Taking to the floor for its final home match of the season, the Valpo volleyball team looked to send its senior class out victors on Senior Night, rolling MVC regular season champions UNI in the first set. But the visiting Panthers came back with wins in each of the next three frames for a 3-1 (13-25, 25-17, 25-23, 25-14) victory.
How It Happened
- A huge early run propelled Valpo to a blowout win in the opening set, as the Beacons scored eight straight points on the serve of sophomore Emma Hickey (Granger, Ind./Penn), and after a UNI sideout, came back with five straight points on the serve of senior Victoria Bulmahn (McCordsville, Ind./Mt. Vernon) to lead 14-3.
- UNI got no closer than eight points the rest of the way in the opener, with a kill from senior Mallory Januski (Bourbonnais, Ill./Bradley-Bourbonnais) eventually finishing off the set to give Valpo the 1-0 lead in the match.
- The Beacons led for most of the first half of the second set, enjoying as much as a three-point edge, and were up 11-9 approaching the halfway mark. But UNI went on a 7-1 run to take the lead for good, a spurt which was the front half of the Panthers score 16 of the set’s final 22 points to even the match through two sets.
- The most tightly contested set of the match was the third frame, with 12 ties and four lead changes. Valpo held a four-point edge in the first half of the set, 10-6, but UNI rallied to take the lead by 13-12.
- The Panthers led 16-14 before the Beacons rattled off five straight points to take a three-point lead at 19-16. But a few points later, UNI completely erased Valpo’s lead with a four-point spurt to go up 21-20. The teams traded six straight sideouts, giving the Panthers set point at 24-23, and they were able to convert their first chance to take a 2-1 lead in the match.
- The Beacons led through the early stages of set four, extending their advantage to four points at 9-5. But UNI put together a 9-1 run to take the lead for good and pulled away to close out the match.
Inside the Match
- Valpo held recognition for six active players as part of Senior Night in a post-match ceremony – fifth-years Bella Ravotto (Mishawaka, Ind./Marian), Miranda Strongman (Wolverine Lake, Mich./Walled Lake Central [LIU]) and Laura Ilizastigui (Bogota, Colombia/Integrado de Fontibón [Chicago State]; and seniors Bulmahn, Januski and Olivia Blackketter (Bloomington, Ind./Bloomington South [Winthrop]). In addition, senior manager Tia Thomas was recognized, as well as Gretchen Kuckkan (Lafayette, Ind./Central Catholic [Indiana State]), who was unable medically to compete this year.
- Junior Elise Swistek (LaPorte, Ind./New Prairie) became the 26th player in program history to reach 1,000 career digs with her very first dig of Saturday’s match. Swistek is the fourth active Beacon with at least 1,000 career digs and the third to reach the milestone this season.
- Swistek did so while posting a double-double Saturday night, finishing with 12 kills — tied for a match high — and 17 digs. Fellow outside Ravotto registered a double-double as well, sharing match-high honors with 12 kills on .333 hitting and 12 digs.
- Hickey recorded a match-best 20 digs on Saturday, surpassing the 1,300-dig mark for her career and moving up another spot to 14th on the program’s all-time chart.
- Bulmahn dished out 20 assists and recorded a pair of service aces.
- Freshman Kennedy Arp (Byron Center, Mich./South Christian) had a solid appearance off the bench, coming in to contribute four kills on just seven swings.
Valpo (18-12, 10-7 MVC) closes out the regular season Wednesday night at UIC with a lot on the line, as the Beacons can secure a top-four seed for the MVC Tournament and the corresponding bye with a victory or with a Southern Illinois loss on Wednesday. First serve from Chicago is slated for 6 p.m., and the match can be seen live on ESPN+.