Valpo battled back valiantly from a 2-0 hole against preseason conference favorite Oral Roberts, forcing a decisive game five before eventually falling 30-24, 30-26, 22-30, 26-30, 15-11 Friday in front of 1,152 raucous fans at the Athletics-Recreation Center.
The loss snapped the Crusaders' 25-match home court winning streak, six match overall winning streak and was only Valpo's third loss to a Mid-Con foe since the start of the 2003 season. The Golden Eagles have accounted for two of those losses, one in each of the last two seasons.
In the early going, it looked like Oral Roberts would cruise to a win, jumping out to leads midway through games one and two and holding on late in each one. But after the eight minute intermission between games two and three, the Crusaders were a different team and came out inspired in the third game, rolling to a 30-22 win behind a .321 hitting percentage and some excellent play from junior Tiffany Meikle
(Cottage Grove, Wis./Monona Grove) off the bench.
Game four was an epic, with both teams going back and forth with the lead before the Brown and Gold closed the game on a nine-three run keyed by three Angie Porché
(Lynwood, Ill./Thornton-Fractional South) kills.
Then early in game five, it looked like the young Crusaders would finish the comeback, taking a 10-6 lead. But the veteran Golden Eagles showed their poise, taking advantage of several Valpo errors and winning on a kill from defending Mid-Con Player of the Year Ori Zuzic.
Zuzic had a match-high 27 kills on 79 attacks, but hit only .127. The senior also chipped in 11 digs and six blocks for the victors.
The Crusaders were more balanced all around, with four players carding at least 11 kills and five with 11 or more digs. Porché was the top offensive weapon, leading the team with 17 kills to go with three aces, six digs and four blocks. Nicole Schulz
(Kewaskum, Wis./Kettle Moraine Lutheran) had a big day on both sides of the net, tallying 11 kills and leading all Crusaders with a career-high 10 blocks. Jessie Fox
(Granger, Ind./Penn) narrowly missed a double-double, finishing with 12 kills and nine blocks, while Allison Sears
(Elkhart, Ind./Memorial) had 13 kills.
Sophomore libero Brittany Marks
(Elkhart, Ind./Memorial) had a record-setting night on the defensive end, racking up a career-high 33 digs, the fourth most ever by a Crusader in a single match. Sara Hughes
(San Antonio, Texas/Perrysburg, Ohio, H.S.) joined Schulz with a double-double, racking up 53 assists and a career-high 11 digs.
The Crusaders hit .141, better than the Golden Eagles (12-6, 2-0 Mid-Con) who hit only .134. Maja Devic had 11 blocks for Oral Roberts and Cris Alves added 24 digs. Both teams finished with 17 blocks, and Valpo out-dug Oral Roberts 88-69.
Valpo (10-6, 1-1 Mid-Con) will try to get back on the winning track Saturday night when they close out the weekend against Centenary. First serve in that match is set for 7:00 p.m. with live coverage available on 95.1 FM, WVUR, and online at www.valpo.edu/athletics.