The Illinois State University volleyball team (16-11, 9-6 MVC) survived the Valparaiso University Crusaders (11-18, 6-9 MVC) in five sets after falling 0-2 early.
The Redbirds started the first set slow and the Crusaders took the lead and ran with it. Holding a three-point advantage through the entirety of the set, the Redbirds tried to dig into the lead behind Sydney Holt. Before they could keep their momentum brewing, Valpo converted on two consecutive blocks that forced the ’Birds into a timeout down five.
The timeout did not slow the Crusaders one bit, as they pushed their lead to eight. Monica Miller and Emmy Ogogor had several blocks that brought the lead down to four. Before ISU could give any more of a scare, Valpo finished off the first set 25-19.
The second set the ’Birds turned their momentum with Kaylee Martin and Holt tallying kills, but a huge stand by the Crusaders resulting in five ISU errors turned the tide. Errors continued to plague the ’Birds as the Crusaders continued to build a substantial lead in the second set. A kill by Martin sparked a last effort for the ’Birds and they were able to tie the set at 16. Valpo called a timeout and ISU’s momentum was halted, and an ace from the Crusaders pushed them up to a 2-0 lead in the match.
The Redbirds had quite the task ahead of them, as they would have to win the next three sets to take the match. Valpo’s play did not suffer at all in the beginning of the third set, but unlike the previous two sets, ISU stuck with the Crusaders this time around. Paige Hilliard entered the match for one of her first times on the court this year, and right away notched a kill. ISU maintained a lead with the Crusaders right on their tails. The Crusaders eventually caught the ’Birds to tie the match at 16 all. Each team continued to trade blows through the end of the set, pushing the set to overtime.
A kill by Sarah Kushner and a block by Holt and Ogogor allowed the Redbirds to make quick work of the Crusaders, finishing the set 27-25.
The ’Birds came out in the fourth hitting on all cylinders, reaching an 8-2 lead, with Martin accounting for five of eight points scored. The Crusaders pushed their deficit to three points, forcing ISU into a timeout. Fighting back and forth midway through the set, until the ’Birds pushed their lead to five.
The Redbirds went on a 4-0 run to push their lead out of reach of the Crusaders, and behind a kill from Holt and an in the net error called on Valpo, the ’Birds pushed to a fourth set victory 25-19.
The story stayed true in the fifth set, as the two teams battled point for point early on. A quick dump over the net by Stef Jankiewicz allowed the ’Birds to take a one-point lead, forcing the Crusaders into a timeout.
The Redbirds continued their momentum into a three-point run behind a block by Hilliard and Holt, plus a kill for both players as well. Before Valpo could retaliate, Martin recorded her 24th kill of the match, and an error by the Crusaders ended the fifth set 15-8 as the ’Birds were able to complete the comeback.
The Redbirds move onto Loyola-Chicago at 5 p.m. Saturday in Chicago.