It was a vintage Valpo volleyball match at the ARC Saturday evening — strong defense, extended rallies, highs and lows throughout the contest. And when the dust settled against MVC newcomer Belmont, it was the Beacons who emerged victorious, downing the Bruins in five sets (25-23, 25-21, 20-25, 22-25, 15-9) for their 17th win of the season and their fourth victory in a row.
How It Happened
- It was a battle for control early in the decisive fifth set before the Beacons came up with the first extended run of the frame. Seniors Kara Cooper (LaPorte, Ind./LaPorte) and Miranda Strongman (Wolverine Lake, Mich./Walled Lake Central [LIU]) started the run with a block, a spurt which included a service ace by freshman Emma Hickey (Granger, Ind./Penn) and a kill by junior Mallory Januski (Bourbonnais, Ill./Bradley-Bourbonnais) as Valpo scored five in a row to go up 7-3.
- Belmont scored the next three to pull back within one point. Cooper tallied a kill and Januski combined with senior Bella Ravotto (Mishawaka, Ind./Marian) on a rejection to push the advantage to 9-6, but the Bruins responded with two points in a row of their own to make it 9-8.
- Ravotto prevented a longer Belmont run with a kill and then rotated back to the service line and served the next three points — two of which were Januski kills — as Valpo took control of the set. A sideout by Belmont was answered by a kill from senior Maddy Boyer (Batavia, Ill./Batavia) to give the Beacons match point, and it took just one chance for Valpo to close out the marathon win thanks to a kill from sophomore Elise Swistek (LaPorte, Ind./New Prairie).
- Valpo looked poised to potentially claim its second straight victory via the sweep as it took the first two sets of the evening. The Beacons captured the opening frame, a set which featured 13 ties and six lead changes and in which neither team held more than a three-point lead. With the score tied at 23 late, it was first Cooper and then Ravotto who picked up kills to close the opener in Valpo’s favor.
- A big mid-set run was the key to the second set, as Valpo reeled off nine points in a row on the serve of Januski to turn a 12-9 deficit into an 18-12 lead. The junior had a pair of service aces during the run, while four different Beacons had kills during that stretch as well. Belmont got no closer than three points the rest of the way as Valpo took a 2-0 lead in the match.
- Mid-set runs helped Belmont gain control of both sets three and four, as the Bruins held Valpo under .100 hitting in both sets. Five points in a row turned a 16-15 Valpo lead into a 20-16 Belmont advantage in the third, while the Bruins scored six out of seven to pull ahead 20-15 in the fourth. Valpo did close to within one late at 23-22 in the fourth set, but back-to-back kills for Belmont extended the match to the fifth set.
Inside the Match
- Valpo remains tied for the national lead in wins, picking up its 17th win of the season on Saturday.
- This year’s squad is tied for the best record in program history through 19 matches. The 2018 team also sat at 17-2 through 19 contests.
- The Beacons improved to 5-1 this season in five-set matches and have won three times this year when dropping sets three and four after winning the opening two frames.
- As mentioned in the lede, there were plenty of extended rallies on display Saturday night at the ARC, which resulted in some eye-popping numbers in the box score — most notably when it came to attacks and digs.
- Valpo racked up 117 digs over Saturday’s five sets, fourth-most in program history in a five-set match in the 25-point era. The 117 digs are the most in a single match by an MVC team this season, nine ahead of Belmont’s 108 on Saturday, which ranks second.
- Leading the way in that column individually was Hickey, who delivered a season-best 37 digs in the win — second-most by a Valpo freshman in a single match all-time. She now ranks fifth in program history in the 25-point era in a five-set match, while she is tied for MVC-high honors this season with Belmont libero Rachel McBride, who also picked up 37 Saturday evening.
- Swistek stood out as well for her back-row defense in the victory, surpassing her career high as well as she racked up 31 digs, a career best by four.
- Hickey and Swistek became the first pair of Valpo players to each register 30+ digs in the same match in program history.
- Ravotto made it three Beacons with 20+ digs as she notched 20 digs in the win, the seventh time in her career she has hit the 20-dig mark.
- Valpo tallied 224 total attack attempts on Saturday, six shy of cracking the program’s top-five in a match in the 25-point era. The 224 attacks are second-most by an MVC team in a match this season, trailing only Belmont’s Saturday total of 226.
- Leading the way in terms of swings was Cooper, who demolished her previous career high by taking 56 swings from her right side position. Coming into Saturday, Cooper’s career high for attempts in a match was 34.
- Not so coincidentally, Cooper came away with a career high in kills as well, totaling 20 terminations to lead all players.
- Swistek registered 13 kills as part of her double-double, while Januski was in double figures for the sixth time this year with 10 kills to help Valpo best Belmont in the kills department, 66-56.
- Both of Valpo’s setters posted double-doubles in Saturday’s win — junior Victoria Bulmahn (McCordsville, Ind./Mt. Vernon) finished with a season-high 35 assists and 11 digs, while redshirt freshman Addy Kois (Osceola, Ind./Penn) picked up 21 assists and 13 digs.
- The Beacons finished in double figures for team blocks for the seventh time this season, recording 12 total rejections. Januski and Strongman tied for the team high with six, while Cooper was part of five blocks and Ravotto joined in four to match her career best.
Valpo (17-2, 5-2 MVC) takes to the road for its next four conference matches, starting next weekend with the road swing through Iowa. The trip begins Friday night at 6 p.m. at Drake.