The Valpo volleyball team put the proverbial cherry on top of a perfect run through the pre-conference portion of its schedule on Saturday, sweeping Houston Baptist (25-21, 25-22, 25-20) to win the Roadrunner Classic in San Antonio, Texas. The tournament title is the fourth of the season for the Beacons, setting a program record for most in-season tournaments won in a single campaign, and extended the best start in program history to 12-0.
How It Happened
- The first set was nip and tuck throughout, with a total of 14 ties and eight lead changes. Neither squad was able to gain more than a two-point lead until late in the frame.
- The key run came with Valpo trailing 18-17, as the Beacons rattled off six of the next seven points to turn the deficit into a 23-19 lead. Kara Cooper (LaPorte, Ind./LaPorte) got the run going with a kill, Addy Kois (Osceola, Ind./Penn) delivered a service ace and Mallory Januski (Bourbonnais, Ill./Bradley-Bourbonnais) capped the stretch with a kill and a solo block.
- The teams traded sideouts for the final four points of the set, with a Maddy Boyer (Batavia, Ill./Batavia) closing out the opener in Valpo’s favor.
- The Beacons seemed to gain a tight grip on the second set early on, as a 6-0 run on the service of Emma Hickey (Granger, Ind./Penn) put them ahead 8-2. The lead reached as many as eight points at 12-4, but HBU quickly turned the tables as it scored nine of the next 12 points to cut the advantage to 15-12.
- Bella Ravotto (Mishawaka, Ind./Marian) had a trio of kills during a stretch which pushed Valpo’s lead back out to seven points, as the Beacons earned set point at 24-17. The Huskies held off five set points, moving within 24-22, but Gretchen Kuckkan (Lafayette, Ind./Central Catholic [Indiana State]) came in cold off the bench and delivered a kill on her first swing of the match to finish out the set and make it 2-0 Valpo.
- The third set eventually contained 11 ties and four lead changes, but it didn’t look like it would be that tight early on, as Valpo jumped out to an 11-7 lead approaching the halfway mark. The Huskies came back with a 7-2 run to take the lead and set up a run of ties on every point from 13 to 19.
- The last of those ties came courtesy of a kill by Januski to erase a one-point HBU lead, and Kois followed that up with back-to-back service aces. Boyer then sandwiched kills around a hitting error by the Huskies as Valpo rolled off six points in a row to reach match point at 24-19. On their second chance, the Beacons completed the sweep on a kill by Januski, fitting considering the monster weekend the junior had.
Inside the Match
- Ranked in the top-10 nationally in kills/set entering the weekend, Valpo more than kept up its pace on the attack Saturday, racking up 47 kills over the three sets. The Beacons have tied or bettered their opponent’s output in the kills column in each of their 12 matches this season.
- Leading the way on the attack Saturday were Strongman and Boyer. Strongman picked up 10 kills, her top output in her time at Valpo, on .375 hitting and also tied for team-high honors with three blocks, while Boyer notched 10 kills on .273 hitting.
- Ravotto and Januski posted eight kills apiece as well, the latter doing so while hitting at a .500 clip.
- Kois dished out 24 assists and tallied three service aces in the sweep, while Victoria Bulmahn (McCordsville, Ind./Mt. Vernon) handed out 15 helpers.
- Elise Swistek (LaPorte, Ind./New Prairie) led the Beacons in digs for the third time in her career and posted her second-highest total in the category with 21 digs. Hickey notched 18 digs and Ravotto 17 as well.
Inside the Tournament
- The win secured the Roadrunner Classic title for Valpo, its fourth championship in as many weekends this season.
- Valpo has won 33 in-season tournament titles under head coach Carin Avery. Those titles have come in 14 different states, with this weekend marking the first title in a tournament in Texas. In fact, this weekend was the first time the Valpo volleyball program has ever played in Texas.
- This is the first time in program history Valpo has won four in-season tournaments in the same season. The program had four times previously captured three titles in the same year.
- Valpo’s offense was as strong as it has been all season this weekend, averaging 14.64 kills/set — nearly four full kills per frame more than its opponents. The Beacons also hit .250 over the three matches, 99 points better than their opponents.
Inside the Streak
- The best start to a season in program history extended to 12-0 with Saturday’s win.
- In fact, this year’s team is already tied for the second-most wins by a Valpo team before suffering its second loss. The 2014 team was 14-1 before taking its second loss, while the 2015 team was 12-1.
- The 12-match winning streak stands alone as the fourth-longest in program history. The 2004 team holds the program record with 14 consecutive wins, while the 2008 and 2014 squads both had streaks of 13 straight wins.
With the nonconference slate behind it, Valpo (12-0) turns its eyes to the Missouri Valley Conference schedule. Conference play gets off to a quick start with three matches in four days next weekend, starting with a Friday night match against UNI. First serve Friday evening is set for 6 p.m. and the match can be seen live on ESPN3.