It might be a new season, but at least on opening day of the 2022 campaign, it’s the same results you’ve come to know and love from the Valpo volleyball program. The Beacons kicked off the season with a pair of wins Friday at the DoubleTree-Youngstown Invitational in Youngstown, Ohio, dispatching Delaware State, 3-1 (25-18, 19-25, 25-23, 25-21), in the season opener before sweeping Idaho (25-16, 25-19, 25-15) later that afternoon.
How It Happened – Delaware State
- Valpo took the lead for good in the opening set with a four-point spurt that pushed its advantage to 12-8. Senior Bella Ravotto (Mishawaka, Ind./Marian) had a pair of kills during that stretch.
- Delaware State was still within three points at 19-16 before the Beacons scored six of the final eight points to claim the set, the last two of which came on consecutive kills from Ravotto.
- After hitting .346 in the opening set, Valpo’s offense cooled off to .000 in set two and the Hornets pulled away in the second half of the frame to even the match at one set apiece.
- The Beacons bounced back in the third set, leading from the get-go and pushing its lead to as many as four points. But with the lead at 19-17, DSU rattled off four straight points to pull ahead for the first time in the frame.
- Valpo scored the next three to retake the lead, and the teams then traded points to tie at 22-22 and 23-23. With the opportunity for set point in the balance, junior Mallory Januski (Bourbonnais, Ill./Bradley-Bourbonnais) came through with a kill, and the Beacons closed out the frame with a kill from sophomore Elise Swistek (LaPorte, Ind./New Prairie).
- Delaware State led throughout the first half of the fourth set, leading by as many as four points. Trailing 12-11, Valpo put together the critical run, scoring eight of the next 10 points thanks in part to kills from five different attackers to turn the tables and go ahead, 19-14.
- The Hornets closed to 21-19 late, but the Beacons held them at bay and a kill from Ravotto eventually finished off the win.
How It Happened – Idaho
- Valpo took the lead for good early in the opening frame against the Vandals and pulled away late with a 7-1 run to go ahead in the match.
- An innocuous three-point spurt which pushed a one-point lead to four at 14-10 mid-frame in set two — a spurt which included kills from senior Gretchen Kuckkan (Lafayette, Ind./Central Catholic [Indiana State]) and junior Olivia Blackketter (Bloomington, Ind./Bloomington South [Winthrop]) — proved to be vital, as the teams combined to side out on 16 of the set’s final 20 points.
- Fittingly, it took Valpo two set points to go ahead 2-0 in the match, as Kuckkan came up with the set-closing kill. The Beacons hit at a sizzling .464 clip in the frame, needing just 28 swings to rack up 17 kills.
- Approaching the halfway mark of the third set, the score was tied at 12-all before Valpo put together a 6-0 run to pull away. Kuckkan had two kills during the run, while junior Maddy Boyer (Batavia, Ill./Batavia) had a kill and junior Victoria Bulmahn (McCordsville, Ind./Mt. Vernon) a service ace as well.
- From there, the result was academic, and the Beacons eventually closed the match on another 5-0 run, culminating in the first kill in a Valpo uniform from senior Miranda Strongman (Wolverine Lake, Mich./Walled Lake Central [LIU]).
Inside the Matches
- Valpo opened the season with back-to-back victories for the first time since 2015, also the last time it claimed an in-season tournament title on opening weekend under head coach Carin Avery. That year’s team eventually won nine straight matches to start the season and went on to 12-1 and 15-2 records.
- Friday was truly a total team effort, as 16 of Valpo’s 17 players saw action, with 13 of those appearing in at least three sets.
- With that many players getting playing time, there were certainly a number of debuts. Against Delaware State, redshirt freshman Addy Kois (Osceola, Ind./Penn) and freshmen Sophia Foster (Valparaiso, Ind./Kouts) and Emma Hickey (Granger, Ind./Penn) made their collegiate debuts, while Blackketter got her first action in a Valpo uniform.
- In the afternoon match versus Idaho, redshirt freshman Sam Warren (Kentland, Ind./South Newton) earned her first collegiate action and Strongman made her debut for Valpo.
- Ravotto entered the season opener with a streak to continue, and she did just that, as for the fourth time in her four seasons at Valpo, she began the season with a double-double. This one featured a match-high 15 kills — the second-highest total of her career — and 10 digs.
- It marked the 17th time Ravotto has reached double figures in kills and her 55th match with at least 10 digs. It was also the 14th double-double of her collegiate career, with Valpo going 11-3 in those matches.
- Boyer enjoyed a strong opener from the right side as she posted double-digit kills for the eighth time in her career, picking up 10 kills on .455 hitting. Despite playing just two sets, Swistek hit .500 with nine kills and senior Kara Cooper (LaPorte, Ind./LaPorte) added nine kills as well.
- There’s big shoes to fill at libero with the graduation of Rylee Cookerly and Valpo’s strong legacy at the position, and as a true freshman, Hickey got the nod on opening day. Hickey led all players in the match against Delaware State with 22 digs and tied for team-high honors against Idaho with nine digs.
- Libero wasn’t the only key position where a debutant was entrusted with the keys, and Kois was up to the task on Friday, splitting time at setter in Valpo’s 6-2. Kois delivered a match-high 28 assists with a .452 setting percentage in the win over DSU and set at a .476 clip with 20 assists in the sweep of Idaho.
- Bulmahn was strong as well in her reps at setter Friday, tallying 22 assists against DSU and 16 assists on .500 setting against Idaho.
- Kuckkan tied her high at Valpo with 12 kills in the sweep of the Vandals in the nightcap. Seven different Beacons had at least four kills in that victory, including eight on .417 hitting by Boyer and seven from Swistek.
- Even with numerous players seeing action on Friday, the Valpo attack was quite prolific over both matches. The Beacons held a 58-43 advantage in kills over Delaware State and out-hit the Hornets by 83 points, and then dominated Idaho in the kills department, 47-27, while hitting .317. Valpo broke the .300 mark for hitting percentage in a match just twice last season.
Valpo (2-0) goes for its 28th in-season tournament title under Avery on Saturday afternoon when it faces tournament host Youngstown State, which also won both of its matches on Friday. The decider will get underway at 1 p.m. CT, and the match can be seen live on ESPN+.