The Valpo volleyball team made sure that seniors Alana Brown (Napa, Calif./Vintage) and Brooke Westphal (Michigan City, Ind./Michigan City [Arizona St./South Florida St.]) would depart the ARC winners in the final home match of their collegiate careers Saturday evening, as Valpo dominated throughout in a 3-0 (25-15, 25-22, 25-19) sweep of Bradley. In the third set of the win, junior libero Rylee Cookerly (Brownsburg, Ind./Brownsburg) surpassed the 2,000-career dig milestone.
How It Happened
- Valpo limited Bradley to .036 hitting in the opening set, thanks in large part to Cookerly’s back-row play. The junior, who entered the match 20 digs shy of 2,000 for her career, recorded 15 digs in the first set alone.
- A seven-point run on the serve of Westphal was key in the opener, taking a 4-4 tie and making it an 11-4 Valpo lead. Juniors Peyton McCarthy (Cincinnati, Ohio/Seton) and Brittany Anderson (East Chicago, Ind./Bishop Noll) teamed up for a pair of blocks during the run, while McCarthy had two kills as well.
- Bradley rallied to within four at 14-10 before Valpo scored three straight – two on kills from sophomore Haley Hart (Frankfort, Ill./Lincoln-Way East) and one on a kill by sophomore Jillie Grant (Maumee, Ohio/Anthony Wayne) – to push the lead back to seven points.
- Valpo cruised to the win from there, eventually sealing the opener on a solo block by Hart.
- Bradley controlled the second set from the start and past the halfway mark, and the Braves looked to be closing in on evening up the match as they led 18-13.
- A kill from freshman Bella Ravotto (Mishawaka, Ind./Marian) kick-started a four-point spurt, capped by a kill by Hart, that brought Valpo within one at 18-17.
- A Bradley kill briefly slowed the Valpo momentum, but Hart responded with another kill and then picked up a solo block to even the frame at 19-19. Consecutive Bradley errors gave Valpo a 21-19 lead.
- The Braves used kills to close back to within one point three times, at 21-20, 22-21 and 23-22, but all three times, Valpo had the answer. First it was a block from Hart and Ravotto, and the latter two came via kills from junior Ally Cummings (Novi, Mich./Novi), the second of which gave Valpo set point at 24-23. McCarthy capped the comeback with a kill on the first set point chance to give the Brown and Gold a 2-0 lead in the match.
- Much like the second set, Bradley led past the midway point of the third frame. It was a three-point advantage for the Braves at 15-12 before Valpo put together another big run to take control.
- The spurt started with kills from Grant and Cummings, and then the Crusaders took advantage of three consecutive Bradley attack errors to go ahead, 17-15.
- The Braves cut their deficit to one with a kill, but that was just a dent in the larger run for Valpo. Cummings returned the serve to Valpo with another kill, and following a Bradley attack error, Hart recorded back-to-back terminations to push the lead to five points at 21-16.
- It was elementary from there for Valpo to close out the sweep, with McCarthy finishing the match on the Crusaders’ second match point chance via a kill.
Inside the Match
- Saturday was a celebration of Valpo’s pair of seniors. A four-year member of the program, Brown owns 194 career digs and has been a part of 71 Valpo victories over her four seasons. The Napa, Calif. native has been sidelined due to injury for the vast majority of her senior year, but made an appearance on Saturday, serving late in the opening set.
- Meanwhile, Westphal joined the Valpo program in early August of this year. In her lone season at Valpo, Westphal has tallied 76 digs (1.46/set), reaching double figures in the category three times – including a season-best 12 digs in Saturday’s win.
- Seemingly every time one turns around, Cookerly is making her mark on the Valpo record book or reaching another milestone. Saturday, it was a nice, round figure – the 2,000-career dig mark. The junior is just the fourth in program history to reach the milestone, and only the second to do so during her third year on campus. Taylor Root closed her junior year with 2,017 career digs, while Cookerly will enter the final weekend of the regular season with 2,003 career digs.
- Cookerly is one of just 14 active Division I players with at least 2,000 career digs, and the only junior in that group. In fact, as of the end of play Saturday, she owns 258 more digs than any other junior in the nation.
- Cookerly’s match-high total of 23 digs led four Valpo players in double figures in the category as it out-dug the Braves, 80-61. Valpo’s 80 digs are tied for fifth-most in a three-set match in the 25-point era.
- Anderson finished with 12 digs to go with 44 assists in the win, while Ravotto tallied 10 digs as well to join Cookerly and Westphal in double figures.
- Meanwhile, Valpo’s offense was about as balanced as can be in the sweep. Five different players had between 20 and 28 attacks, with four different attackers tallying anywhere from nine to 11 kills as Valpo hit .256 with 48 kills in the win.
- McCarthy and Grant tied for team-high honors with 11 kills apiece, the latter doing so on .423 hitting as she did not commit an attack error. Grant added nine digs and tied her career high with three blocks, while McCarthy led all players with five rejections.
- Cummings racked up 10 kills on .360 hitting Saturday and Hart hit .300 with nine kills and four blocks.
- Valpo totaled 10 blocks in Saturday’s sweep, reaching double figures in the category for the eighth time this year.
- The win improves Valpo’s record within MVC play to 7-9, tied for fifth place with Evansville and ahead of both Southern Illinois and Missouri State – which each own 6-11 records – with one week of play remaining and only the top-six teams earning spots in the MVC Tournament.
Valpo (12-18, 7-9 MVC) hits the road for the final weekend of regular season play, heading to Iowa. The weekend opens at Drake on Friday night at 6 p.m. in a match which can be seen live on ESPN+.