Valparaiso totaled 13 team blocks Saturday afternoon, including a career-best nine rejections from sophomore Ellen Vanden Berg (Little Chute, Wis./Little Chute), as the Crusaders bounced back with a 3-0 (25-16, 26-24, 25-17) victory over Loyola in Chicago, Ill.
“It was nice to see our blocking and defense step up and be a lot more effective tonight, helping us to the win,” said Crusader head coach Carin Avery. “It’s always key to rebound from a loss your next time out, especially with a quick turnaround time, and I was happy to see that we were able to do that today.”
Vanden Berg surpassed her previous career high of five blocks by the midway point of the second set and became the second Crusader to tally nine blocks in a single match this season, joining freshman Morgan Beil (St. Louis, Mo./Marquette). Seven total Valpo players were in on rejections Saturday, including redshirt freshman Lindsey Hauch (Coloma, Mich./Coloma), who matched her career high with four blocks as well.
Valpo got out to a quick start in set one, as a pair of early kills by Hauch helped the Crusaders get out to a 7-3 lead in the opener. Loyola rallied to tie the set at 9-9, but Valpo strung together five straight points, including a kill and an ace by sophomore Sarah Dooms (Greenwood, Ind./Center Grove) and two blocks by Vanden Berg, to go ahead 14-9. The Ramblers closed back to within three at 16-13, but would get no closer, as Valpo scored six of the next seven points to take control, with a kill by Dooms eventually ending the first set in the Crusaders’ favor.
The second set would play out differently, needing a big rally at the end from the Crusaders. An 8-8 tie turned into a 15-11 Loyola lead, and the Ramblers led by as many as five points at 21-16. A service error by Loyola, followed by kills from Beil, Dooms and senior Jenny Pokorny (Geneva, Ill./Geneva) brought Valpo back to within one at 21-20, but the Ramblers quickly scored three points to push their lead at 24-20 and stood on the verge of tying the match at one set apiece.
The Crusaders’ rally started innocuously enough, as a Rambler attacker was called in the net on a joust to make it 24-21. Pokorny then stepped back to the service line and almost single-handedly helped lift Valpo to the set victory. The Ramblers struggled with the receive on her first serve, leading to a block by Beil and junior Mary Dent (Chicago, Ill./Von Steuben) and a Loyola timeout at 24-22.
Following the timeout, Pokorny delivered back-to-back service aces to tie the frame at 24, and then another misplay on receive of her serve led to a block by Beil and sophomore Janelle Hobbs (Hartland, Wis./Arrowhead) to give Valpo an improbable set point at 25-24. Fittingly enough, Pokorny ended the set herself with her third ace in the final four points to send the Crusaders into the in-game break ahead two sets to none.
“I’m proud of the way we came back at the end of the second set,” said Avery. “After we had some tight sets yesterday that we lost, it was good to see us not give up tonight and keep the pressure on Loyola.”
The third set was not nearly as dramatic as the previous frame, as a 3-2 lead grew to 8-2 thanks in large part to two kills and another ace by Pokorny. Loyola would get within four points a couple times, but a 5-1 lead pushed a 10-5 advantage to 15-6 and gave the Crusaders plenty of breathing room to close out the sweep.
Offensively, Dooms led the Crusaders Saturday, tallying 13 kills on .345 hitting. She also picked up yet another double-double, matching junior Taylor Root (Jenison, Mich./Jenison) for team-high honors with 13 digs. Beil added seven kills on .357 hitting as well as three blocks, while Pokorny had a solid all-around match with 26 assists, seven digs, six kills on .545 hitting, four aces and three blocks.
Laura Purcell led Loyola (3-9, 0-3 Horizon) with nine kills, but also committed nine hitting errors, as the Ramblers hit just .059 with 27 kills for the match. Kristen Haggenjos led all players with 14 digs.
Valparaiso (11-6, 2-1 Horizon) returns home to the ARC for four of its next five matches, starting this Friday, Sept. 30 against Wright State at 7 p.m. Live video through the Horizon League Network can be seen online at www.valpoathletics.com, which will also have a link for live stats.
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