Top-seed Cleveland State rallied to defeat fourth-seed Northern Kentucky 3-2 in five sets in the first semifinal of the Horizon League Volleyball Tournament. The win sends the Vikings into Sunday’s championship where they will face third-seed Valparaiso.
The Vikings were led by sophomore Alexis Middlebrooks who had 16 kills on a .351 hitting percentage. Middlebrooks also recorded 8 blocks. Senior Christina Toth added 14 kills, Grace Kauth 13, and Rachel Stover 11 for the Vikings offense.
Senior Nikki Holmes led the defensive efforts with 18 digs. Dayna Roberts added 13 digs and Kauth had 12. Middlebrooks notched 8 blocks followed by Stover, Kilner, and Slappy who all had 5 blocks respectively.
Cleveland State captured the first set 25-21 only to fall behind in the next two sets. In a struggle for the lead, the Vikings came out on top to take the fourth set, 25-22. With a block by Kilner and Middlebrooks the Vikings gained a two point lead over the Norse. A service ace from Dohar would bring the score to 24-22 and a kill by Toth would capture the set.
In set five neither team was willing to give up control as the score would stay within a two point range through the media timeout. Back-to-back kills from Kauth and Toth would build momentum for the Vikings as they began to pull ahead from the Norse. Going on a 5 point run, Cleveland State pulled to a 10-5 lead and went from there. Northern Kentucky would fight back to bring the score to 14-10 holding Cleveland at 14 for four rallies. A kill by Middlebrooks would give the Vikings the victory sending them to the championship.
Northern Kentucky was led by freshman Haley Libs who had 17 kills and junior Keely Creamer who added 14. Senior Mel Stewart led the defense with a match-high 19 digs as senior Jayden Julian added 17 along with 4 blocks.
(3) Valparaiso 3, (2) Oakland 1
Third-seed Valparaiso defeated second-seed Oakland in four sets in the second semifinal match of the day. The Crusaders advance to the Horizon League Volleyball Championship match for the first time since the 2013 championship. This will mark the Crusaders fourth appearance in the Horizon League championship match since joining the League for the 2007 season. Valpo has never won the championship match.
Valparaiso was led by sophomore Allison Ketcham who had 20 kills on a .212 hitting percentage. Freshmen Katherine Carlson and Kayla Currier each added 13 kills for the offensive strike against Oakland.
Defensive efforts were led by junior Morganne Longoria who recorded 24 digs. Carlson added 20 digs, senior Kelsey Berrington had 17 and Ketcham rounded out the defense with 15.
After losing 21-25 in the first set, Valparaiso battled back to take the next three sets. All four sets were within a four point difference. In the third set neither team wanted to give up the match point, taking the score to a high 32-30 in Valparaiso’s favor.
The fourth set went on to stay within a one point lead as both teams fought for each point. Two kills from Currier would spark momentum as Valparaiso would start to pull away to a 13-11 lead. The Crusaders kept a three point lead to move forward. A kill by Zalleski would put the Crusaders in match point position during four volleys. Carlson recorded the final kill of the night to bring Valparaiso to a 25-21 victory, advancing them to the championship match.
Oakland was led by senior Cassie Pelloni who recorded 19 kills on a .250 hitting percentage. Junior Jessica Dood added 15 and junior Melissa Deatsch 12. Junior libero Alli Gutschow had a match-high 30 digs to lead the Golden Grizzlies defense. Senior Ciara Schultz added 21 digs and 5 blocks while Deatsch added 18 digs.
2015 Horizon League Volleyball Championship (All times ET)
Sunday, Nov. 22 – Championship
2:00 – (1) Cleveland State vs. (3) Valparaiso