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Volleyball Championship Scoreboard (Semifinals)
(1) Milwaukee 3, (6) Cleveland State 1 (25-23, 25-21, 23-25, 25-15)
(2) Valparaiso 3, (5) Youngstown State 0 (25-19, 25-19, 25-16)

The top-two seeds were too much for their opponents on Saturday night as top-seed Milwaukee and second-seed Valparaiso won to advance to Sunday's Championship match.

The two teams will square off at 1 p.m. C.T. in Milwaukee's Klotsche Center.

Milwaukee began the evening with a 3-1 win over sixth-seed Cleveland State. The Panthers and Vikings played an entertaining opening set as both offenses were on target. The Vikings hit .462 in the opening set, while the Panthers hit .514, but it was UWM that had the advantage at the end of set, scoring a 25-23 set victory.

The second set was the opposite of the first set as neither offense could get into a flow. After 20 kills and just two attack errors in the first set, Cleveland State had nine kills and 11 attack errors in the second set as Milwaukee took advantage of the Vikings' errors to record a 25-21 set victory to take a commanding 2-0 lead in the match.

Cleveland State rebounded in the third set to stay alive in the match. The Vikings jumped out to a 10-2 lead in the set and still had a 20-13 lead when Milwaukee made a late charge. The Panthers went on an 8-2 run to get within one point at 22-21, but kills by Maggie Hannon and Christina Toth gave CSU some breathing room. After Milwaukee cut the lead to one again at 24-23, an attack error by the Panthers gave Cleveland State the set.

The momentum Milwaukee built late in third set carried over into the fourth set for the Panthers as UWM went on an early 6-0 run to take a 7-2 lead and Cleveland State never got closer than four points the rest of the set.

Julie Kolinske led the Panthers with 17 kills, while Maggie Dunbar also reached double-figures with 14 kills on a .393 hitting percentage. Kayla Price had a match-high 47 assists, while Taylor Golabowski led the defensive effort with 23 digs. HL Player of the Year led UWM with seven blocks.

Cleveland State got 12 kills from Toth and 10 kills from Hannon, while senior Kerry Winchester also reached double-figures with 11. Nikki Holmes had a team-high 16 digs.

Milwaukee, after missing the tournament last season, will make its second appearance in the last three seasons in the championship match.

Valparaiso advanced to the championship match with a solid performance in a three-set sweep of Youngstown State. The Crusaders never trailed in the first two sets of the match and in the third set Valpo was last behind 3-2 early in the set, but two consecutive points gave Valparaiso a 4-3 lead and they would never trail in the set again.

Sarah Dooms led the Crusaders with 13 kills, while freshman Emily Campbell finished with 10. Freshman Morganne Longoria had a match-high 16 digs. Youngstown State's Alexis Egler led the Penguins with nine kills and 13 digs.(1) Milwaukee 3, (6) Cleveland State 1
Julie Kolinske had 17 kills while Maggie Dunbar added 14 as the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee advanced to the championship match of the Horizon League Tournament with a 25-23, 25-21, 23-25, 25-15 win over Cleveland State in a semifinal match Saturday at the Klotsche Center.

The Panthers (17-10) will play Valparaiso (25-7) in Sunday's 1 p.m. title contest. The Crusaders beat Youngstown State in Saturday's other semifinal.

Taylor Golabowski had 23 digs while Rachel Neuberger had seven blocks to lead the Milwaukee defense. Kayla Price also had a stellar overall match with 49 assists, nine digs, five blocks and four kills.

After Milwaukee won the first two frames, Cleveland State started fast in the third set before holding off a huge Panther rally. But UWM then carried that comeback momentum into a dominant fourth-set performance to claim their 10th championship match berth.

"When we really struggled was in that third set and we just were kind of out of sorts and out of system," Milwaukee head coach Susie Johnson said. "But I wasn't real worried because we came back so strong halfway through that set and really almost pulled it off. So the fact that we built that momentum to go into set four and got the victory is great."

Christina Toth led three Vikings (16-13) in double figures with 12 kills. Cleveland State had just beaten Milwaukee in five sets one week ago but could not overcome 24 hitting errors and lackluster offensive performances in the second and fourth sets. In fact, UWM held CSU to a -.049 clip in the second frame and a .057 hitting percentage in the fourth set.

"Our blocking got a ton better. We were able to get that done and that's what we've been working on for a couple of weeks," Johnson said. "That helped and kind of solidifies your defense in the back row. We were able to put all of that together and that's what really pushed Cleveland back and made it hard for them.

The Panthers pulled out a very tight first set that included nine ties. Milwaukee took the lead for good at 13-12 on a kill by Price and then extended the edge to 17-13 on a kill by Kolinske. The Vikings did pull to within one point five times after that, with a kill by Kerry Winchester making it 24-23. But Dunbar answered with a kill on the next rally to push Milwaukee ahead.

Milwaukee overcame a slow start to win the second frame. The Panthers trailed 12-9 after a CSU block and were still down 15-12 after a Winchester kill. But the Panthers rallied to take a 17-16 lead on a block by Price and Neuberger and took the lead for good at 19-18 on a Kolinske kill. That turned into a six-point run for Milwaukee, with the lead hitting 23-18 on a Neuberger kill. The Vikings did pull to within 24-21, but a CSU error ended the set and put Milwaukee up 2-0.

Cleveland State started strong and then hung on to win the third set. The Vikings had early leads of 6-1 and 10-2 and then were still up 20-13 after a block. That's when Milwaukee started to rally, with an ace by Maisey Mulvey making it 20-16 and and a kill by Dunbar making it 21-20. The Panthers did stay within a point at 24-23 but could never forge a tie, as an attack error eventually finished things off for CSU.

The Panthers then wasted little time in reasserting themselves in the fourth set. Milwaukee jumped out to leads of 7-2 and 12-4 and never really looked back. The lead was 15-7 after a block by Neuberger and Myanna Ruiz and ran all the way out to 23-10 on a solo block by Nicole Latzig. After a small run by Cleveland State, the Panthers finished things off with a Viking error and an ace by Price.

Now the Panthers turn their attention toward the title match, with Milwaukee seeking an eighth league tournament title and 10th NCAA Tournament appearance.

"Valpo is a strong team. They know how to win and they are well-coached," Johnson said. "We are expecting a tough match but we are ready to go for tomorrow."

(2) Valparaiso 3, (5) Youngstown State 0
The Valparaiso volleyball team trailed just once over three sets in a sweep (25-19, 25-19, 25-16) of Youngstown State Saturday evening in Milwaukee, Wis. in the second semifinal of the Horizon League Championship.  With the win, the Crusaders will face host and top-seeded Milwaukee Sunday afternoon at 1 p.m. for the league title and the league’s automatic bid to the NCAA Championship.

With the win, the Crusaders advance to the Horizon League championship match for the third time since 2007.  Both prior appearances in the title match for Valpo were in Milwaukee as well – however, for the first time, the Crusaders will face the host Panthers for the tournament championship, as Valpo downed Milwaukee in the semifinals in both 2007 and 2010.

“I give all the credit to our senior class,” said Crusader head coach Carin Avery.  “We talked a lot this week about what it means come tournament time.  I thought the seniors did an outstanding job all week, all day yesterday and today leading our team and getting us mentally prepared to play today.”

Valpo never trailed in the opening set against the fifth-seeded Penguins, who downed Green Bay on Friday evening to reach the semifinals.  The Crusaders scored six of the first eight points of the match and extended their lead to six points at 13-7 following back-to-back aces by Morganne Longoria (Burlington, Wis./Burlington) and a kill from Kelsey Victor (Logansport, Ind./Logansport).  Valpo’s lead was as much as eight on multiple occasions, the latest coming at 21-13 following a kill by Sarah Dooms (Greenwood, Ind./Center Grove).  Youngstown State closed to within four at 22-18, but the Crusaders closed the set by scoring three of the final four points, two of which came on Victor kills, to claim the opener.

The Crusaders would never trail in the second set either, gaining separation early on four straight points, two of which came on a kill and an ace from Dooms.  Youngstown State rallied to tie the set at 14-all, but the Crusaders responded with back-to-back Dooms kills, followed by a termination from Morgan Beil (St. Louis, Mo./Marquette).  The teams traded sideouts for the next eight points as Valpo maintained its lead, and the Crusaders eventually earned a 2-0 lead following a block from Beil and Janelle Hobbs (Hartland, Wis./Arrowhead).

Valpo would fall behind for the only time in the match in the third set, but the deficit was never more than one point, and the Crusaders gained the lead for good at 5-4 following a Beil kill.  With an 8-6 advantage, the Crusaders went on a 10-2 run to completely take control, a spurt which included kills from four different Valpo players, as well as five YSU attack errors.  The Crusaders cruised to the sweep from there, eventually ending the match on a kill by Dooms.

Valpo was led offensively by the performance of its outside hitters on Saturday, as Dooms finished the match with a match-best 13 kills on .379 hitting.  Freshman Emily Campbell (Grand Rapids, Mich./Forest Hills Central) added 10 kills as well as the Crusaders held a 44-26 edge in the kills category.  Beil chipped in eight kills on .286 hitting, while Valpo setters Kelsey Berrington (Britton, Mich./Tecumseh) and Ariel Cudney (LaPorte, Ind./LaPorte) handed out 19 and 17 assists, respectively.

The Crusaders enjoyed a big edge in the back row as well, out-digging Youngstown State (16-15) 60-40, led by 16 digs from Longoria, who also led all players with three service aces.  Dooms added 14 digs for her 12th double-double of the season.  Valpo totaled just six team blocks, its second-lowest total in the last 14 matches, led by four blocks from Beil.

“I thought we did a really good job defensively tonight,” said Avery.  “It might not have come through on the stat sheet, but our block really did well funneling balls where we wanted them to go and allowing us to dig balls in the back row.  I really think tonight came down to our defense being outstanding, which allowed us to transition to great offensive opportunities.  Also, I thought our serving and passing was great tonight.  If you talk to any coach in the country, they’ll tell you – the team that wins the serve/pass game will usually win the match.”

The Penguins would end the match with nobody in double figures in kills, as Alexis Egler registered a team-best nine terminations.  Egler also led the way for YSU with 13 digs, while Jenna Cavanaugh led the Penguins at the net with four blocks, including two solo efforts.

Valparaiso (25-7) looks to earn the 2013 Horizon League Championship and the corresponding automatic bid to the NCAA Tournament on Sunday at 1 p.m. against host Milwaukee.  Both teams won on the other’s home court during the regular season – Milwaukee winning at Valpo in three sets, the Crusaders returning the favor at the Klotsche Center in four sets.  The match can be seen live on the Horizon League Network, with that link, as well as a link for live stats, available through ValpoAthletics.com.

“Come tournament time, everything honestly gets thrown out the window,” said Avery.  “Whoever plays better than the other team tomorrow is going to win the match – you can scout and prepare for hours, but sometimes the little things will win that match, so we need to make sure we’re mentally focused and come out with energy.  We know what we need to do to try to win, and if we can do that tomorrow, we can give Milwaukee a very good battle.”

Tags: Cleveland State - Volleyball · Horizon League - Volleyball · Milwaukee - Volleyball · Valparaiso - Volleyball · Youngstown State - Volleyball
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