Make more room in the trophy case – the Valpo volleyball program has won yet another tournament championship. This time, the Beacons claimed top honors at the DoubleTree-Youngstown Invitational on Saturday afternoon by taking down host Youngstown State in four sets (25-18, 21-25, 25-10, 25-18) to make it a happy bus ride home.
How It Happened
- Valpo took control of the opening set with a five-point spurt around the midway point, pulling out to a 14-8 advantage. That 5-0 run included a kill and a service ace from senior Bella Ravotto (Mishawaka, Ind./Marian).
- The Beacons pushed their lead to double figures at 20-10 with a block by junior Mallory Januski (Bourbonnais, Ill./Bradley-Bourbonnais) and senior Kara Cooper (LaPorte, Ind./LaPorte), and eventually closed the opening frame with a rejection from seniors Rachel Speck (Whitmore Lake, Mich./Whitmore Lake) and Maddy Boyer (Batavia, Ill./Batavia)
- The Penguins ran out to a quick 9-1 lead in set two and led by as many as nine points at 12-3. Valpo rallied with spurts of four straight and seven straight points to even up the frame at 16-all, but could never grab the lead as YSU went on to even up the match at one set apiece.
- The third set was simply all Valpo from the onset. Ravotto had kills on four straight points as part of a seven-point service run by Addy Kois (Osceola, Ind./Penn) to open the frame. The Beacons opened leads of 13-2 and 19-3 as they cruised to the 2-1 lead in the match, hitting .395 for the set.
- The fourth set proved to be the tightest of the match, featuring 10 ties and three lead changes. Neither team had more than a two-point lead at any point as the set reached a 16-16 tie.
- Once again, it was Ravotto who put her stamp on the key run. She picked up a kill to give Valpo the lead for good, stepped back to the service line and served the next five points — two of which were service aces — to extend Valpo’s advantage to 22-16. From there, it was just a matter of seeing out the match as the Beacons concluded the perfect opening weekend.
Inside the Match
- Valpo held a distinct advantage on both sides of the ball over YSU in Saturday’s win. The Beacons enjoyed a 61-37 edge in kills, out-hit the Penguins .277-.144 and held a 70-59 advantage in digs.
- For the second straight day, Ravotto posted her second-highest number of kills in the Valpo uniform, as she finished with a match-best 16 terminations on .302 hitting. She also tallied three service aces, two of which came in the critical stretch late in the fourth set.
- Valpo is now 15-3 during Ravotto’s career when she posts at least 10 kills and 8-2 when she paces the squad in kills.
- Ravotto had plenty of help Saturday as, just like on Friday, it was a total team effort. Sophomore Elise Swistek (LaPorte, Ind./New Prairie) came off the bench to notch 14 digs and nine kills on .368 hitting, while for the second straight day, Januski set a career high, tallying nine kills on .471 hitting along with three blocks.
- Boyer posted eight kills to go with three blocks, while Cooper hit .500 with eight kills of her own.
- Speck set a career best with six kills and matched her career high while tying for match-high honors with four blocks.
- Setting up the offense, Kois just missed a double-double as she delivered 27 assists and nine digs, while junior Victoria Bulmahn (McCordsville, Ind./Mt. Vernon) tallied 19 assists and set at a .452 clip.
- Freshman Emma Hickey (Granger, Ind./Penn) led all players with 28 digs to cap a strong opening weekend as the Beacons’ libero.
- Valpo is now 30-8 all-time against Youngstown State, including a 20-4 mark under head coach Carin Avery. YSU is the fourth opponent in program history which Valpo holds at least 30 victories over, joining Chicago State, UIC and Western Illinois.
Inside the Tournament
- Valpo took the tournament title, dropping just two sets in its three victories on the opening weekend of action.
- It is the 30th in-season tournament title for the Valpo program in Avery’s tenure at the program, as the team has won at least one tournament in 16 of her 21 seasons at the helm.
- It is the second in-season tournament title in Avery’s tenure in the state of Ohio and the first since winning the 2006 Miami Thanksgiving Invitational.
- It is the eighth title for Avery’s squads on the opening weekend of the season and the first since the 2015 team won the Chattanooga Classic en route to a 9-0 start to the season.
- Valpo’s offense dominated the opposition over the course of the tournament, averaging over five kills more per set and hitting at a .266 clip. It was the program’s best hitting percentage in a tournament (minimum three matches) since the 2018 squad hit .292 over three victories at Air Force’s Amy Svoboda Memorial Classic.
Valpo (3-0) hosts its first home tournament since 2018 next weekend as the Popcorn Classic returns, with SIUE, Campbell and Northern Illinois comprising the rest of the field.