The Valparaiso University volleyball team was unable to overcome one of the nation’s top blocking performances of the season Saturday, as the Crusaders fell in a Horizon League contest at the ARC to Northern Kentucky, 3-2 (20-25, 25-17, 25-21, 20-25, 15-13).
The Crusaders got a career-high 26 kills Saturday from junior Emily Campbell (Grand Rapids, Mich./Forest Hills Central) on 77 attacks, tying Valpo’s program record for most attack attempts in a match. Sophomores Allison Ketcham (Mishawaka, Ind./Marian) and Taylor Graboski (Upper Sandusky, Ohio/Upper Sandusky) added 14 and 11 kills, respectively, while redshirt freshman Kayla Currier (Frankfort, Ill./Lincoln-Way East) chipped in 10 kills as the Crusaders enjoyed a 67-54 advantage in kills over NKU.
But the Norse used their block to even out the deficit in the kills column, as Northern Kentucky registered a Horizon League season-high 21 rejections. The Norse’s Keyaira Lankheit was in on 16 of those blocks to set a new mark for the top individual blocking performance by an NCAA Division I player this season. Valpo did post 12 blocks of its own as well, with Graboski registering seven blocks and Currier six.
The first four sets were split right down the middle, as the Crusaders took frames one and four and the Norse sets two and three – none of which were any closer than four points at the end. But the fifth set would prove to be an outlier on the day. Ketcham started the frame with three straight kills, and after NKU had closed to within 4-3, Graboski posted two blocks and a kill as part of a 4-1 spurt to give Valpo an 8-4 lead as the teams switched sides.
NKU scored the next two points, but a kill from Currier and a block by Campbell and Currier made it a four-point lead once again. After two more points from the Norse, Campbell tallied a kill to make it 11-8 Crusaders. But NKU would score the next three points to even things up, and kills from first Currier and then Graboski were answered immediately by Northern Kentucky kills as the decisive set sat at 13-13. The Norse’s 21st block of the match gave NKU match point, which it converted courtesy of a kill from Haley Libs.
Three Crusaders posted double-doubles on Saturday thanks to their work on the back line, including Campbell (21 digs) and Ketcham (14 digs). Senior Kelsey Berrington (Britton, Mich./Tecumseh) handed out 55 assists to go with her 11 digs, while junior Morganne Longoria (Burlington, Wis./Burlington) led the Valpo effort in the back row with 25 digs.
Libs posted a team-high 14 kills to lead Northern Kentucky (10-12, 5-5 Horizon) on Saturday and also tallied 12 digs. Keely Creamer added 13 kills, while Lankheit recorded the rare kills-blocks double-double with 11 kills. Taylor Snider tallied 41 assists and 20 digs, while libero Mel Stewart led all players with 29 digs.
Valparaiso (20-6, 6-4 Horizon) goes on the road for its next four Horizon League matches, starting Tuesday evening with a 7 p.m. mid-week match at UIC. The match will be broadcast on ESPN3.com, with live stats available via ValpoAthletics.com.