On its final day of action at Toledo’s Blue & Gold Classic Saturday, the Valpo volleyball team continued its dominance in five-set matches, winning a thrilling 3-2 (25-21, 20-25, 25-22, 26-28, 15-11) contest over the host Rockets in the early afternoon. Having to turn around and play their final tournament match just 45 minutes after the end of the marathon against Toledo, the Beacons battled in a 3-0 (25-14, 25-18, 25-23) loss to South Dakota State to conclude the tournament. Senior outside Jillie Grant (Maumee, Ohio/Anthony Wayne) represented Valpo on the All-Tournament Team.
How It Happened – Toledo
- Valpo led start to finish in the opening set, never falling into even a tie after winning the first three points of the frame. The Beacons pushed out to a four-point lead at 7-3, and the advantage fluctuated between two and five the rest of the set, with a kill from Peyton McCarthy (Cincinnati, Ohio/Seton) eventually ending the opener.
- The second set featured 10 ties and six lead changes, but nearly all of those occurred in the first half of the set. Valpo led 13-12 before the Rockets went on a 7-1 run to pull ahead, 19-14, and the Beacons got no closer than three points the rest of the way.
- Tied at 8-8 in the third set, Valpo went on a six-point spurt — a run which included two kills from Haley Hart (Frankfort, Ill./Lincoln-Way East) — to go ahead, 14-8. Toledo closed to within one point four times after that mark, but all four times, the Beacons came up with a sideout — the last coming at 23-22 — the hold off the Rockets and claim the 2-1 lead in the match.
- A back-and-forth fourth set had 15 ties and eight lead changes and saw Toledo turn an 18-17 deficit into a 24-21 lead as it attempted to force a fifth set. Back-to-back kills by Grant and an attack error from the Rockets held off three set points and forced extra points.
- A service error gave Toledo its fourth set point chance, but again Valpo held it off thanks to a kill from Gretchen Kuckkan (Lafayette, Ind./Central Catholic [Indiana State]), and a subsequent Toledo error gave Valpo match point. The Rockets came up with a kill to extend the match, however, and consecutive Toledo blocks forced the fifth set.
- Facing a fifth set for the fifth time this season, Valpo didn’t blink under the pressure, even when trailing by three points at 9-6 and 10-7. At the latter junction, first Grant and then Bella Ravotto (Mishawaka, Ind./Marian) came up with kills to make it a one-point deficit, and Hart followed with a block to force a Toledo timeout at 10-10.
- After the stoppage, Hart came up with another rejection to give Valpo the 11-10 lead. The Rockets came back with a block of their own to even the set at 11-all, but Grant came up with yet another kill and consecutive attack errors by Toledo presented Valpo another match point chance at 14-11. This time, Valpo took advantage courtesy of a Kuckkan kill to close out the victory.
How It Happened – SDSU
- Taking to the court for its second match of the day just 45 minutes after its first match concluded proved to be a challenge for Valpo. The Jackrabbits of SDSU led start to finish in taking the opening set.
- It looked like SDSU was in control of the second set as well, but Valpo put together a 9-2 run — including four kills from Grant and two service aces by Victoria Bulmahn (McCordsville, Ind./Mt. Vernon) — to close a 20-9 gap to 22-18. The Jackrabbits scored the final three points of the set, however, to go up 2-0 in the match.
- The momentum from the late run in the second set seemed to carry into the third set, which was a back-and-forth affair which featured 10 ties and nine lead changes. Valpo rallied from down 20-17 late to move ahead at 23-22, two points from forcing a fifth set, but SDSU scored the last three points of the match to close it out.
Inside the Matches
- Valpo posted a winning record for the third consecutive weekend to open the year, as the Beacons matched Toledo and SDSU with 2-1 records over their three tournament matches.
- Valpo’s win over Toledo makes it a perfect 5-0 in five-set matches this year. Dating back to last season, Valpo has now reeled off eight straight wins in matches which have gone the distance.
- The victory over Toledo means Valpo has now beaten all three tournament hosts it has faced so far this season.
- Grant was the story for Valpo on Saturday as she played mere miles from where she grew up and went to school. The senior racked up a match-high 22 kills on .340 hitting and added 14 digs in the win over Toledo, and then posted a team-high nine kills to go with 12 digs against SDSU.
- For the weekend, Grant averaged 3.00 kills/set and 3.00 digs/set as she received the first All-Tournament Team honor of her career.
- On the back line, Rylee Cookerly (Brownsburg, Ind./Brownsburg) continued her ascent up the NCAA’s career digs chart Saturday. The fifth-year libero tallied 30 digs in the win over Toledo — her second straight match of 30 digs and the 11th 30+ dig effort of her career — to jump to seventh place in D-I history in digs, and then led all players with 13 digs in the SDSU match to move up to sixth position.
- Cookerly now owns 2,713 career digs and is poised to shortly overtake Valpo record holder Taylor Root (2,752 digs), who ranks fifth in NCAA history. Cookerly is also within 65 digs of Courtney Pence’s MVC record in the category as well.
- Grant was one of four Valpo players to hit double figures in kills in the win over Toledo. McCarthy and Ravotto notched 11 kills apiece, with the latter adding 16 digs as well, while Hart hit .421 with 10 kills.
- Bulmahn dished out 31 assists and racked up 10 digs in the win over the Rockets and Brittany Anderson (East Chicago, Ind./Bishop Noll) posted 27 assists in the victory.
- The match against SDSU saw Maddy Boyer (Batavia, Ill./Batavia) contribute six kills on .385 hitting, while Anderson handed out 16 assists. McCarthy was in on six of Valpo’s nine blocks in its tournament finale and Kuckkan was part of four rejections as well.
Valpo (7-2) closes out non-conference action next Friday at the SIUE Cougar Classic. The Beacons will face Western Illinois at 11 a.m. before taking on host SIUE at 6 p.m.