For the fifth time this
season, Valparaiso rallied after dropping the first set, coming from behind to
earn a 3-1 (18-25, 25-12, 25-18, 25-21) victory over Wright State Friday
evening at the ARC in the team’s Horizon League opener. The Crusaders, who were playing at home for
the first time this season, have now won 11 consecutive matches and own the
best 12-match start in program history at 11-1.
“I obviously can't express
how nice it was to be back in our home environment tonight,” said Crusader head
coach Carin Avery. “We have such a great fan base here at Valpo,
and they create such a great environment to play volleyball in, so we were all
really excited to be back in that.”
The Crusaders led briefly in
the very early going of the opening set, but that was the only point at which
they would be ahead in the opener. With
Valpo still within one at 8-7, Wright
State reeled off four
straight points to take control. The
Crusaders rallied back to within 15-14, but a 5-0 spurt by the Raiders put the
set out of reach.
“On the same note, I think being
home for the first time was part of the reason we struggled in set one,” said
Avery. “We just were nervous and very tentative
and just weren't playing good volleyball.
After that first set, I thought then we settled down and let the game
come to us more. We focused on our game
plan and stuck to it, and obviously good things started happening.”
A quick 4-0 start on kills by
Tara Diebler (Indianapolis, Ind./Franklin
Central) and Amy Groesbeck (Wheaton,
Ill./North) and a block by Diebler and Sarah
Dooms (Greenwood, Ind./Center Grove) got the Crusaders out on the right
foot in the second set. A service ace by
Ariel Cudney (LaPorte,
Ind./LaPorte) pushed the lead out to 8-2, and
after Wright State scored two straight points, the Crusaders reeled off a 7-0
run, featuring a pair of kills from Katie
Layman (LaPorte, Ind./New Prairie), to move the lead into double
digits. Valpo would cruise from there,
heading into the in-game break tied at a set apiece.
Another fast start was there
for the taking out of the locker room, as Valpo scored the first five points of
the third set, thanks in large part to a kill and two blocks, including a solo
rejection, by Groesbeck. The Crusaders
held as much as an eight-point advantage through the frame and never let the
lead fall under four points, although a late 4-1 WSU spurt brought the Raiders
to within 23-18. Out of a timeout,
however, Groesbeck registered a kill and Cudney stepped back and fired off
another ace to give Valpo the 2-1 lead into the fourth set.
Wright State led briefly early in the fourth set, but Valpo took
the lead for good at 4-3 on yet another Cudney ace. That ace was part of an 8-2 run that also
featured a pair of kills by Dooms as the Crusaders led 10-5. The lead grew to as many as nine points at
20-11 before the Raiders put together one last-ditch rally, scoring nine of the
next 13 to close to within 23-20. But a
Diebler kill gave Valpo match point, and on its second opportunity, Katie Britton (Mishawaka,
came up with a termination to close the league opener in the Crusaders’ favor.
Valpo’s pair of middles stood
out on the attack Friday, as Diebler finished with a match-best 17 kills on
.419 hitting, while Layman added 10 kills on .348 hitting. Dooms chipped in 11 kills and also tallied 11
digs for a double-double. Setter Jenny Pokorny (Geneva,
also registered a double-double, posting 48 assists and 13 digs to go along
with seven kills.
“I thought both Tara and
Katie were outstanding tonight,” said Avery.
“We really did a great job with both our middles exploiting Wright State
on our slide attack. Their blocking was
great as well, I just can't say enough about how well they played tonight.”
Cudney tallied all four of
Valpo’s service aces, increasing her Horizon League-best total to 23 on the
season. Taylor Root (Jenison, Mich./Jenison) led all
players on the back line with 20 digs, while Diebler and Groesbeck were both in
on four of Valpo’s nine team blocks.
Shaunda Sandifer led Wright
State (5-7, 0-1 Horizon)
with 11 kills and six blocks, while Jessica Woods picked up 10 kills and 16
“I think another thing that
might have gotten to us in set one is the pressure of league play,” said
Avery. “Everybody wants to win so
desperately once we get into the league.
Playing in the early-season tournaments, there’s not a lot of pressure. You want to do well, but at the end of day those
matches don't matter nearly as much as the league matches. We were all excited to start Horizon League
play finally, to get our first look at how strong the league will be this year.”
Valparaiso (11-1, 1-0
Horizon) puts the winning streak on the line once again Saturday afternoon as
the Crusaders play host to in-state rival Butler in one of many Communiversity
Day activities planned on the Valparaiso University campus tomorrow. First serve is slated for 4 p.m., and as always,
all the action can be heard and/or seen online at www.valpoathletics.com, with the
audio broadcast also available locally on WVUR, 95.1 FM. Live stats will also be available through the
official Crusader website.