A kill from senior Katherine Carlson (Lake Orion, Mich./Notre Dame Prep) capped a historic night for the Valparaiso University volleyball program on Thursday, as Valpo captured the first postseason victory in program history with a 3-1 (25-9, 13-25, 25-23, 25-18) win in the first round of the 2018 National Invitational Volleyball Championship over Ball State in Oxford, Ohio. Valpo will now face Miami University Friday at 6 p.m. CT in the second round of the NIVC.
How It Happened
- Making its first postseason appearance in 13 years, Valpo was revved up from the start of set one, running away with the opening-set win. A five-point run on the serve of freshman Gabby Daniels (Mill Valley, Calif./Saint Francis) provided separation early, and Valpo then scored 14 of the final 17 points of the opener.
- Valpo hit at a .423 clip in the opening frame. Meanwhile, the Cardinals hit a -.133 as Valpo prevented BSU from scoring back-to-back points at any point during the set.
- As easy as the first set was for Valpo, it was almost as easy for Ball State in the second set. The Cardinals hit .361 in that frame and limited Valpo to .051 hitting, with a 12-2 run in the middle of the set extending their lead out to double figures en route to evening up the match.
- It looked like Ball State would carry its momentum into the third set, as the Cardinals scored the first four points of the set. Valpo battled back, however, eventually tying the set at 10-10 after a three-point spurt and taking its first outright lead of the set at 13-12 on the second consecutive block from senior Sydney Bronner (Frankenmuth, Mich./Frankenmuth) and sophomore Jaclyn Bulmahn (McCordsville, Ind./Mt. Vernon).
- Ball State scored two straight to retake the lead, but kills by Bulmahn and senior Allison Ketcham (Mishawaka, Ind./Marian) returned the lead to Valpo’s side of the scoreboard at 15-14. Then, tied at 16 apiece, Valpo scored four of the next five – including a kill and a block by freshman Haley Hart (Frankfort, Ill./Lincoln-Way East) – to create separation and lead 21-17.
- The lead was still four at 22-18 before the Cardinals scored three straight to close to within 22-21. A kill from Bronner returned the serve to Valpo, however, and sophomore Ally Cummings (Novi, Mich./Novi) came up with a kill to give Valpo set point at 24-21. Ball State held off Valpo’s first two set point opportunities, but another kill from Cummings converted on the third chance as Valpo won the frame 25-23 and took the 2-1 lead in the match.
- The teams traded spurts to open the fourth set, as it was three consecutive Valpo points to start the set before Ball State came back with five straight points of its own.
- Valpo would regain the lead quickly, however, during an 8-2 run which gave the Brown and Gold a 12-8 advantage. BSU scored the next two to move within two, but Valpo came back with four straight points with Daniels serving to extend its lead to 16-10.
- Ball State would get no closer than four points the rest of the way. Valpo earned match point at 24-15, and while it took the team four shots to close out the match, Carlson’s 10th kill of the contest finally gave Valpo its first postseason victory.
Inside the Match
- Valpo’s first postseason win in program history comes in the program’s seventh postseason appearance. Valpo previously played in the NCAA Tournament play-in match in 1994, 1995 and 1996, and went to the NCAA Tournament in 2003, 2004 and 2005.
- Prior to Thursday, Valpo had won just two sets combined over its previous six postseason outings.
- The win was Valpo’s 26th of the 2018 season, tied for the sixth-most wins in a single season in program history. A win on Friday would move the 2018 squad up into a tie for second position.
- The key to Thursday’s victory laid within the attack errors on both sides. Valpo hit .233 for the match with just 14 attack errors, and outside the second set, hit .309 with just nine hitting errors. Meanwhile, Ball State actually held a 47-45 advantage in kills, but hit just .150 as it committed 26 attack errors.
- 11 of BSU’s 26 attack errors came courtesy of Valpo blocks, led by six rejections from Bronner and five from Anderson, who also handed out 36 assists.
- While the first postseason victory in program history was obviously the leading storyline, the return of Bronner to the lineup was right up there as well. The senior had been sidelined for nearly two months with an ankle injury, last appearing in Valpo’s Oct. 5 win over Loyola. After missing 14 consecutive matches, Bronner returned to action Thursday with the aforementioned team-high six blocks, as well as seven kills on .333 hitting.
- As has been the case all season long, Valpo’s pair of senior outsides led the way, as Carlson and Ketcham tied for team-high honors with 10 kills each – the latter doing so on .276 hitting.
- Both Carlson and Ketcham finished with identical double-doubles, as both of them also tallied a team-best 14 digs. Sophomore Rylee Cookerly (Brownsburg, Ind./Brownsburg) added 12 digs as well.
- Cookerly, who currently ranks fourth in program history in single-season digs, became just the third Valpo player all-time to surpass 700 digs for a season, closing the night with 703 digs this year. On the career chart, Carlson now owns 1,393 digs, just two shy of 10th place in program history, while Cookerly is right behind Carlson at 1,389 digs.
- As a team, Valpo established new single-season program records for digs (2,501) and attacks (5,433) on Thursday. The team is now just 80 digs shy of the mark for total digs in a season in the 25-point era, set by UNI last year at 2,581 digs. This year’s squad also moved into fourth in program history for single-season blocks (300.5) in the win over the Cardinals.
Thoughts From Coach Avery
“It was another great first to add to our program legacy tonight. I’m so happy for this senior class that they will continue to play another day together.”
“We did a good job this evening keeping our errors to a minimum, and we got productions from a variety of hitters tonight.”
“I’m so happy for Syd. She’s waited a long time to get back on the court, and we are thankful we got to the postseason to give her a chance to play again in her senior season. Not only did she play tonight, but she played extremely well! The entire team is happy for her.”
Valpo (26-10) will take on regional host Miami University, which defeated Northern Kentucky in straight sets, in Friday’s second-round matchup at 6 p.m. CT. The match can be seen live on the RedHawk All-Access subscription service, with links for the live video and stats available via ValpoAthletics.com.