It’s become a standard of success for the Valparaiso University volleyball program over the years – the team reaches the 20-win mark, season after season. Saturday night, the 2018 edition of Valpo volleyball hit the milestone, sweeping Indiana State 3-0 (25-13, 25-18, 25-21) for its 20th win of the year as the program hosted its annual Pink Match.
How It Happened
- The opener was all Valpo, as the Brown and Gold scored six of the match’s first eight points and forced Indiana State timeouts at 11-5 and 14-6 en route to easily claiming the first set.
- The Sycamores held the early advantage in set two, jumping out to a 6-2 lead and forcing a Valpo timeout. Out of the stoppage, Valpo rattled off four points in a row – three of which came on kills from sophomore Ally Cummings (Novi, Mich./Novi) – to even the set at 6-6.
- The teams went back and forth over the next few points, with Indiana State scoring three straight to approach the halfway point of the frame with a 12-11 lead. But senior Allison Ketcham (Mishawaka, Ind./Marian) came up with a kill and then a service ace to kick off a 7-2 stretch that gave Valpo an 18-14 lead.
- After the teams traded sideouts for the next four points, Valpo led 20-16, and then following an ISU attack error, all but put the set away with a trio of strong points from its front row.
- Valpo threw up the rare triple block, as Ketcham teamed up with senior Lizzie Zaleski (Oak Lawn, Ill./Marist) and sophomore Brittany Anderson (East Chicago, Ind./Bishop Noll) for the rejection to make it 22-16. Anderson and Ketcham followed with another block, and Zaleski registered a kill to cap the five-point run that put Valpo up 24-16. The Brown and Gold converted on their third set point opportunity to go up 2-0 in the match.
- The third set was the tightest of the match, with seven tie scores and three lead changes. Indiana State tied the frame at 17-all before consecutive kills from senior Katherine Carlson (Lake Orion, Mich./Notre Dame Prep) and Cummings put Valpo ahead 19-17 and forced a timeout from the Sycamores.
- Eight straight sideouts followed out of the timeout, as Valpo maintained the two-point lead at 23-21. Carlson then joined with freshman Haley Hart (Frankfort, Ill./Lincoln-Way East) on a big block to give Valpo match point, and fittingly, it would be Cummings who ended the perfect weekend with a kill.
Inside the Match
- Valpo has now won 20 or more matches in 15 of head coach Carin Avery’s 17 years in charge of the program, after doing so just five times in the program’s first 23 seasons.
- The 2018 team does become the first squad in the last three years to reach the mark, however.
- This year marks the seventh time out of Avery’s 15 20-win teams that the program has reached 20 wins within the season’s first 25 matches. The 2004 team was 20-3 when it hit 20 wins, while the 2013 squad was 20-4. In 2003, 2005, 2010 and 2015, Valpo also had five losses when it recorded win number 20.
- Saturday’s win also moves Valpo to 7-3 in MVC play and keeps the team in a tie for third place in the loss column in the conference standings. Just past the halfway mark of conference play, Valpo is already just one victory shy of its MVC win total from last year.
- Saturday’s victory completes a season sweep of Valpo’s pair of in-state MVC rivals – Indiana State and Evansville. In fact, Valpo won 12 of 13 sets this season from the Sycamores and Purple Aces.
- Just like Valpo did Friday night, it played Saturday with just one healthy middle in the lineup in Hart. And again, it was Cummings who stepped up in a big way, leading all players with 13 kills and hitting at a .524 clip – her second straight match above the .500 mark.
- It was a balanced offensive effort for the arms behind Cummings, as Zaleski finished with eight kills, Ketcham seven, Carlson six and Hart four.
- Anderson handed out 31 assists while also picking up eight digs and tying for team-high honors with Ketcham with four blocks.
- Sophomore Rylee Cookerly (Brownsburg, Ind./Brownsburg) led the back-row effort with a match-best 19 digs – her second-highest total this year in a three-set match.
- Valpo totaled 8.5 blocks at the net over the three sets and averaged 2.36 blocks/set on the weekend – out-pacing its season average despite playing half its rotations with no middle to block.
Valpo (20-5, 7-3 MVC) hits the road to take on a UNI squad just outside the top-25 nationally next Friday night. The match can be seen live on ESPN3.