The Valparaiso volleyball team stepped up its intensity on both sides of the ball to rally from a two-set deficit and defeat Wright State, 3-2 (22-25, 20-25, 25-13, 25-12, 15-13) Friday evening in Fairborn, Ohio.
The Crusaders struggled offensively in the first two frames, hitting just .058 with 18 kills combined, while Wright State posted 33 kills over the first two sets to take a 2-0 lead into the intermission. Valpo’s best chance at taking one of the first two sets came in the second frame, as it was within 18-17 after a kill by sophomore Morgan Beil (St. Louis, Mo./Marquette), but the Raiders scored five straight points to ensure the two-set lead.
Valpo came out like a different team after the in-game break, putting together a huge 14-3 run early in the third set to take control at 16-7, led by three blocks and a kill from redshirt sophomore Kelsey Victor (Logansport, Ind./Logansport). The Crusaders cruised to the win in the third set from there, ending the frame hitting .250 while holding Wright State to a -.027 attack percentage.
The fourth set didn’t see a huge run from the Crusaders, but an early 5-0 spurt put Valpo ahead 11-5 and the Crusaders used a few more runs of three-to-five points to send the match to a decisive fifth set. The Crusader offense stepped to the forefront in the fourth frame, hitting .448 with 16 kills, while the defense limited WSU to just six kills on .000 hitting.
It looked like Valpo would cruise to the fifth-set win, as the Crusaders scored the first four points, including two kills by junior Janelle Hobbs (Hartland, Wis./Arrowhead) and one from junior Sarah Dooms (Greenwood, Ind./Center Grove) to force a WSU timeout. Later in the set, a Victor kill made it 9-4 Valpo, as the Raiders used their final timeout, and a Dooms kill pushed the lead to 12-5.
The set and match were seemingly still in hand for Valpo even after two straight WSU points, as three straight sideouts gave the Crusaders match point at 14-8. But the Raiders picked up three kills, an ace and a solo block in a 5-0 run which cut the Valpo lead to 14-13 and had the Crusaders facing the last of six match point opportunities. Junior middle Ellen Vanden Berg (Little Chute, Wis./Little Chute) came up with the decisive kill, however, as Valpo completed the comeback victory.
The Crusaders ended the night with a 58-52 advantage in kills and out-attacked Wright State (2-18, 0-3 HL), .186-.102, despite the early deficits in both categories after two sets. Vanden Berg’s match-winning kill was her career-best 16th of the match to pace Valpo, as she closed the night hitting .351. Beil added 11 kills as well. Freshman Kelsey Berrington (Britton, Mich./Tecumseh) handed out 26 assists, while junior Ariel Cudney (LaPorte, Ind./LaPorte) added 25.
Defensively, Victor picked up a career-best 10 blocks at the net, the most by any Crusader since the 2006 season. Beil added seven rejections as well as Valpo tallied 15 total blocks as a team. On the back line, senior Taylor Root (Jenison, Mich./Jenison) led all players with 31 digs, while Dooms added 23 of her own and Berrington picked up 10 for her sixth double-double of the year.
Valparaiso (10-8, 2-1 HL) plays its first league home games of the 2012 season next weekend, starting off Friday evening as the Crusaders host Cleveland State at 7 p.m. The game will be broadcast live with video via the Horizon League Network and audio at WVUR (95.1 FM, Valparaiso), with links for both broadcasts, as well as live stats, available through www.valpoathletics.com.