The Valpo volleyball team came within one set of winning both matches on its opening day of action at the EIU Volleyball Invitational in Charleston, Ill. on Friday, but after sweeping Akron 3-0 (25-21, 25-19, 25-21) in their morning match, the Beacons dropped a 3-2 (18-25, 25-20, 18-25, 25-21, 15-4) decision to the host Panthers in the nightcap.
How It Happened – Akron
- Valpo seemingly gained control in the opening half of the first set, leading by six points at 13-7, but a six-point run by the Zips tied the frame at 13 apiece.
- The set was still tied at 17-all before Valpo put together a 6-1 run to take control for good. Fifth-year Bella Ravotto (Mishawaka, Ind./Marian) converted a kill on Valpo’s second set point chance to give the Beacons the opener.
- It was a start-to-finish set win for the Beacons in the second frame. Senior Olivia Blackketter (Bloomington, Ind./Bloomington South [Winthrop]) had three early kills as Valpo jumped out to an 8-3 lead, and the advantage didn’t fall under three points the rest of the way.
- It looked like Valpo had the third frame locked away, as after leading by as many as six points during the set, the Beacons still held an 18-13 lead late. Much like the first set, though, Akron had a run waiting, scoring seven of the next nine points to even things up at 20 each.
- The Beacons responded immediately when Akron tied the score, however, as they reeled off four points in a row with junior Abby Boyle (Byron Center, Mich./Byron Center) serving. On its second match point chance, Valpo closed out the sweep with another kill from Ravotto.
How It Happened – EIU
- Valpo claimed the first set for a second straight match, pulling away late with an 8-1 run — which included three blocks by Blackketter and a pair of rejections for fifth-year Miranda Strongman (Wolverine Lake, Mich./Walled Lake Central [LIU]) — after the frame was tied at 17-17.
- The Beacons led by a comfortable margin past the halfway mark of the second set, but with the advantage at 14-9, the Panthers reeled off seven points in a row to take the lead. Valpo tied the frame three times after that point, the latest at 19-19, before EIU closed the set with a 6-1 run to level the match.
- Valpo took control of the third set with a 4-0 spurt — including two kills by senior Mallory Januski (Bourbonnais, Ill./Bradley-Bourbonnais) — after the Panthers claimed the opening point. The Beacons never let EIU back within one point after that mark, and a kill from redshirt sophomore Sam Warren (Kentland, Ind./South Newton) eventually closed the set to give Valpo a 2-1 lead in the match.
- The fourth set proved to be the most closely contested of the match, with 10 tie scores along the way. After trailing 14-10, Valpo rallied to gain the lead at 16-15 on a block from Strongman and Ravotto, and pushed the lead out to 20-18 on a Januski kill. But the Panthers had the final run of the set in them, scoring seven of the final eight points to force the fifth frame.
- The momentum from the end of the fourth set carried into the fifth set for EIU, as it scored the first 11 points of the frame en route to the victory.
Inside the Matches
- Valpo extended its winning streak for in-season tournament matches to 15 straight dating back to the 2021 season with the victory over Akron before falling to EIU.
- The sweep of Akron was the program’s first in a season-opening match since the 2008 squad took down Nevada in straight sets.
- Valpo tallied nine service aces against Eastern Illinois, tied for fourth-most in a five-set match in the 25-point era. It was the most aces by a Valpo team since posting nine aces in a win over Indiana State on March 21, 2021.
- Ravotto led the way in the win over the Zips with 10 kills, her 28th career match with double figures in kills. Valpo is 22-6 all-time when Ravotto tallies at least 10 terminations.
- After appearing in just 16 sets total in her first season of action at Valpo last season, Warren started this season at right side and made an immediate impact in the Akron victory. Warren smashed her career best with nine kills, hitting at a .389 clip, and also tied her career high with four blocks.
- On her return to the lineup from an injury which cost her the last month and a half last year, junior Elise Swistek (LaPorte, Ind./New Prairie) notched eight kills and 10 digs against Akron before pacing the Beacons with 13 kills versus EIU.
- Moving to the right side and playing regularly in Valpo’s 6-2, Blackketter was strong on the attack in both of Friday’s matches. The senior hit .429 with six kills in the win over Akron and followed with an identical hitting percentage on seven kills against EIU while adding four blocks as well.
- Januski hit double figures in kills for the ninth time in her career in the nightcap, posting 11 kills. She tied for team-high honors in the opener with five rejections, sharing that mark with Strongman, who tallied five more blocks to lead the Beacons while hitting .538 with seven kills against EIU.
- Redshirt sophomore Addy Kois (Osceola, Ind./Penn) tallied team-high assist totals in both contests, posting 20 helpers against Akron and 23 versus EIU.
- Coming off a standout rookie season, sophomore libero Emma Hickey (Granger, Ind./Penn) led all players with 21 digs in the win over Akron and added a team-best 16 digs in the nightcap.
- Senior setter Victoria Bulmahn (McCordsville, Ind./Mt. Vernon) picked up her 34th career double-double against EIU, tallying 17 assists and 12 digs.
- A trio of Valpo newcomers made their debuts in the Beacon uniform in the second half of the fifth set versus EIU. Freshman Kennedy Arp (Byron Center, Mich./South Christian) came in and was part of a pair of blocks, while freshman Mara Thomas (Bogart, Ga./Athens Academy) picked up an assist and a dig. Fifth-year Laura Ilizastigui (Bogota, Colombia/Integrado de Fontibón [Chicago State]) also saw action late in the final set of the evening.
- In the win over Akron, the Valpo offense clicked at a .261 hitting percentage while limiting Akron to .116 hitting.
- The Beacons posted 10 team blocks in both of Friday’s matches.
Valpo (2-1) looks to end the weekend on a winning note on Saturday morning when the Beacons face ULM at 11 a.m. The match can be seen live on ESPN+, with links for the live video and live stats available at ValpoAthletics.com.