Volleyball comeback effort falls short at Illinois State

The Valpo volleyball team held off a pair of match point chances in the third set Saturday evening at Illinois State to extend the match, and then successfully battled through three Redbird match points in the fourth set before Illinois State closed out the match on its sixth effort, 3-1 (25-23, 25-21, 25-27, 25-21).

How It Happened

-          Valpo held the lead past the midway point of the opening set. But up 17-15, the Brown and Gold surrendered a 7-2 run to Illinois State which put the Redbirds ahead, 22-19.

-          Illinois State eventually earned set point at 24-21, but in what would become a theme later in the match, Valpo battled back. A Redbird attack error was followed by a block from juniors Peyton McCarthy (Cincinnati, Ohio/Seton) and Jaclyn Bulmahn (McCordsville, Ind./Mt. Vernon) to make it 24-23. But Illinois State converted on its third chance to take the opening set.

-          Valpo looked to be in control of the second set, leading by six points at 15-9 before the Redbirds ripped off a 12-2 run to flip the script and go up 21-17.

-          The Crusaders responded with four of the next five points, which included a pair of kills by junior Ally Cummings (Novi, Mich./Novi), to close back within one point at 22-21, but Illinois State reeled off the final three points of the set to take a 2-0 lead in the match.

-          The theme of the third set would be Valpo continuously battling from behind. The Brown and Gold led 2-0 to start the frame, but until the final points of the set, that would be their only lead.

-          Despite that, Valpo and Illinois State ended up tied nine times over the duration of the third set. The two sides were level at 4-4, 9-9, 14-14, 17-17, 19-19, 20-20 and 22-22, but all seven of those instances saw Illinois State claim the next point to keep Valpo from pulling ahead.

-          The Redbirds earned match point at 24-22 following a block, but for a Valpo squad which had been battling from behind all set, the situation was nothing new. Cummings picked up back-to-back kills to hold off the two ISU match point chances, and then a Redbird attack error gave Valpo a chance to extend the match. Junior Melissa Flynders (Mokena, Ill./Providence Catholic) closed out the set-ending service run with an ace to push the match to a fourth set.

-          It looked early in set four like Valpo would make the match go the full five sets, as it jumped all over Illinois State, running out to a quick 9-3 lead.

-          But the Redbirds rallied, tying the set for the first time at 12-12 and then taking its first lead at 15-14. Illinois State closed a larger 11-3 run with a four-point spurt, extending its advantage to six points at 23-17.

-          After the squads traded sideouts, the Redbirds found themselves with match point at 24-18. But again, Valpo fought, as Illinois State committed a pair of errors and Flynders tallied another service ace to force an ISU timeout at 24-21. Out of the stoppage, however, the Redbirds got a kill from Kaylee Martin as they finished out the match on their sixth match point opportunity.

Inside the Match

-          Saturday’s match was Valpo’s first within MVC play to conclude in four sets, as the Brown and Gold had previously had six three-set matches and one five-set affair. In fact, it was the team’s first four-set match since Sept. 20.

-          Despite the loss, Valpo’s block was strong again on Saturday, as it finished with 11 team blocks after tallying 10 on Friday. It is just the second time this year that Valpo has posted double-digit blocks in consecutive matches.

-          After averaging just 1.82 blocks/set in early-season play, Valpo is averaging 2.26 blocks/set to date in MVC action.

-          Leading the effort on the block Saturday was McCarthy, who tied for match-high honors with six rejections.

-          Sophomore Haley Hart (Frankfort, Ill./Lincoln-Way East) was in on five blocks as well as she bumped her team-high average within conference play to 1.21 blocks/set.

-          McCarthy also led the Valpo effort offensively with 13 kills on .310 hitting.

-          Junior Rylee Cookerly (Brownsburg, Ind./Brownsburg) delivered a match-best 19 digs in the back line, while junior Brittany Anderson (East Chicago, Ind./Bishop Noll) posted a double-double with 31 assists and 11 digs.

Next Up

Valpo (8-14, 3-5 MVC) opens up a four-match homestand next Friday evening, Oct. 25, as it hosts Loyola at 6 p.m. The match can be seen live on ESPN3.