For the second time in as many days, the Valpo volleyball team came out on the right end of a match that went the distance, as the Beacons rallied late in the fifth set to earn the 3-2 (25-17, 25-23, 15-25, 15-25, 15-13) victory over host Milwaukee Sunday in the finale of the Panther Invitational. Valpo finished in second place in the four-team tournament, with middles Haley Hart (Frankfort, Ill./Lincoln-Way East) and Peyton McCarthy (Cincinnati, Ohio/Seton) representing the team on the All-Tournament Team.
How It Happened
- A 7-1 run midway through the first set — a stretch which included consecutive service aces from sophomore Victoria Bulmahn (McCordsville, Ind./Mt. Vernon) — gave Valpo the advantage it would need to take the opener. The Beacons’ offense hit at a sterling .433 clip in claiming the first set.
- To win the second set took much more fight from Valpo, as Milwaukee led by as many as eight points at 17-9. The Panther lead was still four points at 20-16 before Valpo reeled off the next four to even the set at 20-all.
- The teams traded sideouts the next four points to make it 22-22, and senior Jillie Grant (Maumee, Ohio/Anthony Wayne) put Valpo on top with a kill. Milwaukee responded with a termination of its own, but Valpo answered with a kill by junior Gretchen Kuckkan (Lafayette, Ind./Central Catholic [Indiana State]) to earn set point at 24-23.
- Hart teamed up with junior Kara Cooper (LaPorte, Ind./LaPorte) on a block to close out the second set and give Valpo the 2-0 lead in the match.
- Much the antithesis of Saturday’s win over UCSB, Valpo’s offense was strong through the first two sets on Sunday, but then struggled the next two frames. The Beacons hit just .060 combined over sets three and four.
- Milwaukee used runs of six and five straight points as it pulled out to a 17-10 lead en route to extending the match with a set three win. The Panthers then scored 15 of the final 18 points of the fourth set to force the decisive fifth frame.
- Despite only being played to 15 points, the fifth set featured nine ties and five lead changes — the most of any of the five frames.
- Neither team led by more than two points during the final set. Milwaukee held a 9-7 lead before Valpo responded with three straight, including two kills from Hart, to pull ahead 10-9.
- The Panthers came right back with four of the next five points to move within two points of finishing the match at 13-11.
- But Valpo had the last run of the match to claim the victory. A kill from Cooper was followed by a block by Grant and McCarthy to tie things up at 13-all. Fifth-year libero Rylee Cookerly (Brownsburg, Ind./Brownsburg) followed with a service ace to give Valpo match point, and McCarthy completed the four-point spurt and the victory with a kill on a ball at the net.
Inside the Match
- The victory gave Valpo a 2-1 record on the weekend to finish in second place in the four-team field. Illinois earned the tournament championship with a 3-0 record.
- It was only fitting that, for as much of a rivalry Valpo and Milwaukee had on the volleyball court as league foes, Sunday’s match would go the full five sets. It was the eighth time since the beginning of the 2007 season Valpo has gone the distance with the Panthers.
- This weekend marked the first time Valpo has won a pair of five-set matches in the opening weekend of action since taking down both Saint Louis and Xavier in five sets in the first weekend of the 1990 campaign.
- McCarthy led the Valpo offensive effort on Sunday with 17 kills on .371 hitting. She became the third different player to lead the Beacons’ offense in kills in as many matches to open the year.
- Grant tallied a double-double with 11 kills and 10 digs while adding three blocks as well.
- Both Hart and Cooper matched their respective career highs at the net defensively. Hart led all players with eight blocks while hitting .438 with nine kills offensively as well, while Cooper tied her career best with six rejections.
- Fifth-year setter Brittany Anderson (East Chicago, Ind./Bishop Noll) posted her first double-double of the year, racking up 26 assists and 10 digs.
- Cookerly finished with a team-best 21 digs in the back row and is now up to 2,578 career digs. She will enter next weekend’s tournament play five shy of 12th in NCAA history in the category, 20 away from 11th and 28 from cracking the all-time top-10.
- Hart and McCarthy finished the weekend on the All-Tournament Team for their respective performances over Valpo’s three matches. Hart earned the first All-Tournament honor of her career after hitting .360 with 23 kills and a team-best 17 blocks over the three matches, while McCarthy picked up her fourth All-Tournament award as she hit .357 with a team-high 33 kills.
Valpo (2-1) continues early-season tournament play next weekend at Tennessee Tech’s Golden Eagle Invitational. The Beacons will play three matches over two days, starting with showdowns against UNC Asheville (1 p.m.) and Tennessee Tech (7 p.m.) on Friday.