It was an extremely tight match as the Valpo volleyball team returned to action in a neutral-site battle with Butler in Chicago Friday afternoon, featuring 26 ties and 15 lead changes in three sets which all went right down to the wire. In all three sets, it was Valpo which came away with the key points late, as the Brown and Gold earned a 3-0 (25-22, 25-21, 25-23) sweep of the Bulldogs to earn their first win of the 2021 spring season.
How It Happened
- The first set was a preview of the match to come, featuring a total of 10 ties and six lead changes. A 7-2 run for Valpo, featuring a pair of kills from senior Jaclyn Bulmahn (McCordsville, Ind./Mt. Vernon), allowed it to pull out to a 13-8 lead just past the midway point of the set.
- Butler crept back into it, however, and eventually took its first lead since 4-3 at 20-19 thanks to a 4-1 spurt.
- Valpo responded with a kill from sophomore Kara Cooper (LaPorte, Ind./LaPorte) and a block from seniors Peyton McCarthy (Cincinnati, Ohio/Seton) and Ally Cummings (Novi, Mich./Novi) to regain the lead at 21-20, but a service error tied the frame at 21-all.
- Three straight errors by the Bulldogs gave Valpo set point at 24-21, and on its second attempt, Valpo closed out the opener thanks to a kill by McCarthy.
- The first half of the second set was just as tight, with neither team gaining more than a two-point lead until Valpo put together a 7-1 run — including two kills by junior Jillie Grant (Maumee, Ohio/Anthony Wayne) — to go ahead 18-13.
- Butler again made a push to respond, scoring seven of the next 10 points to close to within 21-20.
- But Valpo did not allow the Bulldogs to pull into a tie, scoring four of the set’s final five points to go ahead two sets to none. Each of the Brown and Gold’s final three points of the frame came on kills from Grant as the junior tallied seven kills in the second set alone.
- Again, the first half of the third set was a battle for control, with neither side able to pull ahead by more than two points until a five-point Valpo spurt — which included a kill and a block by McCarthy — gave the Brown and Gold a 16-11 lead.
- The lead was still five points at 20-15 before the Bulldogs scored three in a row to close within two, but Valpo answered right back with three points of its own to move within two points of completing the sweep.
- Butler scored the next four points to make it a one-point set at 23-22. Cooper gave Valpo match point with a kill to snap the Bulldogs’ run, and after a Butler kill, Valpo converted on its second match point chance on a kill from sophomore Maddy Boyer (Batavia, Ill./Batavia) to finish off the three-set win.
Inside the Match
- Valpo’s win came in its first meeting with Butler, now a Big East member, since the Bulldogs left the Horizon League following the 2011-12 school year.
- The Hoosier State rivals have now met 37 times on the volleyball court, with Butler holding a 27-10 advantage. But it is Valpo with the 7-6 edge in the series over the last 13 meetings since Valpo moved from the Mid-Con to the Horizon League prior to the 2007 season.
- Friday marked Valpo’s first win over a Big East team since sweeping DePaul on Aug. 31, 2018.
- Valpo limited the Bulldogs to .038 hitting in Friday’s matchup and forced 31 Butler attack errors. Ironically, it was the lowest hitting percentage by a Valpo opponent since the aforementioned DePaul match, when the Blue Demons hit .000 for the contest.
- As mentioned in the lede, Friday’s meeting was tight throughout, with 26 ties and 15 lead changes over the three sets. The 26 ties were the most in a three-set match for Valpo since Sept. 26, 2015, while the 15 lead changes were the most in a sweep since Sept. 11, 2015.
- Valpo featured a balanced offensive effort Friday, as five different players tallied between four and nine kills. McCarthy paced the category with nine kills, while Grant finished with seven. Cooper tallied six kills on .250 hitting as well.
- Freshman setter Victoria Bulmahn (McCordsville, Ind./Mt. Vernon) made her collegiate debut after missing Monday’s opener and handed out 30 assists to tie for match-high honors.
- Four of Bulmahn’s assists set up her sister Jaclyn, as the siblings teamed up on the volleyball court for the first time since playing together at Mt. Vernon High School in the fall of 2016.
- Senior Rylee Cookerly (Brownsburg, Ind./Brownsburg) led the back row play with a match-high 17 digs — her 57th consecutive match tallying at least 10 digs. Senior Melissa Flynders (Mokena, Ill./Providence Catholic) picked up 13 digs as well.
- Sophomore Bella Ravotto (Mishawaka, Ind./Marian) enjoyed a strong day passing the ball, as five of her 11 digs and seven of her 17 serve receptions were turned immediately into kills.
Valpo (1-1) closes out its home-and-home series with Loyola as it takes to the court at the ARC for the first time this year next Monday, Feb. 1. First serve is slated for 3 p.m., and the match can be seen live on ESPN+.