point with the chance to take the 2-1 lead in the match at 24-22. Belmont stormed back with four points in a row of its own, though, to turn the tables and claim the third set.
- The Bruins started out the fourth set on a 10-1 run and Valpo was able to score consecutive points just once in the set as Belmont closed out its win.
Inside the Match
- Strongman paced the attack with 11 kills and notched five blocks as well.
- Swistek finished with a double-double, tallying 10 kills and 17 digs.
- Sam Warren (Kentland, Ind./South Newton) and Mallory Januski (Bourbonnais, Ill./Bradley-Bourbonnais) each picked up nine kills, with the latter doing so on .471 hitting and adding four blocks.
- Kois handed out 26 assists and Victoria Bulmahn (McCordsville, Ind./Mt. Vernon) dished out 23 assists.
- Emma Hickey (Granger, Ind./Penn) led Valpo’s back-row effort with 22 digs, while Bella Ravotto (Mishawaka, Ind./Marian) recorded 12 digs.
- Blackketter was part of a team-best six blocks.
Inside the Season
- Valpo finishes the season with an 18-14 overall record. It is the 20th winning season in 22 campaign under head coach Carin Avery.
- The Beacons finished in a tie for fifth place in the MVC regular season standings, as Valpo has posted top-half conference finishes in each of its seven years in the Valley — the only MVC team to accomplish that feat.
- Januski finished the season hitting at a .316 clip, second-best in program history in the 25-point era and third-best overall. She also totaled 115 blocks (1.00/set), ranking seventh by per-set average and ninth by total blocks in the 25-point era.
- Strongman wasn’t far behind Januski in terms of hitting percentage, swinging at a .302 clip in 2023 — fifth-best in the 25-point era and eighth-best overall.
- Hickey’s average of 5.25 digs/set is tied for eighth-best in program history in the 25-point era, while her 620 total digs were just one dig shy of the top-10 dig totals since the move to 25-point scoring.
Inside the Careers
- Ravotto racked up 1,641 digs over her five seasons at Valpo — eighth-most in program history — and also recorded 892 kills.
- Strongman totaled 786 kills and 316 blocks over her five collegiate seasons, including 414 kills and 180 blocks in her two seasons with the Beacons. Her .305 hitting percentage over the last two years will rank second in a career in program history.
- Laura Ilizastigui (Bogota, Colombia/Integrado de Fontibón [Chicago State]) concluded her collegiate career by taking her fifth year this season with the Beacons.
- Three other Valpo true seniors were honored on Senior Night last week as well.
- Bulmahn registered 2,731 assists in her four years at Valpo — ninth-most in program history — and joined the program’s 1,000-dig club last month, finishing up with 1,056 digs.
- Januski posted two of the top-three hitting percentage seasons in program history over the last two years and will be Valpo’s all-time leader in career hitting percentage at .328. She picked up 501 kills and 246 digs in her four seasons at Valpo.
- Blackketter, an All-Tournament Team honoree at the Popcorn Classic earlier this season, recorded 131 kills and 73 blocks in two seasons as a Beacon.