The Valparaiso volleyball team rebounded from Friday night's league-opening loss with a solid performance Saturday behind a career-best 18 kills from sophomore Morgan Beil (St. Louis, Mo./Marquette), defeating Loyola 3-1 (26-24, 29-31, 25-22, 25-21) in Chicago, Ill.
Valpo looked like it would cruise to the first set win, running out to a quick 6-1 advantage and pushing the lead out to 16-8. Loyola roared back, however, scoring 10 of the next 11 points to claim the lead at 18-17. The teams went back and forth looking to gain the late momentum, and it looked like the Crusaders would take the opener as they led 23-20. But the Ramblers scored the next four points to earn a set point chance at 24-23. Valpo responded with a kill from freshman Kelsey Berrington (Britton, Mich./Tecumseh), and following a Rambler error, juniors Ellen Vanden Berg (Little Chute, Wis./Little Chute) and Janelle Hobbs (Hartland, Wis./Arrowhead) gave the Crusaders the opener in extra points.
While the first set featured late back-and-forth skirmishes for momentum, the second set was all about trading blows, as the two squads combined for an incredible 21 tie scores and 11 lead changes. Loyola looked to have control at 21-17, but the Crusaders scored five straight, including a pair of Vanden Berg kills, to set up a frantic final stretch. The Ramblers staved off four set point chances for Valpo, while the Crusaders kept the frame alive on a pair of Loyola set point chances before, leading 30-29, the Ramblers finally took advantage of a Crusader attack error to end the set and send the match into the in-game break tied at a set apiece.
Loyola used an 11-3 run spanning the middle portion of the third set to go ahead 17-11, and still looked solidly in control with a 20-15 advantage. But the Crusaders scored the next six points, including two service aces from junior Ariel Cudney (LaPorte, Ind./LaPorte) and a pair of kills by senior Mary Dent (Chicago, Ill./Von Steuben) to storm ahead 21-20. Then, with the set tied at 22-all, Vanden Berg sided out with a kill and delivered an ace from the service line to give Valpo set point, and Beil closed it out with a termination to give the Crusaders a 2-1 lead.
For a match that featured 37 combined ties and 17 lead changes through the first three sets, the final set was relatively benign, as the squads were tied on just three early occasions. Valpo put together a 9-3 spurt to turn a 6-5 lead into a 15-8 advantage, and while the Ramblers scored four straight later in the set to close within 20-18, the Crusaders never led by less than two points as a Beil kill eventually ended the match.
Beil's career-best 18 kills came on .417 hitting, a mark which was matched by Vanden Berg, who picked up 12 kills of her own. Cudney handed out 21 assists to go along with 18 from Berrington. Senior Taylor Root (Jenison, Mich./Jenison) tallied 16 digs, leaving her just five shy of Valpo's all-time record in the category. Vanden Berg also tallied a match-high seven blocks, part of Valpo's season-best 12-block effort.
Loyola got 16 kills from Kathleen Vogel, 14 from Laura Purcell and 13 by Anna Eytchison, but the trio also combined for 26 attack errors on the match. Brittany Brown handed out a match-best 53 assists, while Stephanie Kinane picked up 24 digs.
Valparaiso (9-7, 1-1 Horizon) steps out of league play and returns to the ARC next Wednesday, Sept. 26 as the Crusaders host South Dakota State at 7 p.m. The match can be heard live on WVUR (95.1 FM, Valparaiso) and seen live on the Horizon League Network, with links for the live audio, video and stats available at www.valpoathletics.com.