Trailing two sets to one in its series finale Monday at Illinois State, the Valpo volleyball team led start to finish to claim set four and then crushed the host Redbirds with the program’s most dominant fifth set performance in the rally-scoring era to finish out a 3-2 (25-21, 23-25, 16-25, 25-18, 15-2) victory and earn a split of the two-match series. The win was Valpo’s first over Illinois State since joining the Missouri Valley Conference.
How It Happened
- A block by senior Peyton McCarthy (Cincinnati, Ohio/Seton) and freshman Victoria Bulmahn (McCordsville, Ind./Mt. Vernon), a kill from junior Jillie Grant (Maumee, Ohio/Anthony Wayne) and a service ace from Bulmahn led to Illinois State’s first timeout in the decisive fifth set at 3-0.
- Three more Redbird errors led to a second timeout, and Valpo’s set-opening run eventually reached 7-0 on another rejection, this time from McCarthy and senior Jaclyn Bulmahn (McCordsville, Ind./Mt. Vernon).
- From there, the result of the final frame was academic, as Valpo immediately sided out following both of Illinois State’s points. The match came to a close with yet another block as junior Haley Hart (Frankfort, Ill./Lincoln-Way East) and sophomore Maddy Boyer (Batavia, Ill./Batavia) teamed up on the final rejection.
- Victoria Bulmahn was on the serve in the run to open the fifth set, seemingly a repeat of the fourth set that saw Valpo jump out to a 6-0 lead on the freshman’s serve. The Brown and Gold pushed their lead to 11-2 to open the fourth frame, forcing Illinois State to use both of its timeouts early.
- The Redbirds came back with a 7-1 run of their own to close to within 12-9, a stretch which saw Valpo use both of its timeouts as both teams were out of stoppages before the halfway point of the set.
- After the teams traded sideouts, Valpo went on a little 5-1 spurt — including two kills and a block from McCarthy — to pull ahead 18-11. Illinois State closed back to within four points twice, but Valpo earned set point at 24-16 and converted on its third opportunity thanks to a kill from Grant to send the match the distance.
- Valpo entered the match having dropped the first set in each of its last six matches, but took the opener on Monday as it hit at a .367 clip in the first set.
- It took a late-set rally to claim the opener, however, as Illinois State enjoyed a 20-17 lead before Valpo reeled off eight of the set’s final nine points. McCarthy had five kills during that run and fittingly closed the set with her seventh kill of the frame.
- The second set was a battle for control late, as there were six ties and three lead changes following the media timeout, at which point Valpo held a slim 15-14 lead.
- Valpo led 20-18 before three straight Redbird points made it 21-20 Illinois State. A kill by Grant and a block from Hart and Boyer returned the lead to Valpo at 22-21, but the Redbirds answered with two straight of their own. Another kill from Grant made it 23-all, but Illinois State got two kills to close the set and even the match.
- Illinois State controlled the third set, jumping out to a 9-3 lead and not letting its advantage fall under four points as it took a 2-1 lead in the match.
Inside the Match
- The win was Valpo’s first over the Redbirds since joining the Valley prior to the 2017 season. Illinois State had eight straight wins over Valpo since that point, and Valpo was just 2-9 all-time against ISU prior to Monday’s win.
- The 15-2 final set was the most dominant fifth-set performance by the Brown and Gold in the rally scoring era. Valpo previously had won a fifth set 15-3 on two occasions: Sept. 29, 2004 against DePaul and Oct. 12, 2013 at Cleveland State.
- With Monday’s win, Valpo has split three of its first four MVC two-match series this year. The victory was also Valpo’s first true road win of the win and its first win in five five-set matches.
- McCarthy enjoyed her second consecutive strong match on the attack, leading all players with a season-best 17 kills on .333 hitting. The senior also tied her season best with five blocks defensively.
- Grant reached double figures in kills for the fifth time this year and tallied her fifth double-double, hitting .282 with 13 kills and 12 digs.
- Hart added 10 kills, the seventh time in the last eight matches she has totaled at least 10 kills. The junior has already equaled her total number of matches with 10+ kills from her first two seasons.
- Victoria Bulmahn notched her eighth consecutive double-double, finishing with 37 assists, 16 digs and three service aces.
- While she will have to wait a few more matches to move up any career charts, senior libero Rylee Cookerly (Brownsburg, Ind./Brownsburg) continued her stellar early-season production with a match-best 32 digs. Cookerly has hit the 30-dig mark four times in the last five matches after reaching the milestone just five times in her first three seasons.
- Valpo’s defense helped limit Illinois State to just .142 hitting on Monday after the Redbirds attacked at a .239 clip in their win on Sunday.
Valpo (4-6, 3-5 MVC) closes out a stretch of five consecutive matches away from home next Sunday and Monday, Feb. 28 and March 1 at Drake.