The Valpo volleyball team secured its best regular season finish since joining the Missouri Valley Conference on Saturday evening in the regular season finale at Drake, winning a 3-1 (25-18, 27-25, 21-25, 25-20) battle over the Bulldogs. The win moved Valpo into a tie for third place in the final MVC standings, and the Beacons will be the fourth seed for next week’s MVC Tournament.
How It Happened
- Valpo never trailed in the opening set, jumping out to a 7-1 lead and holding Drake to .020 hitting in the opening frame. The very first point of the match was a harbinger of things to come, as Haley Hart (Frankfort, Ill./Lincoln-Way East) and Maddy Boyer (Batavia, Ill./Batavia) combined on a block.
- The Bulldogs did cut the lead to two points at the midway point of the set, and after the Beacons had pulled away again, strung together four straight points late to close to within 23-18.
- Kills from Boyer and Kara Cooper (LaPorte, Ind./LaPorte) closed the opener and gave Valpo the 1-0 lead in the match.
- While there were no ties or lead changes in the first set, the second featured 12 ties and six lead changes. Neither team led by more than three points in the frame.
- A 5-1 spurt for the Bulldogs gave them a three-point edge at 18-15, and Drake’s lead was still three at 20-17 before Valpo scored six of the next eight — including two rejections by Boyer and Peyton McCarthy (Cincinnati, Ohio/Seton) — to go ahead, 23-22.
- Drake sided out on the ensuing serve to briefly tie things up, but an attack error gave Valpo set point at 24-23. The Bulldogs responded with two straight points to earn a set point of their own.
- Another hitting error by Drake extended the frame, and McCarthy recorded a timely service ace to give the Beacons another chance to take the set. This time, they came through, as Drake committed an error to give Valpo the 2-0 lead in the match.
- Drake jumped out to a quick 7-3 lead in the third set. Valpo rallied and moved ahead briefly at 9-8, but the Bulldogs came back with a 7-1 run to go up 15-10.
- A four-point spurt late brought Valpo back to within 21-19, but two points was as close as it would get as the Bulldogs extended the match to a fourth set.
- The fourth frame proved to be another back-and-forth affair, with nine tie scores and five lead changes.
- The struggle for control saw Valpo lead 9-8, Drake turn that into a 13-11 advantage with a 5-2 stretch, and the Beacons respond with five straight — two of which were blocks from Boyer and Hart — to go ahead, 16-13.
- The Bulldogs scored the next two points to close to within one, but four consecutive Drake errors allowed Valpo to pull ahead, 20-15. The lead never fell below three points from that moment, and the Beacons fittingly closed the win on a block, as Hart and Elise Swistek (LaPorte, Ind./New Prairie) combined on a rejection to cap the regular season.
Inside the Match
- Saturday’s win moves Valpo into a tie for third place in the MVC regular season standings with Bradley, the program’s best finish since joining the Valley.
- Valpo’s 12-6 record is also its best record in conference play since joining the MVC.
- After opening conference play 4-4 through the first eight matches, Valpo closed the MVC slate with an 8-2 record over its last 10 matches.
- The Beacons finished four spots above their seventh-place projection in the Valley preseason poll. Valpo has now out-performed its preseason pick in each of its five seasons in the MVC.
- Valpo is one of just two programs (Illinois State) to post top-half finishes in MVC play in each of the last five seasons.
- Head coach Carin Avery now owns 499 career victories overall as a head coach, 444 of which have come at the helm of the Valpo program.
- Valpo has now won eight consecutive matches over the MVC’s two Iowa-based schools and is a perfect 6-0 at Drake since joining the Valley.
- Career-best performances defensively, both at the net and in the back row, dotted Valpo’s side of the box score Saturday night.
- As a team, the Beacons posted a season-high 15 blocks, their highest total since tallying 16 at Illinois State on Nov. 15, 2019. It was the first time Valpo has posted 15 or more blocks in a match that lasted four sets since registering 16 at Cornell on Sept. 9, 2017.
- The 15 team rejections are tied for fourth-most in a four-set match in the 25-point rally scoring era.
- Boyer and Hart were both in on nine blocks to tie for match-high honors, both setting their personal career bests in the process. Hart eked past her previous career high of eight, while Boyer soared past her previous best of six rejections.
- Both Boyer and Hart are now tied for fourth on Valpo’s individual four-set match chart for the 25-point era as well.
- McCarthy was part of six blocks and added 10 kills as well.
- In the back row, Swistek was the story, tallying a match-best 27 digs in the winning effort — her first career match leading Valpo in the category. That mark far surpassed the previous season high of 16 for the freshman.
- Swistek also paced Valpo with 13 kills to finish with her sixth double-double of the season and second of the weekend.
- Rylee Cookerly (Brownsburg, Ind./Brownsburg) backed Swistek up with 24 digs of her own to send her career total to 3,055 digs.
- Bella Ravotto (Mishawaka, Ind./Marian) picked up 11 kills and 15 digs in Saturday’s win. Ravotto now has seven double-doubles this season, all seven of which have come in Valpo victories.
- Brittany Anderson (East Chicago, Ind./Bishop Noll) recorded her fourth double-double of the year with 21 assists and 10 digs, while Victoria Bulmahn (McCordsville, Ind./Mt. Vernon) narrowly missed a double-double of her own with 22 assists and nine digs.
- Anderson’s 21 assists push her career total to 4,478 helpers and move her past former Wichita State standout Michele Hallagin for 14th in MVC history in the category.
Valpo (21-8, 12-6 MVC) is the fourth seed for next week’s MVC Tournament, as Bradley edged the Beacons in a power rankings tiebreaker for the third seed. Valpo will open tournament play from Normal, Ill. on Thanksgiving afternoon at 3:30 p.m. against fifth-seeded Evansville. Every tournament match can be seen live on ESPN+ and will have live stats available via ValpoAthletics.com.