Making its third consecutive postseason appearance and fourth in the last six years, the Valpo volleyball team fell in opening-round action of the 2023 NIVC Thursday evening in Greeley, Colo. to host Northern Colorado, 3-0 (26-24, 25-22, 25-14).
How It Happened
- Valpo used a 10-2 run early in the first set, a run which included five consecutive points on the serve of Elise Swistek (LaPorte, Ind./New Prairie), to pull out to a 13-5 lead.
- UNC rallied to within three at 18-15, but back-to-back kills by Mallory Januski (Bourbonnais, Ill./Bradley-Bourbonnais) and Miranda Strongman (Wolverine Lake, Mich./Walled Lake Central [LIU]) pushed the lead back out to five points. The edge was still four at 23-19 following a kill from Bella Ravotto (Mishawaka, Ind./Marian).
- But the Bears reeled off five points in a row to storm back to take a 24-23 lead. A service error briefly returned the serve to Valpo, forcing extra points, but back-to-back kills for the Bears closed the opener in their favor.
- It was all Beacons to start the second set, as Strongman had three quick kills and Ravotto notched a service ace as part of a 5-0 start to the frame.
- Valpo’s edge was still four points at 10-6 before UNC went on a 10-0 run to turn it into a six-point deficit for the Beacons. The Beacons rallied to within two points four times late in the frame, but were never able to string together consecutive points to get any closer.
- A 10-0 run for the Bears early in set three gave them control as they went on to the sweep.
Inside the Match
- Valpo’s attack had the Beacons right in the first two sets, as they hit .313 and .419 in the opening two frames. But the Beacons were unable to slow the UNC attack, as the Bears hit .353 or better in all three sets.
- Strongman led Valpo in the final match of her collegiate career, posting 12 kills on .526 hitting.
- Januski added six kills on .417 hitting as well.
- All 16 active Beacons saw action in Thursday night’s match.
Inside the Season
- Valpo finishes the season with an 18-15 overall record. It is the 20th winning season in 22 campaigns under head coach Carin Avery.
- The Beacons finished in a tie for fifth place in the MVC regular season standings, as Valpo has posted top-half conference finishes in each of its seven years in the Valley — the only MVC team to accomplish that feat.
- Januski finished the season hitting at a .318 clip, second-best in program history in the 25-point era and third-best overall. She also totaled 116 blocks (0.99/set), tied for eighth in both total blocks and in blocks per set at Valpo in the 25-point era.
- Strongman wasn’t far behind Januski in terms of hitting percentage, swinging at a .309 clip in 2023 — third-best in the 25-point era and fifth-best overall.
- Hickey ranks 10th in program history in the 25-point era in both total digs (628) and digs/set (5.19)
Inside the Careers
- Ravotto racked up 1,643 digs over her five seasons at Valpo — eighth-most in program history — and also recorded 894 kills.
- Strongman totaled 798 kills and 316 blocks over her five collegiate seasons, including 426 kills and 180 blocks in her two seasons with the Beacons. Her .309 hitting percentage over the last two years ranks second in a career in program history.
- Laura Ilizastigui (Bogota, Colombia/Integrado de Fontibón [Chicago State]) concluded her collegiate career by taking her fifth year this season with the Beacons, tallying a kill in third-set action on Thursday.
- Three other Valpo true seniors were honored on Senior Night as well.
- Victoria Bulmahn (McCordsville, Ind./Mt. Vernon) registered 2,744 assists in her four years at Valpo — ninth-most in program history — and joined the program’s 1,000-dig club last month, finishing up with 1,060 digs.
- Januski posted two of the top-three hitting percentage seasons in program history over the last two years and is Valpo’s all-time leader in career hitting percentage at .329. She picked up 504 kills and 247 digs in her four seasons at Valpo.
- Olivia Blackketter (Bloomington, Ind./Bloomington South [Winthrop]), an All-Tournament Team honoree at the Popcorn Classic earlier this season, recorded 132 kills and 74 blocks in two seasons as a Beacon.