Led by one of the most efficient offensive performances in school history by freshman Sarah Dooms (Greenwood, Ind./Center Grove), Valparaiso cruised to a 3-0 (25-10, 25-18, 25-15) sweep of Loyola in a rare Tuesday night Horizon League matchup at the ARC.
“This is really the first complete match that we've played at a high level all year,” said Crusader head coach Carin Avery. “We did have a minor setback in set two where Loyola went on a run, but we were able to get out of it, something we struggled with earlier in the season. It was great to see us keep up the pressure over the course of an entire match.”
Dooms needed just 19 swings Tuesday evening to rack up 14 kills, the second-highest total of her young career. The freshman also committed just one attack error, registering a hitting percentage of .684, a clip which is the best by a Crusader since the move to 25-point rally scoring in 2008. Her .684 attack percentage also ranks seventh overall in program history for a single match.
It wasn’t just Dooms who was clicking offensively on Tuesday, however, as Valpo posted 49 kills against just 12 attack errors, good for a .389 hitting percentage, easily its best attacking match of the season and the second-best hitting percentage since the move to 25-point rally scoring. Senior middle hitter Katie Layman (LaPorte, Ind./New Prairie) seconded Dooms well, racking up nine kills on 17 swings without an error, hitting .529. Jenny Pokorny (Geneva, Ill./Geneva) continued her strong attacking play from the setter position, putting down seven kills on just 13 swings to hit at a .538 clip.
“It was nice to see Sarah and Katie step up and have great matches tonight,” said Avery. “In the last couple years, we've relied on one or two players to really get it done offensively. This year we don't have that, something that you can see in the parity of kills between our five attackers. It’s helping us become a better, well-rounded team, and hopefully down the stretch it will work to our advantage.”
Back-to-back kills by Dooms, a service ace by Tara Diebler (Indianapolis, Ind./Franklin Central) and a solo block by Amy Groesbeck (Wheaton, Ill./North) got the match off to a great start for Valpo, as Loyola was forced to take a timeout before cracking the scoreboard. The Crusaders extended the match-opening run out to 10-2 before the Ramblers played them even for a stretch, taking it to 15-7. But Valpo ended the set on a 10-3 spurt, highlighted by five more kills from Dooms, who hit .800 with eight kills in the opener.
Valpo got out to a 5-2 lead in the second set, but a four-point Loyola run gave the Ramblers their first lead of the match. The Crusaders responded with a three-point spurt, including a solo block by Katie Britton (Mishawaka, Ind./Marian) to take the lead for good. The set remained close up until 11-10, when back-to-back kills by Layman started a 6-1 Valpo run to gain some breathing room. Loyola came up with three straight points to close back within 17-14, but a Diebler kill followed by three straight Rambler errors made it 21-14 and the teams just traded sideouts from there, as Valpo went into the locker room up two sets to none.
Looking for their first sweep in nearly a month, the Crusaders came out of the locker room just as sharp as when they went in, jumping out to an early 10-2 advantage, sparked by a pair of aces from Ariel Cudney (LaPorte, Ind./LaPorte) and two kills by Britton. Loyola closed to within 13-9, but a Groesbeck kill halted the Rambler spurt and Valpo never led by less than five the rest of the way en route to the easy victory.
Britton also posted seven kills Tuesday, while Groesbeck tallied six kills on .385 hitting. Pokorny picked up 36 assists and six digs in addition to her attacking prowess, while Taylor Root (Jenison, Mich./Jenison) led all players with 17 digs on the back line. The Crusader defense overall was just about as impressive as its offense, as Valpo out-killed Loyola 49-24 and outdug the Ramblers 47-29. Colleen Francis paced Loyola (7-10, 0-6 Horizon) with eight kills and nine digs, while Mallory Curran picked up a match-best four blocks.
“We talked about really eliminating our errors tonight, and we definitely did that,” said Avery. “I’m really excited that we more than doubled Loyola in kills, plus only committed [a season-low] 12 errors.”
Valparaiso (15-3, 4-2 Horizon) returns to the ARC for the middle match of a three-match homestand on Saturday evening, as the Crusaders host Cleveland State on White Out night. First serve is set for 6 p.m., with the first 300 fans in attendance receiving a free t-shirt. If you can’t make it to the ARC, as always, you can listen or watch live online at www.valpoathletics.com, with the audio broadcast also available locally on WVUR, 95.1 FM. The official Crusader website will also have a link for live stats.