The date and opponent might have changed, but the rocking venue and the result sure didn’t. The Valpo volleyball team continued its run through the 2021 National Invitational Volleyball Championship in front of its ardent fanbase at the ARC on Monday evening with a dominant 3-0 (25-17, 25-13, 25-17) sweep of Evansville. The victory gives Valpo the most postseason wins in a season in program history and sends the Beacons into a semifinal later this week, with date, location and opponent to be determined.
How It Happened
- Facing each other for the fourth time this season, the two familiar foes battled for control past the halfway mark of an opening set which featured 12 ties and five lead changes. Neither squad held more than a two-point edge in the first half of the frame.
- One big run looked like it could determine the winner of the opener, and it ended up being Valpo with the big run, as the Beacons closed the set on a 10-2 run after the score was tied at 15-15. Elise Swistek (LaPorte, Ind./New Prairie) had three kills during the run, while Victoria Bulmahn (McCordsville, Ind./Mt. Vernon) served out the final five points of the frame.
- Kara Cooper (LaPorte, Ind./LaPorte) closed out a first set in which she posted four kills and four blocks by being in on three of the final four points, picking up a kill and combining with Peyton McCarthy (Cincinnati, Ohio/Seton) on a pair of rejections. The second of that pair was the 25th point of the set, closing out the opener in favor of Valpo.
- Each of the last two matchups with Evansville saw the Purple Aces storm out to huge leads over the Beacons to start the second set (16-1; 13-1), but Valpo made sure to not let that happen again on Monday. The team hit at a .429 clip in the second set and limited Evansville to just eight kills.
- Evansville led real early at 3-2 before the Beacons scored 12 of the next 15 points to take control. Bella Ravotto (Mishawaka, Ind./Marian) had two kills and a service ace during the run which gave Valpo a 14-6 lead.
- Valpo’s advantage reached double figures at 21-11 on a kill by Haley Hart (Frankfort, Ill./Lincoln-Way East), and the set eventually ended on a Swistek kill.
- Valpo never trailed in the third set and took the lead for good with a four-point spurt which included kills from McCarthy and Ravotto to turn a 5-5 tie into a 9-5 lead.
- The Beacons pushed their lead to four points on numerous occasions in the third set, but each time, the Purple Aces pushed back with a couple points in a row to stay within striking distance. The final instance saw Evansville score three in a row to pull to within 18-17.
- A kill by Hart returned the serve to Valpo, and this time, the four-point mark wouldn’t be a barrier, as Brittany Anderson (East Chicago, Ind./Bishop Noll) served out the match. Epitomizing the team’s balance, four different players had kills in the last five points of the run, with a kill by Ravotto closing out the sweep.
Inside the Match
- Valpo becomes the first team to advance to the semifinals of this season’s NIVC.
- This year’s team now owns the most postseason wins in a season in program history, having won three matches to surpass the 2018 team’s two NIVC wins.
- This year’s volleyball team is one of only four teams in Valpo Athletics history with three postseason wins in a season. The 2015-16 men’s basketball team won four games in the NIT, the 2011-12 bowling squad won three matches at the NCAA Championship and the 1972 baseball team won three times in the NCAA College Division Playoffs.
- Monday’s win was the 25th of the season for the Beacons. Valpo now has won 25+ matches in a season 12 times in program history, including in 10 of head coach Carin Avery’s 20 seasons at the helm of the program.
- Incredibly, Monday’s victory was Valpo’s fourth of the season over Evansville, as the Beacons bested the Purple Aces in both regular season meetings, their conference tournament matchup and their postseason tournament showdown. The first three wins had all come by 3-1 finals prior to Monday’s sweep.
- Each of Valpo’s first three NIVC wins have come via the sweep, the first time Valpo has swept three straight matches since earning 3-0 wins over Indiana State, Missouri State and Southern Illinois in October 2019.
- The balanced team effort Monday featured five players between seven and 10 kills. Ravotto led the way with 10 kills on a career-best .500 hitting, needing just 18 swings to reach double digits in kills.
- Valpo is 11-1 this season when Ravotto posts at least 10 kills.
- Swistek added nine kills and eight digs at the other outside hitter spot.
- Maddy Boyer (Batavia, Ill./Batavia) had a super-efficient night on the attack, racking up kills on eight of her 11 swings to hit .727 for the match. Hart notched eight kills as well, doing so on .353 hitting.
- Cooper rounded out the group of five attackers with seven kills on .385 hitting and led the way on the block, as she was part of five of Valpo’s six team blocks.
- As a team, Valpo hit .330 on Monday (46-12-103) to match a season best for team hitting percentage.
- Anderson enjoyed a career-best night setting the ball, as 22 of her 37 sets were put away for kills for an astounding .595 setting percentage.
- Rylee Cookerly (Brownsburg, Ind./Brownsburg) led all players with 12 digs despite numerous quick rallies and added seven assists as well.
- Cookerly now owns 3,151 career digs, 25 shy of the NCAA D-I career record. She also moved into 10th position overall in program history for a single season in digs, ending the night with 637 digs this year.
- McCarthy moved into ninth position in program history for career kills, ending the sweep with 1,194 kills — just one shy of eighth place.
- Anderson has dished out 4,584 career assists and moved up a spot on Valpo’s career digs chart on Monday, as with 1,275 career digs, she now ranks 14th.
Valpo (25-9) will await the result of Wednesday’s UConn-North Florida quarterfinal on its side of the bracket to find out date, location and opponent for its next match.