Volleyball Stands Alone With Best Start in Program History, Wins Twice Friday
The 2022 Valpo volleyball team is the only one in program history to win at least 10 consecutive matches to start a season, as the Beacons improved to 11-0 on Friday with a pair of victories on the first day of competition at the Roadrunner Classic in San Antonio, Texas. Valpo survived a comeback attempt from Incarnate Word to earn a 3-2 (25-15, 25-15, 22-25, 20-25, 15-8) victory in the tournament opener and then took down tournament host UTSA in straight sets (25-17, 25-16, 25-19) in the nightcap Friday night.
How It Happened – UIW
– Valpo’s defense led the way in the first two sets against the Cardinals, limiting UIW to .039 over the opening two frames.
– UIW actually jumped out to a 7-3 lead in the first set, but the Beacons immediately clawed back and took their first outright lead at 10-9. With the lead at 13-12, Valpo rattled off six straight points — two of which came on kills from Jillie Grant (Maumee, Ohio/Anthony Wayne) — to take control of the opener.
– Again, the Cardinals started in front in the second set, getting out to as much as a three-point lead at 8-5. But Valpo rallied again, taking its first outright lead at 11-10 early in an 8-1 run which gave the Beacons a six-point edge and control of the set en route to a 2-0 lead in the match.
– It looked like the Beacons were poised for a sweep to open the weekend, leading by as many as four points at 13-9 and still holding a three-point advantage at 18-15. But UIW scored five straight points to flip the script, and after Valpo came back with two in a row to set the set at 20-20, the Cardinals scored five of the final seven points to force a fourth set.
– UIW controlled the fourth frame from the outset, going ahead 8-3 early and never letting its lead fall under three points as the match advanced to a decisive fifth frame.
– The fifth set proved to be all Valpo, however. The Beacons hit at an absurd .750 clip for the set, posting kills on nine of 12 swings — Miranda Strongman (Wolverine Lake, Mich./Walled Lake Central [LIU]) picked up kills on all four of her swings, while Mallory Januski (Bourbonnais, Ill./Bradley-Bourbonnais) notched three kills on four swings. Defensively, Januski was in on three blocks as Valpo recorded four rejections as well.
How It Happened – UTSA
– Valpo led for most of the opening set against the host Roadrunners, but could not push its edge past four points, and the lead was just two approaching the late stages at 18-16.
– The Beacons closed the set on a 7-1 run, however, to emphatically slam the door on the opening frame. Maddy Boyer (Batavia, Ill./Batavia) picked up a pair of kills during the stretch to close the set, while Addy Kois (Osceola, Ind./Penn) tallied the final kill to finish it out.
– Four blocks from Valpo’s front row and a pair of service aces by Elise Swistek (LaPorte, Ind./New Prairie) were part of a 9-3 stretch early in set two which turned a 3-2 deficit into an 11-6 lead. The Beacons’ lead didn’t fall under three points the rest of the way and they scored eight of the final 11 points of the set to take a 2-0 lead in the match.
– Valpo led by as many as six points in set three, but UTSA rallied to close within two late at 19-17. Valpo came back with four straight, including kills by three different players, to push its advantage back to six points and eventually closed out the sweep on a solo block from Januski.
Inside the Matches
– The morning win over UIW clinched the outright best start in program history for this year’s Valpo squad, surpassing the 2015 team which opened up 9-0 before suffering its first loss.
– Valpo remains undefeated with Friday’s pair of victories, leaving the Beacons as one of just eight D-I programs nationally without a loss this season.
– The 11-match winning streak is tied for fourth-longest in program history. Only the 2004 team (14) and the 2008 and 2014 teams (13) have had longer winning streaks.
– Valpo has had seven double-figure winning streaks in program history, six of which have come under current head coach Carin Avery.
– It was a total team effort to claim the morning win over UIW, as all 17 players on the roster saw action, with only five players appearing in all five sets.
– The highlight of the opener was the performance on the attack from Januski. The junior posted the second-best hitting percentage in a five-set match in program history, needing just 16 swings to match her career best with 12 kills as she hit .688.
– She was backed up by a strong performance by another middle against the Cardinals, as Strongman hit at a .444 clip with nine kills — her high in the Valpo uniform — on just 18 swings.
– Both Januski and Strongman hit better than .400 in the sweep of UTSA as well.
– Valpo’s offense, which entered the weekend ranked among the top-10 nationally in kills/set, was strong again in both matches on Friday. The Beacons hit .250 with 63 kills in the win over UIW, finishing with a 15-kill edge over the Cardinals, and then hit .274 with 51 kills in the sweep of UTA, posting a 19-kill advantage in that match.
– The Beacons’ setters continue to be a big part of that prowess on the attack. Kois tied her career high with 28 assists in the win over UIW and chipped in a career-best 15 digs defensively for a double-double, and came back with 22 assists in the nightcap sweep of UTSA. Meanwhile, Victoria Bulmahn (McCordsville, Ind./Mt. Vernon) tallied 39 assists over the two matches and set at a .463 clip in the win over the Roadrunners.
– Emma Hickey (Granger, Ind./Penn) continued her strong early-season play at the libero position with 23 digs apiece in Friday’s two matches. Her 23 digs in the sweep of UTSA were the most by an MVC player in a three-set match to date this season.
– Swistek led the way in the nightcap with 10 kills and also recorded 15 digs for a double-double. Boyer recorded nine kills and four blocks, while Kara Cooper (LaPorte, Ind./LaPorte) notched nine kills on .368 hitting as well.
Valpo (11-0) goes for a program first on Saturday, as a win over Houston Baptist would give the Beacons a fourth in-season tournament title. The match begins at 11 a.m. with live stats available via ValpoAthletics.com.