Given the way the Valparaiso University volleyball team has fought and battled all season long, it seemed only fitting Thursday that to earn its first-ever victory in the MVC Tournament, Valpo would have to play a full five sets and over two and a half hours of volleyball. In the end, the fifth set and the match belonged to Valpo, as it defeated tournament host Missouri State 3-2 (25-17, 20-25, 25-23, 23-25, 15-9) to advance to Friday’s semifinals against UNI.
How It Happened
- After dropping a tight fourth set, Valpo found itself on the wrong end of the score early in the fifth set, as Missouri State jumped out to a quick 4-1 lead.
- Valpo came right back with four straight points, two of which came on kills from senior Katherine Carlson (Lake Orion, Mich./Notre Dame Prep) and another on a block from freshman Haley Hart (Frankfort, Ill./Lincoln-Way East) and sophomore Ally Cummings (Novi, Mich./Novi), to force a timeout by the Bears.
- Missouri State scored the next point out of the stoppage, but Valpo then rattled off four more in a row. Carlson picked up her third kill of the set to regain the lead, and senior Allison Ketcham (Mishawaka, Ind./Marian) followed with a kill of her own. Hart then recorded back-to-back kills to make it a 9-5 Valpo lead and force Missouri State to use its second timeout.
- Hart combined with sophomore Brittany Anderson (East Chicago, Ind./Bishop Noll) on a block out of the timeout to extend the lead to 10-5, but the Bears had a rally in them, scoring four of the next five to close to within 11-9 as Valpo used its first timeout.
- That was as close as Missouri State would get, however. An attack error from the Bears returned the serve to Valpo, and sophomore Peyton McCarthy (Cincinnati, Ohio/Seton) extended the lead to 13-9 with a kill.
- A diving dig from freshman Gabby Daniels (Mill Valley, Calif./St. Francis) on what proved to be the match’s penultimate point led directly to a Ketcham kill to give Valpo match point, and it would take the Crusaders just one chance to close out the win, as Ketcham and McCarthy teamed up for a rejection to send Valpo into the semifinals.
- The match entered the decisive fifth set after a pair of narrow two-point decisions in the third and fourth frames, with both squads earning one win apiece. Valpo led 21-19 in set three before Missouri State scored four of the next five to go ahead 23-22. But an attack error by the Bears evened things up at 23-all, and Ketcham posted back-to-back kills to close out the third set in Valpo’s favor.
- A big mid-set run from Missouri State gave it as much as a five-point lead in the fourth set, and the Bears still led by four at 23-19. Kills by Hart and Ketcham brought Valpo within 23-21 before an MSU kill gave the Bears three set points at 24-21. Ketcham picked up two straight kills to keep the frame alive, but MSU converted on its third chance to force the fifth set.
- A 6-1 run in the first set by Valpo turned a 10-9 deficit into a 15-11 advantage, and the Crusaders never led by less than three the rest of the way in taking the opener. Missouri State evened the match by winning the second set, scoring seven of the set’s final nine points after the two sides were tied at 18-all.
Inside the Match
- The victory was Valpo’s first in MVC Tournament play in its second season as a conference member.
- The postseason win was the first for Valpo since winning a pair of matches to advance to the title match in the 2015 Horizon League Tournament.
- Valpo improved to 11-4 on the year in true road matches with Thursday’s victory. In all matches away from home (road + neutral), the Crusaders are now 17-5 on the season.
- The win moves Valpo to 25-9 on the season, the ninth time in Carin Avery’s 17 years as head coach that Valpo has won at least 25 matches.
- Valpo is now 5-3 in five-set matches this year and defeated Missouri State in Springfield in five sets twice in the span of one week. In fact, four of Valpo’s last six matches have gone the full five sets.
- Missouri State held narrow edges in kills (70-63), digs (95-92) and blocks (11-10) on Thursday, while Valpo hit .201 to the Bears’ .177 clip.
- Carlson led the way for Valpo on Thursday with 21 kills and added 10 digs as well for a double-double. The senior moved into sixth in program history in career kills (1,214).
- Ketcham enjoyed another strong match on both sides of the ball. Offensively, she closed the match strong to end up with 17 kills, moving into a tie for seventh in program history in career kills (1,195).
- In the back row, Ketcham racked up 21 digs to move up to fourth place all-time at Valpo in career digs (1,896). She also was in on four of Valpo’s 10 team blocks.
- McCarthy joined the senior duo in double figures in kills, registering 10 kills and a team-high five blocks.
- Anderson recorded yet another double-double, finishing the night with 50 assists and 13 digs. With 1,385 assists this year, the First Team All-MVC selection now ranks sixth in a single season at Valpo with 1,385 assists – just 21 away from third position and 44 from second.
- Sophomore Rylee Cookerly (Brownsburg, Ind./Brownsburg) led the back-row play with a season-best 30 digs – just the second time in her career she’s posted at least 30 digs. Cookerly has tallied 662 digs on the year, leaving her just 24 shy of her freshman-year total entering Friday night.
- Freshman Jillie Grant (Maumee, Ohio/Anthony Wayne) set a new career high in the back row with 12 digs as well.
- As a team, Valpo moved into the program’s single-season top-10 charts in wins, assists, digs and blocks on Thursday. Most notably, with 2,364 digs on the season, the 2018 squad ranks fourth in program history, just 32 out of third.
Thoughts From Coach Avery
“Tonight was a great volleyball match. We needed to play great to beat Missouri State tonight, because they are such a solid team.”
“We made big plays in the fifth set, and we kept our composure and didn’t panic when we were down early in that fifth set.”
“It was a great first-ever victory in the MVC Tournament for us. A big congratulations to our seniors for leading us to this point.”
Valpo (25-9) takes on the tournament’s top seed in UNI on Friday night at 7:30 p.m. The match can be seen live on ESPN+.