Valparaiso recorded its third consecutive sweep on Saturday afternoon, winning on the road at Cleveland State, 3-0 (25-23, 25-22, 25-23). Valpo has now won its last seven matches, the program’s longest winning streak since the 2005 campaign, and 11 of its last 12 overall.
The win also extended the Crusaders’ streak of consecutive sets won to 12, starting with the second set against Milwaukee on Oct. 24. During the seven-match winning streak, Valpo has dropped just three out of the 24 sets.
“There was very good volleyball being played tonight on both sides of the net,” said Crusader head coach Carin Avery. “I don’t know if you could have gotten three more evenly-matched sets. We were able to get some crucial points near the end of each set to take the lead and finished off each one to get the victory.”In a harbinger of things to come, the first set featured eight ties and three lead changes between the two sides. Cleveland State never led by more than three points, and only held that large of an advantage on two occasions early on in the frame. The Crusaders had even less room for error, never leading by more than one during the body of the set. The Vikings held a 22-20 lead late until a kill by Angie Porché (Lynwood, Ill./Thornton Fractional South) followed by a Kim Bukowski (Waukesha, Wis./West) service ace tied the set at 22. A CSU kill gave it the one-point advantage, but kills by Porché and Tara Newton (Indianapolis, Ind./Franklin Central) gave the Crusaders set point, which Porché tallied an ace on to give Valpo the opener.
Improbably, the second set was even tighter than the first set. 13 ties and seven lead changes were featured during a frame in which neither team gained more than a two-point advantage until the final point. Allison Sears (Elkhart, Ind./Memorial) gave Valpo a 23-21 lead with a kill, and following a CSU termination, the Vikings committed an attack error to give the Crusaders two set points. Valpo would only need the first, however, as a Porché kill sent the match into the in-game break.
The third set looked for a while like it would be a different story, as the Crusaders utilized two kills by Sears and two service aces from Val Bollenbacher (Bremen, Ind./Bremen) to gain an early 7-1 lead. But the advantage would not last, as the Vikings came roaring back to take a 13-11 advantage. After the teams traded a pair of sideouts to make it 15-13, the Crusaders asserted themselves, reeling off five straight points to go up 18-15. Valpo would not relinquish the lead the rest of the way, and on its second match point got a kill by Jill Meyer (Crystal Lake, Ill./South) to close out the sweep.
“This road trip is not an easy one, and I thought we did an outstanding job staying focused over these two matches,” said Avery. “Especially tonight with it being Cleveland State’s senior night, they came out with a lot of energy and enthusiasm, and for us to win in three is a great accomplishment. We are playing at a very high level right now and doing a lot of great things, and it’s been fun to watch this team progress to this point.”
Porché led the attack with 14 kills while also adding 13 digs for a double-double. Sears chipped in ten kills on .333 hitting, while Meyer enjoyed one of her best matches of the year, registering nine kills on a stellar .429 hitting percentage. Bukowski handed out 34 assists in the win.
On the defensive side of the ball, Brittany Malicoat (Elkhart, Ind./Memorial) tallied 17 digs to join Porché in double figures in the category. At the net, Newton posted a team-best three blocks as the Crusaders outblocked Cleveland State (6-17, 5-8 Horizon) by a 6-3 margin.
“I thought the seniors in particular played great this weekend and really led by example,” said Avery. “All three of them had a pair of outstanding matches and have led us with their play through our winning streak.”
Valparaiso (18-6, 9-4 Horizon) puts its seven-match winning streak on the line next week as it starts a string of four consecutive road matches in Chicago with a non-league meeting at DePaul on Tuesday at 7 p.m. All the action can be heard live on www.sportsjuice.com.