Valparaiso rallied from a first-set loss to take a 2-1 advantage Friday night in Green Bay, but the host Phoenix fought back to earn a 3-2 (25-18, 24-26, 22-25, 28-26, 15-7) victory over the Crusaders. Senior libero Brittany Malicoat (Elkhart, Ind./Memorial) broke Valpo’s career digs record in the middle of the third set.
Malicoat, who also holds the top-two single season dig marks in Crusader history, entered the match just 14 digs shy of matching Sara Silcox’s career record of 1,887 digs. She first matched and then surpassed the record in the middle of the third set, and ended the match with a team-best 23 digs to give her 1,896 for her career.
The first set was dominated by the Phoenix, as Green Bay pulled ahead for good at 5-5 and never led by less than four points in the late portions of the frame. It looked like Green Bay would go ahead by two sets, as it led for most of the second frame and held a late 20-16 advantage over the Crusaders. But Valpo ended the set on a 10-4 run, getting three kills during the spurt from Angie Porché (Lynwood, Ill./Thornton Fractional South) and ending the set on a termination by Allison Sears (Elkhart, Ind./Memorial) to go into the break tied at one apiece.
The third set was a sharp contrast from the first two, as the Crusaders led from start to finish, getting at least three kills in the frame from five different players. Jill Meyer (Crystal Lake, Ill./South) posted four blocks in the set as well, including three in a four-point span, as Valpo went up 2-1. A block late in the fourth set by Sears and Jenny Pokorny (Geneva, Ill./Geneva) put the Crusaders ahead 19-16 as they looked for the win, but Green Bay rallied with an 8-2 run to earn three set points. Valpo fought off each of those, as well as two additional possible frame-enders, but the Phoenix converted on the sixth to send the match to a fifth set.
Green Bay took the early 3-0 lead in the decisive fifth frame on the strength of a pair of blocks, but Valpo got a kill from Porché and a block of its own by Meyer and Tara Newton (Indianapolis, Ind./Franklin Central) to close within 3-2. But the Phoenix ran off four straight points, and Valpo would get no closer than four the rest of the way.
Porché ended the contest with a match-high 22 kills, but hit just .099 for the match. Meyer stood out on both sides of the ball for the Crusaders, hitting .379 with 13 kills and adding a career-best six blocks. Sears also contributed offensively with 14 kills, while Val Bollenbacher (Bremen, Ind./Bremen) posted a double-double with 11 kills and 16 digs.
Liesl Tesch led Green Bay (5-7, 1-1 Horizon) with 17 kills, swinging at a .325 clip. The Phoenix also got 13 kills each from Abbey Gitter and Holly Visser as well. Kelly Mischler paced all players at the net with nine rejections, while Megan Elfering posted a match-best 26 digs.
Valparaiso (7-4, 0-2 Horizon) will look to get into the win column in league play when it takes on Milwaukee Saturday afternoon. First serve is slated for 4 p.m., and all the action can be heard live on www.sportsjuice.com, with live statistics available online at www.valpoathletics.com.