The Valparaiso University volleyball team battled gamely against MVC regular season champion and 25th-ranked Missouri State Friday night at the ARC, but the Bears claimed a tight first two sets on their way to a 3-0 (25-20, 26-24, 25-20) victory over the Crusaders. Despite the loss, the Crusaders secured a berth in next week’s MVC Tournament with SIU’s loss at Loyola.
How It Happened
- Valpo got off to a strong start in the opening set, scoring four of the first five points of the match. The Crusaders would extend their lead to as many as four points on four occasions as the frame passed the midway point, with back-to-back kills from junior Sydney Bronner (Frankenmuth, Mich./Frankenmuth) giving Valpo a 17-13 advantage.
- Missouri State responded with five of the next six points to tie the set at 18-all. A kill from junior Lizzie Zaleski (Oak Lawn, Ill./Marist) briefly quelled the Bears’ momentum and returned the lead to Valpo, 19-18, but Missouri State finished the set with seven of the final eight points to claim the opener.
- Valpo led throughout most of the first half of set two as well, again extending its advantage to as many as four points – the latest coming at 15-11. Missouri State came back with five straight points – the first four coming on kills from Lily Johnson – to claim a 16-15 lead.
- The set would remain tight the rest of the way, but while the Crusaders would tie the score a number of times, they were unable to reclaim the outright lead.
- Trailing 23-21, a kill from junior Katherine Carlson (Lake Orion, Mich./Notre Dame Prep) and an MSU error tied the set at 23-23, and following a Johnson kill, freshman Jaclyn Bulmahn (McCordsville, Ind./Mt. Vernon) registered a kill of her own to force extra points. But back-to-back kills for the Bears ended the second set in their favor.
- Missouri State reeled off 10 straight points as part of a 14-2 run early in the third set, going ahead 16-6. The Crusaders would not go down without a fight however, forcing the Bears to use both of their timeouts late in the set. Back-to-back kills from Bulmahn held off a pair of MSU match point chances and brought Valpo back to within 24-20, but a kill from Lynsey Wright ended the match.
Inside the Match
- Valpo secured a spot in the MVC Tournament in its first season as a league member late in the third set Friday evening, as over in Chicago, Loyola completed a sweep of Southern Illinois.
- That win by the Ramblers also guaranteed that Valpo will finish ahead of its preseason projection, as the Crusaders were picked seventh in the MVC preseason poll.
- The Crusaders currently sit in a tie for fifth place with Indiana State at 7-10 in MVC play. If the Crusaders knock off Southern Illinois on Saturday and Indiana State loses at Bradley, Valpo will be the fifth seed for the conference tournament – otherwise, the Crusaders will enter the tournament as the sixth seed.
- Valpo’s meeting with the Bears was its third match against a nationally-ranked team within conference play this season.
- Missouri State enjoyed a 53-35 advantage in kills on Friday, thanks in large part to the work of the All-American, Lily Johnson. The senior tallied 26 kills – the second-most in a three-set match in the NCAA this season – on .442 hitting for the Bears.
- Carlson paced Valpo with eight kills, while Bulmahn recorded seven kills against just one attack error. Bronner and redshirt junior Allison Ketcham (Mishawaka, Ind./Marian) each picked up six kills and hit .333 for the match as well.
- Freshman Rylee Cookerly (Brownsburg, Ind./Brownsburg) paced the Crusaders with 22 digs, as Valpo came in a slight bit under its average for the year, tallying 56 digs over the three sets. Carlson added 12 digs as well. Emily Butters picked up a match-best 23 digs for the Bears, who improved to 17-0 in MVC play this season.
Valpo (16-15, 7-10 MVC) welcomes Southern Illinois to the ARC Saturday night at 7 p.m. for the regular season finale. It will be senior night at the ARC, as Taylor Graboski and Catherine Ament are honored prior to the match. The contest can be seen live on The Valley on ESPN3, WatchESPN and the ESPN app, with links for all the live coverage available via ValpoAthletics.com.