The Valpo volleyball team got its home tournament started on a winning note on Friday at the ARC, winning its first two matches of the Popcorn Classic. The Beacons opened the tournament Friday morning with a 3-1 (20-25, 25-21, 25-21, 25-23) victory over SIUE, and the evening match brought a thrilling, come-from-behind 3-2 (24-26, 25-23, 22-25, 25-20, 15-10) win against Campbell.
How It Happened – SIUE
- Valpo got out on the front foot in the opening set with the first three points, coming on a kill and two aces from sophomore Elise Swistek (LaPorte, Ind./New Prairie), but the Cougars quickly came back and took the lead for good at 10-9.
- Valpo struggled on both sides of the ball in the opening frame, hitting just .095 versus a .435 clip for SIUE, but despite that, the Beacons found themselves down by just two points late at 20-18. The Cougars scored five of the final seven points of the set, however, as Valpo dropped an opening set for the first time this season.
- Valpo held a slim lead for most of the opening half of set two and used a four-point spurt — including a kill and an ace from fifth-year Jillie Grant (Maumee, Ohio/Anthony Wayne) and a solo block by junior Mallory Januski (Bourbonnais, Ill./Bradley-Bourbonnais) — to gain separation and pull out to a five-point edge at 18-13.
- SIUE got no closer than three points the rest of the way as Valpo evened up the match. The Beacons posted 16 kills on .324 hitting in the set, the last of which was a termination by senior Rachel Speck (Whitmore Lake, Mich./Whitmore Lake) to close out the frame.
- The third set had more twists and turns than an old rickety wooden roller coaster. It was an 8-0 run to start the frame for SIUE, forcing Valpo to use both of its timeouts early on in the set.
- A kill and a service ace by Swistek sparked a 9-1 run in response from Valpo, and just like that, the Beacons were even with the Cougars at 9-9. SIUE scored the next three, however, and still led by three at 15-12.
- Valpo took its first outright lead of the set with four points in a row, capped by a service ace from Addy Kois (Osceola, Ind./Penn), to go up 16-15, but the Cougars answered with three in a row to go back in front.
- It was still a two-point SIUE lead at 19-17 before senior Maddy Boyer (Batavia, Ill./Batavia) got hot, picking up four kills and a solo block as part of a 7-0 Valpo run to gain set point at 24-19. The Cougars held off two chances, but Grant came through with a kill on the third opportunity to give Valpo the 2-1 lead in the match.
- After SIUE scored four of the first five points in set four, Valpo reeled off five in a row to take the lead for good. It looked like the Beacons would cruise to the victory as they pulled away late, 22-14, but SIUE rallied and eventually held off two match points to make it 24-23. Valpo finished it out before the set could reach extra points, as Boyer came up with a termination to close out the win.
How It Happened – Campbell
- The opening set against the Camels was tight throughout, as neither team had better than a two-point lead at any point and the frame featured 21 ties and eight lead changes.
- Trailing 23-22, Valpo scored back-to-back points — the latter a service ace from junior Victoria Bulmahn (McCordsville, Ind./Mt. Vernon) — to earn set point at 24-23 before Campbell scored the final three points of the set to take the opener.
- Valpo led by as many as five points in the second set and was still up 21-17 late before the Camels rolled off three straight to get to within 21-20. The Beacons did not let Campbell even up the score, however, and closed out the set on their third set point chance with a kill by Swistek to tie the match at one set each.
- Campbell took the lead approaching the halfway mark of the third set and kept it the rest of the way, hitting .432 for the set to pull ahead 2-1 in the match.
- A five-point service run to start set four from Bulmahn which included two kills and a block by Januski gave the Beacons a lead they would never surrender. Valpo turned the tables on Campbell in that fourth set, hitting at a .471 clip with 20 kills — the last of which came on set point from freshman libero Emma Hickey (Granger, Ind./Penn) for her first career kill — to force the decisive fifth frame.
- The service run to start the fourth set worked so well that Swistek decided to put together one of her own to start the fifth, as Valpo jumped out to a 6-0 lead. The Beacons hit .400 in the finale, and after Campbell closed to within 9-7, scored four straight to pull away. A kill by Boyer finished out the come-from-behind win.
Inside the Matches
- Valpo improved to 5-0 this season, the first time the program has won at least five in a row to open a campaign since the 2015 squad started out 9-0.
- The Beacons continued their strong offensive start to the season, hitting .229 with 54 kills in the win over SIUE, 11 more than the Cougars, and .246 with 69 kills in the win over Campbell, nine more than the Camels. Through five matches, Valpo is hitting .254 as a team and averaging nearly four kills more per set than its opponents.
- It was a balanced offensive effort in both matches, as no player had more than 12 kills in a match for Valpo on Friday. In the opener against SIUE, Boyer and Grant tallied 12 kills each — Grant doing so on .333 hitting — and Kara Cooper (LaPorte, Ind./LaPorte) added 10 kills on .421 hitting.
- In the nightcap, Swistek posted a team-high 12 kills, while three other Beacons had 11 kills: Gretchen Kuckkan (Lafayette, Ind./Central Catholic [Indiana State]), who hit .500; Januski, who set a career high and hit .474; and Cooper. Speck chipped in nine kills as well on .583 hitting.
- Kois combined for 48 assists over the two wins and Bulmahn handed out 45 assists on the day.
- Hickey led all players in digs in both contests, picking up 16 against SIUE and 22 versus Campbell. Swistek was in double figures in the category in both matches as well, while Kois notched her first career double-double against SIUE, adding 11 digs to her assist output.
- Cooper was in on six of Valpo’s seven blocks in the win over Campbell to match her career best in that category.
- In Friday’s lone neutral-site match of the tournament, Northern Illinois took down Campbell in four sets.
Valpo (5-0) takes aim at its seventh tournament title in 11 early-season home events under head coach Carin Avery on Saturday. The day’s slate includes Northern Illinois versus SIUE at 10 a.m. and SIUE versus Campbell at 2 p.m. before Valpo closes the tournament against Northern Illinois at 5 p.m.