The Valpo volleyball team once again walked away with the hardware from its home tournament, as the Beacons closed a perfect 3-0 weekend hosting the Popcorn Classic at the ARC with a 3-0 (25-17, 25-22, 25-22) sweep of Oakland on Saturday evening.
How It Happened
- Valpo started the opening set on a tear, taking five of the first six points — including a pair of kills from fifth-year Bella Ravotto (Mishawaka, Ind./Marian) — to go on top early. Oakland came back to tie the score at 6-6 and 7-7, but the Beacons wouldn’t let the Golden Grizzlies pull ahead, as junior Elise Swistek (LaPorte, Ind./New Prairie) tallied three kills in another 5-1 spurt which gave Valpo a 12-8 edge.
- Oakland got back to within one point at 12-11 after scoring three in a row, but that was as close as it would get. The Beacons scored four of the next five points and never looked back, siding out on every Oakland serve the rest of the set on their way to claiming the opener.
- Valpo led early in set two before the Golden Grizzlies went on a 6-1 run, which turned a 7-4 Valpo lead into a 10-8 Oakland advantage. Oakland extended its lead to as many as four points on multiple occasions, the latest coming at 18-14.
- The Beacons tried to seize control at that point, reeling off five consecutive points — including back-to-back terminations by redshirt sophomore Sam Warren (Kentland, Ind./South Newton) — to storm back in front, 19-18.
- Oakland looked poised to have weathered the storm, though, as it answered with three points in a row to retake the lead at 21-19. Fifth-year Miranda Strongman (Wolverine Lake, Mich./Walled Lake Central [LIU]) came up with a kill to bring Valpo within one, but Oakland answered with a kill of its own to push the lead back to two.
- Warren came up with another big kill for the Beacons to claim the serve again trailing by just one, and senior Victoria Bulmahn (McCordsville, Ind./Mt. Vernon) stepped back to the service line and served out the set. An Oakland error tied things up at 22-22, followed by a Ravotto kill to give the Beacons the lead. Strongman and senior Olivia Blackketter (Bloomington, Ind./Bloomington South [Winthrop]) then combined on a block to make it set point Valpo, and Blackketter put down the big kill to complete the late comeback and make it a 2-0 Valpo lead in the match.
- The match looked destined to go at least four sets early in the third frame, as Oakland jumped out to a quick 8-1 lead, forcing Valpo to use both of its timeouts.
- The Beacons chipped away, and when Warren came up with three straight kills, Valpo was as close as it had been since the early stages, trailing just 11-9. Oakland scored three in a row to again push the lead to five points, but Valpo came back with three in a row of its own, including a kill and a block from senior Mallory Januski (Bourbonnais, Ill./Bradley-Bourbonnais).
- The big spurt came with Oakland holding a 16-13 lead, as the Beacons scored four in a row — two points coming on Blackketter kills and another on a Ravotto kill — and after the Grizzlies tied things up at 17-17, another Blackketter kill and an OU error gave Valpo a 19-17 lead.
- A few points later, Swistek and Januski posted kills on consecutive points to push the lead to 23-19. A kill by Swistek gave Valpo match point at 24-21, and on its second chance, the junior finished out the tournament win with another kill.
Inside the Tournament
- Valpo has won eight in-season tournaments at home in 12 attempts under head coach Carin Avery and owns a 35-5 overall record in those 12 tournaments.
- The program has claimed 34 in-season tournament championships in all under Avery and has won at least one crown in 17 of her 22 seasons.
- Saturday’s other results included a 3-1 Oakland win over Western Illinois in the day’s opening match and a 3-2 thriller for Eastern Michigan over WIU in the middle match.
- Valpo closed the tournament with a 3-0 record, Oakland finished second at 2-1, EMU went 1-2 and WIU finished 0-3.
Inside the Match
- It was a balanced effort offensively for the Beacons in Saturday’s sweep, while Valpo’s defense limited the Golden Grizzlies to just .113 hitting on the evening.
- Ravotto and Swistek tied for team-high honors with eight kills each. Ravotto also led the Beacons with 16 digs, while Swistek was right behind her with 15 digs.
- Ravotto excelled in serve reception as well, as Valpo got first-ball kills on 11 of her 18 serve receives.
- A trio of Beacons posted seven kills each. Blackketter hit .333 with seven kills to tie her high in her time at Valpo, while also posting three blocks. Januski hit .368 with seven kills and three blocks as well, while Warren hit .412, tallying seven kills on just 17 swings with no attack errors.
- Strongman added six terminations and was in on a match-best four blocks.
- Bulmahn dished out 20 assists in the sweep, while redshirt sophomore Addy Kois (Osceola, Ind./Penn) tallied 18 assists.
- Sophomore libero Emma Hickey (Granger, Ind./Penn) posted 15 digs and was perfect in serve receive as well.
- The win came over an Oakland program which Valpo has previously shared conference affiliation with in the Mid-Continent Conference and the Horizon League. With Saturday’s win in the programs’ first meeting since 2016, Valpo is now 23-7 all-time against the Golden Grizzlies.
Valpo (5-2) heads to Clarksville, Tenn. next weekend for Austin Peay’s Stacheville Challenge, where the Beacons will take on Indiana and Lindenwood in addition to host APSU. The Beacons open the tournament Friday at noon versus Indiana.