The Valpo volleyball team continued its early-season run on Saturday, clinching the Akron Invitational championship with a 3-1 (23-25, 25-23, 25-20, 25-11) victory at Cleveland State. With the win, the Beacons improve to 9-0 on the season and match the 2015 team for the longest winning streak to start a season in program history.
How It Happened
- Valpo led from the start of set one and extended its lead to seven points at the halfway mark of the frame. But with the score 19-15, CSU reeled off seven of the next eight points to pull ahead 22-20, and the teams traded sideouts the rest of the way as the Vikings took the opener.
- A 7-1 run around the midpoint of the second set — a spurt which featured two kills and a block by junior Mallory Januski (Bourbonnais, Ill./Bradley-Bourbonnais) — took an 11-10 deficit and turned it into a 17-12 lead for the Beacons.
- Cleveland State closed to within 20-18, but Valpo came through with four of the next six points to earn set point at 24-20. Three chances to even the match came and went as CSU picked up three straight kills, but at 24-23, senior Kara Cooper (LaPorte, Ind./LaPorte) came through with a kill to end the second set in Valpo’s favor.
- The third set was the tightest early on as the two sides vied for control, featuring 12 ties and five lead changes. The key run came with the score knotted at 15 apiece, as senior Bella Ravotto (Mishawaka, Ind./Marian) recorded a kill and then stepped back to the service line and served four in a row as Valpo pulled ahead, 20-15. The lead remained at least three points the rest of the way as the Beacons took the 2-1 lead in the match.
- On the flip side, the fourth set was all Valpo, as the Beacons led start to finish. Valpo hit .317 with 16 kills in the frame and limited CSU to six kills on .000 hitting. The Beacons closed the match in style, scoring the final five points in a row — the last coming on a kill by senior Gretchen Kuckkan (Lafayette, Ind./Central Catholic [Indiana State]) — to complete their ninth straight victory.
Inside the Match
- Valpo held a 19-kill advantage over the Vikings, finishing with a 60-41 lead in the category. The Beacons have not posted fewer kills than their opponent in any match this season.
- Valpo recorded a season-high 98 digs, helping to limit Cleveland State to .086 hitting — the second-lowest hitting percentage for a Valpo opponent so far this year.
- Ravotto and Cooper tied for team-high honors with 15 kills apiece. For Ravotto, the 15 kills were one off her season high and came as part of her second consecutive double-double, as she tallied 30 digs in the back row — the second 30-dig effort of her career.
- Meanwhile, less than 24 hours after setting a career high with 18 kills, Cooper registered the second-highest kill total of her career with her 15 in Saturday’s win.
- Januski joined the aforementioned duo in double figures in the kills column with a career-best 12 kills on .500 hitting. The junior also was part of a team-best four blocks.
- Junior Victoria Bulmahn (McCordsville, Ind./Mt. Vernon) tied her season high as she dished out 29 assists.
- Freshman Emma Hickey (Granger, Ind./Penn) matched her season best with 28 digs. The first-year libero has tallied at least 20 digs in six of her first nine matches.
Inside the Tournament
- The win secured the Akron Invitational title for Valpo, its third tournament title in as many weekends to open the season.
- Valpo has won 32 in-season tournament titles under head coach Carin Avery.
- This is the fifth time in Avery’s tenure that Valpo has captured three in-season championships in the same season, joining the 2006, 2010, 2014 and 2018 squads. The 2010 team is the only other one of that group which won them on each of the season’s first three weekends.
- The Beacons’ defense was key to this weekend’s triumph, as Valpo limited its opponents to .078 hitting and averaged 18.73 digs and 2.77 blocks per set.
Inside the Winning Streak
- This is the second time in program history that Valpo has won nine consecutive matches to open a season, as this year’s Beacons join the 2015 team as the only ones to start a campaign 9-0.
- This year’s squad has had to battle a bit more, however. The 2015 team dropped just three sets in those nine matches, while the 2022 team has dropped eight sets.
- This marks the 11th time in program history that Valpo has won at least nine straight matches at any point of the season, nine of which have come under Avery. There have been six double-digit winning streaks all time, including the record 14-match winning streak in 2004.
Valpo (9-0) closes out nonconference action next weekend at UTSA’s Roadrunner Classic. The Beacons will face UIW and Houston Baptist in San Antonio in addition to the hosts.