It’s a milestone that has become routine for the Valpo volleyball program, yet still impressive when the Beacons hit it each season, as this year’s squad reached the 20-win mark for the year Friday evening with a 3-1 victory (25-21, 25-22, 19-25, 25-16) at Belmont. Along with the team milestone, junior Victoria Bulmahn (McCordsville, Ind./Mt. Vernon) hit an individual mark as well, surpassing 2,000 career assists in the victory.
How It Happened
- The first set featured multiple runs by both squads, with neither unable to grab a foothold in the opening frame. The largest lead for either side was three, and Valpo’s three-point edge came at 19-16 following a Bulmahn service ace.
- Belmont responded with four of the next five points to tie things up at 20-20 heading into the closing points.
- A Belmont service error was followed by an ace by freshman Emma Hickey (Granger, Ind./Penn), and a subsequent setter dump from Bulmahn made it 23-20 Valpo. A Belmont block cut the lead to two, but first junior Mallory Januski (Bourbonnais, Ill./Bradley-Bourbonnais) and then senior Maddy Boyer (Batavia, Ill./Batavia) tallied kills to close the opener in Valpo’s favor.
- Valpo overcame an early three-point deficit in set two and took the lead for good on a kill from senior Miranda Strongman (Wolverine Lake, Mich./Walled Lake Central) as part of a 5-0 run which gave the Beacons an 11-8 lead.
- The Beacons led by four points multiple times in the second set, but each time Belmont rallied to cut it to a one-point set, the latest coming at 22-21.
- Valpo kept the Bruins from leveling the set thanks to kills from seniors Kara Cooper (LaPorte, Ind./LaPorte) and Gretchen Kuckkan (Lafayette, Ind./Central Catholic [Indiana State]), giving the Beacons set point at 24-21. On its second opportunity, Valpo took the set and a 2-1 lead in the match thanks to another Kuckkan kill.
- Belmont rode a .500 hitting percentage in the third set to extend the match, as the Bruins never trailed in that frame.
- Valpo trailed 6-5 early in set four before scoring four straight to erase the deficit, and the Beacons would never trail again on their way to closing out the victory. The Bruins scored three consecutive points to tie the frame at 9-9, but Valpo did not allow consecutive points from that point forward, scoring seven of the next 10 points and pulling away.
Inside the Match
- Valpo reached the 20-win mark with Friday’s victory, the 17th time in the 21 seasons head coach Carin Avery has been at the helm of the program it has won at least 20 matches.
- Even more impressive, one of the four seasons Valpo did not won 20 matches in that stretch was the shortened spring 2021 campaign, when the program played just 20 matches total.
- Bulmahn became the 11th player in Valpo volleyball history to reach 2,000 career assists, doing so on a kill by Januski early in the fourth set. She tallied 24 assists and 11 digs in the victory for her seventh double-double of the year.
- Fellow setter Addy Kois (Osceola, Ind./Penn) also had a strong match, handing out 31 assists.
- The work of Valpo’s setters helped the Beacons post 67 kills on .300 hitting. The 67 kills are the second-most by Valpo in a single match this year, while it is the fourth time the Beacons have hit at least .300 in a match.
- Valpo’s marks of 67 kills and 63 assists both just missed cracking the program’s single-match top-five in the 25-point era in the respective categories.
- The balance of the attack was impressive on Friday evening, both within the personnel and from set to set.
- Six different attackers totaled between seven and 13 kills Friday night, paced by Kuckkan and Boyer, who each tied for match-high honors with 13 kills. Boyer hit .345 and added four blocks as well.
- Januski made it three Beacons in double figures in the kills column, hitting .500 with 12 kills while also leading all players with five blocks. Valpo is now a perfect 7-0 on the season when the junior tallies at least 10 kills.
- Cooper and senior Bella Ravotto (Mishawaka, Ind./Marian) each added eight kills, while Strongman finished with seven kills on .357 hitting.
- Valpo hit at least .256 and tallied at least 15 kills in each of Friday’s four sets.
- On the defensive side of things, freshman Emma Hickey (Granger, Ind./Penn) continued her standout rookie campaign at libero with a match-best 28 digs. Hickey has registered 575 digs on the season, just 11 shy of Valpo’s single-season top-10 in the 25-point era.
- Ravotto added 14 digs as well in the victory, in the process moving past 1,200 digs for her career.
Valpo (20-6, 8-6 MVC) turns its sights to Murray State and the potential to clinch an MVC Championship berth on Saturday, as a victory over the Racers would guarantee the Beacons a spot in the tournament field. The matchup with Murray State — which had its Friday night scheduled contest with UIC declared a no contest due to a power outage across campus — will begin at 3 p.m. and can be seen live on ESPN3.