Valparaiso hung tough against Big 12 foe Colorado Friday afternoon in action at the Campus USA Credit Union Invitational in Gainesville, Fla., earning ties or leads late in all three frames, but the Buffaloes eventually earned the 3-0 (31-29, 25-23, 25-21) victory over the Crusaders.
“I think we did a good job today considering that we are not only replacing three starters from last year, but also lost Val Bollenbacher for the match with an injury very early on,” said Crusader head coach Carin Avery. “We ran several different lineups today and tried different people playing different positions, and had some good success with some of our moves.”
The opening set saw Valpo fall behind by three points early at 9-6 before the Crusaders strung together a 6-0 run. Jenny Pokorny (Geneva, Ill./Geneva) got the run started with a kill, and after a pair of CU attack errors, combined with Katie Layman (LaPorte, Ind./New Prairie) on a block. Tara Diebler (Indianapolis, Ind./Franklin Central) followed with a service ace, and Layman capped the spurt with a kill.
The Crusaders extended the advantage to as many as four points, at 17-13, on a kill by Angie Porché (Lynwood, Ill./Thornton Fractional South), one of eight terminations for her in the opening frame. The Buffaloes rallied, eventually tying the set at 19 points apiece and setting up an end sequence that saw neither team gain more than a one-point advantage until the final point.
Valpo had a pair of set points at 24-23 on a Porché kill and at 25-24 on a Colorado service error, but could not convert on either. The Crusaders held off four CU set points before Kerra Schroeder came up with a service ace at 30-29 to give the Buffaloes the 1-0 advantage.
In the second set, Colorado got off to a quick start, using a pair of 4-0 spurts in the first half of the frame to go ahead by six points at 14-8. But the Crusaders did not give in, staying within striking distance until getting to a four-point deficit at 21-17. Valpo then took advantage of a pair of CU attack errors, along with a service ace by Taylor Root (Jenison, Mich./Jenison) and a kill by Amy Groesbeck (Wheaton, Ill./North) to pull into a 21-all draw.
Colorado responded with a kill, but terminations by Groesbeck and Katie Britton (Mishawaka, Ind./Marian) gave Valpo its first lead since early on in the set, just two points away from evening up the match. Colorado’s Kaitlyn Burkett came up with a kill to knot up the score at 23, and after a Crusader error gave the Buffaloes set point, Burkett recorded a service ace to give CU the set.
Valpo rushed out of the gate with four straight points in the third set, on a pair of kills by Porché to go along with a Pokorny kill and a CU attack error. The Buffaloes came right back with four points of their own, but a quartet of CU errors gave Valpo an 8-6 advantage. Porché then tallied another kill, followed by a Groesbeck rally-ender, to push the lead back out to the original four-point edge.
The Crusaders maintained a two-to-four point lead for most of the set, as a Britton kill made it 17-15, but Colorado rolled off four straight points to take its first lead of the frame at 19-17. Valpo responded immediately, as Groesbeck and Britton tallied kills, but that would be the last tie of the match, as Colorado scored six of the final eight points to earn the sweep.
Porché paced the Crusader offense with 15 kills while swinging at a .344 clip, surpassing the 1,600 kill milestone for her career with her first kill of the match. She was the only Valpo player to reach double figures in kills, however, as Groesbeck was second on the squad with nine kills on .368 hitting in her first career start. Kim Bukowski (Waukesha, Wis./West) handed out a team-high 22 assists, while Pokorny added 11 helpers of her own.
On the defensive side of the ball, Porché and freshman libero Root tied for team-high honors with 14 digs. Porché reached 800 digs for her career with her 13th dig of the match, while Root earned the start at libero in her first career match. At the net, Layman led the way with three rejections for Valpo.
Colorado (1-0) was paced by 17 kills by Becah Fogle and also received 12 terminations from Schroeder. Ellen Henry picked up a match-best 15 digs on the back line, while five CU players combined for 11 service aces.
“In the end, our problem was we just didn’t execute as well as we need to to win,” said Avery. “We had some opportunities when we got a big dig or took Colorado out of system, but just couldn’t capitalize with kills. We also need to sharpen up our ball-handling on passing and defense to be successful.”
Valparaiso (0-1) concludes play in Gainesville on Saturday afternoon at 3:30 p.m. CDT with a match against UNLV. The match will be carried live on WVUR, 95.1 FM, Valparaiso and online at www.valpoathletics.com, which will also have a link for live stats.