The Valparaiso volleyball team avenged its lone Horizon League loss Friday night, taking down Milwaukee on the road 3-1 (25-15, 25-19, 20-25, 30-28) to move into a tie in the loss column atop the league standings with the Panthers. The win also marked the ninth consecutive victory for the Crusaders.
"It was a great win for us this evening, and I thought we did a great job executing our game plan," said Crusader head coach Carin Avery. "I give so much credit to our senior class, not only for tonight, but for the entire season. They are a special group both on and off the court, and they have done a great job leading this big group. We have a lot of matches left, so we will re-focus tomorrow, but tonight, we will celebrate a good win."
While the first three sets featured just one lead change combined, it was quite the duel between the Crusaders and the Panthers in the fourth set, as the frame featured 17 ties and six lead changes. With Valpo entering the set holding a 2-1 advantage, Milwaukee claimed a two-point lead late at 22-20 following three straight Crusader attack errors. Juniors Morgan Beil (St. Louis, Mo./Marquette) and Kelsey Victor (Logansport, Ind./Logansport) posted back-to-back kills to tie it at 22-all, but the Panthers got a kill from Julie Kolinske to make it 23-22 as they attempted to force a fifth set.
A service error tied it up again at 23, and freshman Emily Campbell (Grand Rapids, Mich./Forest Hills Central) followed with a kill to give Valpo match point at 24-23. But Kolinske sent the frame into extra points with a kill, and following another termination from Beil for the second match point chance, it was again Kolinske who kept the Panthers alive, tying the set at 25-all with another kill.
Making the most of her rotation in the front row, Campbell picked up another kill to make it a third match point opportunity for Valpo, but again the Panthers responded, this time with back-to-back kills as they claimed a 27-26 edge and moved within one point of that fifth set. Senior Ellen Vanden Berg (Little Chute, Wis./Little Chute) kept the fourth set moving forward with a kill, and following another UWM kill for its second set point chance, the senior combined with fellow senior Janelle Hobbs (Hartland, Wis./Arrowhead) on a block to tie things at 28 apiece.
It was another senior who gave Valpo its fourth chance at claiming the match, as Sarah Dooms (Greenwood, Ind./Center Grove) put down a kill to push the score to 29-28 Crusaders. Finally, the Crusaders would finish and deal the Panthers their first loss in Horizon League play, as Beil recorded the match-ending kill.
Milwaukee started the match by scoring the first four points, but Valpo responded with 11 of the next 13 points as it took control of the opening set. Then, the second set saw the Crusaders score the first five points and never look back, as Valpo went into the in-game break up two sets to none, having forced the Panthers into 20 attack errors in the first two frames. Milwaukee fought back to force a fourth set, however, going on an 8-3 spurt midway through the third to extend its lead.
It was a balanced offensive effort for the Crusaders on Friday, as Campbell, Dooms and Vanden Berg all tied for team-high honors with 11 kills, while Beil added 10. All but Dooms hit at better than a .200 clip as well on the attack. Senior Ariel Cudney (LaPorte, Ind./LaPorte) dished out 25 assists, while sophomore Kelsey Berrington (Britton, Mich./Tecumseh) handed out 22 helpers.
Defensively, Dooms led the way on the back line with 23 digs, one of five Crusaders to end in double figures as they tallied 96 total digs on the evening. Freshman Morganne Longoria (Burlington, Wis./Burlington) added 19 digs, while Campbell, Berrington and Cudney all joined Dooms with double-doubles. Vanden Berg continued her strong performance on the block recently, posting seven rejections as Valpo totaled 11 team blocks.
Rachel Neuberger led Milwaukee (13-9, 9-1 Horizon) with 15 kills on .289 hitting, while Kolinske added 14 kills. Taylor Golabowski posted a match-best 25 digs.
Valparaiso (22-4, 8-1 Horizon) looks for a double-digit winning streak on Saturday evening at Green Bay. First serve is at 5 p.m., with live stats and video available through ValpoAthletics.com.