It doesn’t matter whether they’re playing in the fall or in the spring, you always know what you’re going to get from the Valpo volleyball team — a scrappy, blue-collar squad who will fight to keep every attack from hitting the ground and will battle to win every point. On Monday evening in Des Moines, the Brown and Gold took that to another level, as Valpo held off four Drake match point chances in the fourth set and then rallied from down 8-3 in the fifth set to earn a thrilling 3-2 (25-17, 22-25, 18-25, 29-27, 15-13) victory over the Bulldogs to earn the series sweep. Over the course of the five sets, Valpo recorded 134 total digs to set a program record — not just for the 25-point era, but for any match in the rally-scoring era.
How It Happened
- The fourth set started out benignly enough, as Valpo jumped out to a quick 6-1 lead and still enjoyed a sizeable advantage at 14-8.
- The Bulldogs scored six of the next seven points to tighten things up, and a few points later, Drake put together five points in a row to pull ahead, 20-18.
- Valpo scored four of the next five points, including a pair of kills from junior Haley Hart (Frankfort, Ill./Lincoln-Way East), to regain the lead at 22-21, but Drake came back with three straight of its own to earn match point at 24-22.
- Junior Jillie Grant (Maumee, Ohio/Anthony Wayne) notched a kill to keep the match alive, and then senior Peyton McCarthy (Cincinnati, Ohio/Seton) — who had just rotated back into the front row — came up with a huge solo block to force extra points at 24-24.
- A kill from Drake gave the Bulldogs their third match point chance at 25-24, but again Grant came up with a kill to extend the match, and the junior followed with another termination to give Valpo its first set point opportunity at 26-25.
- Drake responded with back-to-back kills, however, to move within one point of closing the match for a fourth time. Grant delivered yet another kill to keep Valpo alive — her 11th in the fourth set alone — and then a Drake attack error gave Valpo set point at 28-27.
- This time, Valpo closed it out, as a great back-row pancake from Grant led immediately to a kill from senior Jaclyn Bulmahn (McCordsville, Ind./Mt. Vernon) to send the match to a decisive fifth set.
- Valpo scored two of the first three points of the fifth set before Drake scored six straight to pull out to a five-point lead at 7-2.
- After trading sideouts, the Bulldogs still had a five-point lead at 8-3, but a McCarthy kill led to a vital rotation, as Hart moved back into the front row. The next three points were all Hart, as two kills and a solo block brought Valpo within 8-7.
- Drake slowed the Valpo momentum with back-to-back points to make it 10-7 before the Brown and Gold reeled off five points in a row — three of which came on kills by Hart — to storm back to take a 12-10 lead.
- Hart picked up yet another kill following a Valpo service error to make it 13-11, and following a Drake block, a service error by the Bulldogs gave Valpo match point at 14-12. On its second match point chance, Valpo converted on a first-ball kill from Bulmahn to close out the come-from-behind win.
- Valpo took the lead for good in the opening set at 13-12 as part of a 5-0 run. The offense was running on all cylinders in the opening set, as Valpo hit .432 with 18 kills in the frame.
- The Bulldogs used a late run in the second set to even up the match, as Valpo led 21-19 before Drake closed the frame on a 6-1 spurt. Drake then led the entire way in the third set, jumping out to a 9-3 lead.
Inside the Match
- The story of the night was the Valpo defense, as for much of the night, it seemed like an atomic weapon would be necessary to get through the back line.
- As previously mentioned, the 134 digs Valpo totaled on Monday set a program record for a rally-scoring match, besting the mark of 129 set against Wright State in October 2016. The 134-dig mark is also fourth-most across all eras in program history and is the most in a single match since September 1994.
- No NCAA D-I team has bettered 134 digs in a single match since Missouri State did so at Drake in October 2017.
- Leading the production in the back row was sophomore Bella Ravotto (Mishawaka, Ind./Marian). Playing as libero for just the second time in her career, Ravotto registered 38 digs to lead all players and shatter her previous career high of 23. The sophomore also did not commit a serve reception error on the evening.
- Ravotto was one of three Valpo players in double figures in digs to set a career best in the category. One day after setting a then-career high with 21 digs, freshman Victoria Bulmahn (McCordsville, Ind./Mt. Vernon) pushed that mark to 26 digs on Monday, while senior Ally Cummings (Novi, Mich./Novi) posted 15 digs to surpass her previous best by three.
- Grant was the third Valpo player to post 20 or more digs, finishing with 21 digs one day after setting her career high with 25. Senior Melissa Flynders (Mokena, Ill./Providence Catholic) matched her season best in the category as well with 19 digs.
- Offensively, Grant enjoyed a night to remember as well, easily surpassing her career high as she finished with 26 kills on 71 swings. The 26 kills are tied for the most by a Valpo player in a five-set match in the 25-point era, tied for second-most in any length match in the 25-point era and tied for fifth-most in any length match in the rally scoring era.
- Grant led the way as Valpo totaled 77 kills in Monday’s victory, the fourth-most kills the team has posted in a single contest since the move to 25-point scoring.
- Hart joined Grant in setting a career high for kills in the win, finishing with 16 kills — six of which came in the decisive final set. McCarthy added 14 kills and Jaclyn Bulmahn 13 as well. Victoria Bulmahn dished out 57 assists as she quarterbacked the offense.
- The win extended Valpo’s winning streak to three straight matches and improved Valpo’s record in MVC play to 5-5 with four series to play. It was the first time in the first five MVC series of the year that Valpo has swept its opponent.
- Valpo has now won its last two five-set matches after dropping its first four of the season. Both of the victories have seen the Brown and Gold rally after being down two sets to one.
- Valpo has won all five of its matches at Drake since joining the MVC.
Valpo (6-6, 5-5 MVC) will return to the friendly confines of the ARC for six straight matches after playing its last five on the road. The home stretch starts next Sunday and Monday, March 7 and 8, versus Bradley. Sunday’s match will start at 3 p.m. and Monday’s at 4 p.m., with both contests slated for broadcast on The Valley on ESPN.