In a recurring theme this season, Valparaiso's defense led the way, as the Crusaders rebounded from a game one loss to defeat Loyola (Ill.) 27-30, 30-16, 30-23, 30-19 Tuesday evening in Chicago, Ill. The victory was Valpo's first over the Ramblers since 1996, and only the fourth all-time against Loyola.
The Crusader defense, ranked among the top-ten in the nation in digs per game entering the match, held a decisive 62-47 advantage in digs over Loyola. In addition, the defense put up 13 blocks, marking the 13th time this year Valpo has registered at least ten blocks.
Game one saw Valpo jump out to a quick 9-5 lead, but the Ramblers fought back, taking a lead at 12-11. The Crusaders would tie the game six times after that, but could not force Loyola to relinquish their advantage.
In the second game, Valpo again got off to a fast start, forcing Loyola to use a timeout at 8-4. This time, however, the Crusaders would keep the pressure on, putting together a 9-0 run and extending their lead throughout the game to the final margin. The third game was more of the same, as the Brown and Gold used two separate runs of at least five points to take the game.
Loyola started strong in the fourth game and held a 14-10 advantage midway through the game. After Crusader head coach Carin Avery used a timeout, the game's momentum swung 180 degrees, as the Brown and Gold outscored the Ramblers 20-5 the rest of the way to close out the match.
Jessie Fox (Granger, Ind./Penn H.S.) had an outstanding match on both sides of the net, hitting .421 with nine kills while also tying a season-high with eight blocks. Katie Bova (Milwaukee, Wis./Divine Savior Holy Angels H.S.) had 47 assists and 15 digs, both match-highs, as four Valpo players finished with at least ten digs. Bova now has 2,623 assists for her career, passing former Crusader Jenny Rohren for fourth on the all-time chart.
Amy Palash (Winfield, Ill./Saint Francis H.S.) led the Valpo offense with 16 kills and also tied a career-high by recording four blocks. Liz Mikos (Dundee, Ill./Jacobs H.S.) hit .368 with 12 kills and tallied four blocks of her own.
Stromath had a match-high 18 kills for the Ramblers, while hitting .394 in the losing effort. She paced the Loyola offense in the game one win, hitting .636 with eight kills. Ann Deelo finished with 11 digs for Loyola (6-16).
Valparaiso (19-5, 8-1 Mid-Con) returns to conference play this coming weekend. The Crusaders will travel to Indianapolis to take on IUPUI Friday at 7 p.m. before returning to the Windy City in a matchup against Chicago State, Saturday afternoon at 5 p.m. Both games can be heard live on 95.1 FM, WVUR, as well as online at www.valpo.edu/athletics.