The Valparaiso University volleyball team has won matches in numerous ways and overcome many obstacles over the coaching tenure of head coach Carin Avery, but Friday presented a new test that Valpo passed with flying colors. Playing with just one healthy middle, Valpo earned a 3-1 (25-15, 17-25, 25-14, 25-15) victory over Evansville in MVC action at the ARC Friday night to improve to 6-3 at the midway point of conference play and pick up its 19th win overall.
How It Happened
- Set one was all Valpo could have asked for in terms of getting off to a strong start to the match. The Brown and Gold scored the first three points of the match, forced an Evansville timeout at 7-2 and extended the lead to double figures for the first time as they closed out a 5-0 run to go ahead 14-4. Valpo cruised to the win from there as it limited the Purple Aces to seven kills on -.053 hitting in the opening frame.
- The Evansville offense flipped the script in the second set, hitting .515 as the Purple Aces evened the match at one set apiece. Trailing by six at the midway point of the set, Valpo cut the deficit to two points at 15-13 and 16-14, but following the latter, Evansville reeled off six straight points to regain control.
- It was Valpo’s offense which shined in the third set, as it hit at a .452 clip, committing just one attack error against 15 kills. While Valpo led for most of the set, Evansville moved to within two points at 15-13 following consecutive points for the Purple Aces. Valpo slammed the door at that point, however, scoring 10 of the frame’s final 11 points to go ahead 2-1.
- The fourth set would play out much like the third frame. Evansville and Valpo were actually tied at 11 apiece before three straight Valpo points made it a 14-11 advantage. Evansville would side out on each of its next two opportunities to get back to within two points twice, but leading 15-13, Valpo put up four straight points to kick off a 10-2 run to end the match.
Inside the Match
- With freshman middle Haley Hart (Frankfort, Ill./Lincoln-Way East) the only healthy middle hitter on Valpo’s roster entering Friday’s match, Avery and Valpo were forced to devise a way to adjust their lineup accordingly.
- The end result was senior right side Lizzie Zaleski (Oak Lawn, Ill./Marist) and sophomore right side Ally Cummings (Novi, Mich./Novi) positioned opposite each other in the lineup, with sophomore libero Rylee Cookerly (Brownsburg, Ind./Brownsburg) playing back row for both. Hart played front row for three rotations, while for the other three rotations, Valpo used sophomore setter Brittany Anderson (East Chicago, Ind./Bishop Noll) up front as a quasi-middle defensively.
- The adjustments worked out on Friday on both sides of the ball. Valpo hit .269 offensively, committing just 13 attack errors over the four sets. Meanwhile, outside of the second set, Valpo limited Evansville to .034 hitting.
- Both right sides took advantage of the opportunity to play the entire match. Cummings set a new career high with 17 kills on .517 hitting, and also matched her career best with five blocks. Meanwhile, Zaleski tallied 11 kills on .250 hitting – her seventh double-figure kill effort of the year.
- Anderson posted 45 assists, eight digs and four blocks in the winning effort, while Hart finished with four blocks to tie her career high.
- Senior outside Katherine Carlson (Lake Orion, Mich./Notre Dame Prep) put together a strong match both offensively and defensively, finishing with 13 kills on .355 hitting and a team-best 19 digs. Carlson now owns 1,086 career kills, just 13 shy of Valpo’s all-time top-10 in the category, while fellow senior outside Allison Ketcham (Mishawaka, Ind./Marian) is right behind her with 1,083 career kills after registering eight kills on Friday to go with 17 digs.
- Valpo placed four players in double figures in digs, as Cookerly and fellow sophomore Melissa Flynders (Mokena, Ill./Providence Catholic) finished with 15 and 12 digs, respectively, to join Carlson and Ketcham in double figures.
- Friday’s win keeps Valpo tied for third place in the loss column in the MVC standings with Bradley. It also leaves Valpo just one win shy of 20 for the season, a mark the program has reached 14 times in the last 16 seasons.
Valpo (19-5, 6-3 MVC) hosts Indiana State for its annual Pink Game on Saturday night at 7 p.m. The program will be raising money for the American Cancer Society at the match.