A strong defensive performance keyed a victorious close to non-conference action for the Valparaiso University volleyball team on Tuesday evening, as Valpo recorded a season-best 17 blocks in a hard-fought five-set win (25-17, 13-25, 25-23, 19-25, 15-9) at Purdue Fort Wayne. With the win, Valpo finishes non-conference play with a 13-2 record and continues one of the best starts in program history.
How It Happened
- The opening set was tightly contested most of the way through, until the score hit 16-16. At that point, Valpo scored nine of the final 10 points of the frame – a run which included three kills and a block from senior Lizzie Zaleski (Oak Lawn, Ill./Marist) – to pull away and claim the opener.
- The second set featured no drama, as Purdue Fort Wayne swung at a .452 clip on the attack in the set to even the match at 1-1.
- The tightest contest of the night came in set three. The score was 18-all before three straight points for Valpo – including a kill by sophomore Peyton McCarthy (Cincinnati, Ohio/Seton) and a block for seniors Katherine Carlson (Lake Orion, Mich./Notre Dame Prep) and Sydney Bronner (Frankenmuth, Mich./Frankenmuth) – gave the Brown and Gold a 21-18 advantage.
- The two sides would trade sideouts on the next six serves, with a kill from senior Allison Ketcham (Mishawaka, Ind./Marian) giving Valpo set point at 24-21. The Mastodons picked up kills on each of the next two points to close within 24-23, but an attack error ended the third set in Valpo’s favor.
- An 8-2 run midway through set four proved vital, as Purdue Fort Wayne extended a 12-11 lead to 20-13 en route to forcing a decisive fifth set.
- The Mastodons looked to gain control of the fifth set, scoring three of the first four points. But a block by McCarthy and sophomore Ally Cummings (Novi, Mich./Novi) sparked a seven-point run for Valpo to go ahead 8-3. Valpo’s advantage would not fall under three points the rest of the way, as the Brown and Gold picked up five blocks in the fifth set alone to close out the hard-fought road win.
Inside the Match
- 2018 marks the fourth time in program history that Valpo has won at least 13 of its first 15 matches of the year. The 2014 team was 14-1 through 15 matches, while the 2010 and 2015 squads were both 13-2 as well at the same point of the season.
- The win over the Mastodons extends Valpo’s winning streak to a season-long seven matches. It is the program’s longest winning streak since opening the 2015 campaign with nine straight victories.
- Valpo has now had 13 winning streaks of seven matches or longer in the tenure of head coach Carin Avery.
- Tuesday’s match is the earliest end to non-conference play for Valpo under Avery, as the team will conclude the regular season with 18 consecutive MVC matches.
- Valpo’s pair of senior outside hitters continued their march toward the program’s 1,000/1,000 club on Tuesday. Ketcham paced Valpo with 16 kills and now owns 994 career kills, while Carlson picked up 11 kills and will enter Friday’s match with 991 career kills.
- Valpo posted a season-best 17 rejections in Tuesday’s win, the most since recording 20.5 blocks against Milwaukee on Oct. 15, 2016. The 17 blocks also are good for third-most in a five-set match in the 25-point era.
- Leading the way on the block was Bronner, who led all players with a season-high eight rejections. Ketcham set a career high with six blocks, three of which were solo blocks, after matching her previous career best with four rejections last time out. McCarthy chipped in five blocks as well.
- Zaleski joined Ketcham and Carlson in double figures in the kills department with 10 terminations, while Bronner added eight kills on .350 hitting.
- Going to five sets for just the second time this year, Valpo also set a season high with 105 digs. Pacing the back row effort was sophomore Rylee Cookerly (Brownsburg, Ind./Brownsburg), who posted a season-best 27 digs.
- Ketcham and Carlson tallied 16 digs apiece to finish the night with double-doubles. Both seniors now have five double-doubles in 2018.
- Sophomore Brittany Anderson (East Chicago, Ind./Bishop Noll) surpassed her previous career high, finishing the night with 21 digs to go with 46 assists. Anderson also matched her career best with five kills as well.
Valpo (13-2) opens Missouri Valley Conference play Friday night at Indiana State, with first serve slated for 6 p.m. CT.