The 2018 Valparaiso University volleyball team now stands alone for the best start to a season in program history, improving to 17-2 on Friday night and winning its 11th consecutive match with an impressive 3-0 (25-11, 25-16, 25-18) sweep of Drake at the ARC. Sophomore Rylee Cookerly (Brownsburg, Ind./Brownsburg) hit the 1,000-dig mark for her career in the win, which sets up a Saturday night matchup at the ARC of Missouri Valley Conference unbeatens, as UNI comes to town at 7 p.m.
How It Happened
- Valpo limited Drake to just five kills on -.073 hitting in the opening frame, easily taking the 1-0 lead. An 8-1 run extended the advantage to 15-6 past the midway point of the set, and then after the Bulldogs scored three straight, Valpo reeled off the next seven points on the serve of sophomore Peyton McCarthy (Cincinnati, Ohio/Seton) to pull away.
- Drake held a 7-5 lead early in set two, but that quickly dissipated as Valpo scored seven straight on the serve of sophomore Brittany Anderson (East Chicago, Ind./Bishop Noll) – including back-to-back blocks and then a kill by McCarthy.
- Valpo held Drake at arm’s length the remainder of the set, never letting the Bulldogs get any closer than three points, and scored the final three points of the frame on a trio of kills from senior Sydney Bronner (Frankenmuth, Mich./Frankenmuth) to go ahead 2-0.
- The third set made it just shy of the midway point before Valpo pulled away, as a 12-12 tie turned into a 20-12 lead, again on the serve of Anderson. McCarthy tallied an impressive four kills and a block during the spurt which gave Valpo control for good. The Brown and Gold would eventually close out their fourth straight sweep on a rejection by Anderson and Bronner.
Inside the Match
- Friday night’s win makes this year’s team the first in program history to sit at 17-2 through 19 matches. The 2014 team was 16-2, but suffered its third defeat in match number 19.
- With 17 victories this season, the 2018 Valpo squad has already matched last season’s win total with at least 14 matches remaining.
- Valpo has now won 11 consecutive matches dating back to Sept. 7, matching the fourth-longest winning streak in program history. The 2010 team also won 11 in a row, while only streaks by the 2014 (13 straight), 2008 (13 straight), and 2004 (14 straight) squads sit ahead of the current run of form.
- Cookerly entered Friday night’s match needing just three digs to hit 1,000 for her career, and picked up the milestone dig just past the midway mark of the opening frame. The sophomore reached the mark in just her 52nd career match, tying Taylor Root as the fastest player to hit four figures in digs in program history.
- Just a couple points later came another back-line milestone, as senior Allison Ketcham (Mishawaka, Ind./Marian) moved into fifth place on Valpo’s career digs chart with her third dig of the match. Ketcham, who now owns 1,655 career digs, is the highest-ranking non-libero in the category in program history.
- Senior Lizzie Zaleski (Oak Lawn, Ill./Marist) led another balanced offensive attack with 12 kills on .500 hitting. Zaleski became the seventh different Valpo player to lead the team outright in kills in a match this season.
- McCarthy finished the night with nine kills on .444 hitting and also recorded a match-high six blocks, improving her MVC-best blocking average to 1.27/set. Ketcham added nine kills as well to go with nine digs.
- Anderson narrowly missed a double-double, closing out the win with 33 assists and nine digs. She set the way as the Valpo offense hit .316 in the sweep, its best mark in MVC play to date and the sixth time this year it has hit .300 or better.
- Valpo out-dug the Bulldogs, who entered the match with a 12-4 overall record, 69-54 on Friday. Cookerly led the back-row effort with a match-best 18 digs, while senior Katherine Carlson (Lake Orion, Mich./Notre Dame Prep) was right there with 17 digs as well.
- Defensively, Valpo held Cathryn Cheek – who entered the match averaging better than three kills per set for the Bulldogs – without a kill and forced her into six attack errors.
- Valpo is 4-0 through four conference matches for the first time since the 2007 squad opened Horizon League play with four consecutive wins. The 2005, 2004, and 2003 teams each won at least five straight to start Mid-Continent Conference action, but of the aforementioned four teams, only the 2003 squad opened conference play with at least four straight sweeps.
- Overall, this is the first time Valpo has won four matches in a row by identical 3-0 scores since posting five straight sweeps in early September of 2015.
Valpo (17-2, 4-0 MVC) hosts a UNI squad which enters the ARC at 3-0 in Valley action and is receiving votes in the AVCA top-25 poll on Saturday night at 7 p.m. All Boys & Girls Club members will receive free admission to the match, which can also be seen live on ESPN+.