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Redbirds collapse late against Valpo

Written by on February 22, 2021

Photo is courtesy of Illinois State Athletics

NORMAL, Ill. – Fresh off a 4-1 match victory 24 hour prior, the Illinois State Redbirds volleyball team suited up for their second encounter with Valparaiso University. Performing well as of late, ISU came in with a three-game winning streak, but fell into problems in the fourth and fifth set against the Brown and Gold, causing a 3-2 loss.

Johnson attempted to refrain her anger into humor to begin her post-game press conference and followed up with how ISU fell short of Valpo.

“They are very good. I expected this match last night. We know how hard it is to play the doubleheader and especially against teams that are very defensive, that are used to rallying long points in their own gym. That’s what we got from Valparaiso today,” said Johnson.

Kaitlyn Prondzinski and Sarah Kushner put together 15 kills each to lead ISU, followed by Kaylee Martin with 10. Although the firepower was their for the Redbirds, 31 errors gave Valpo little fight down the stretch. Coach Johnson didn’t think her players were fatigued coming in, but may have been winded from long rallies against Valparaiso.

“I think the long rallies definitely winded us. We did not help ourselves by the choices we made in those rallies. We were tipping more, and that’s not why we won sets two and three. We won because we swung. We put ourselves in a position to get winded, I don’t know if we were necessarily fatigued,” said Johnson.

A 8-1 run to end the first set saw Valpo take their first lead of the night, as the Redbirds held a 20-17 lead before Valparaiso got hot. The Redbirds edged Valpo in sets two and three while having scorching hot .250 hitting percentage. Then things turned ugly at Redbird Arena.

Beginning the set up 11-2, ISU could do little right to fight off a comeback from Valpo. Peyton McCarthy continued her impressive performance on Valpo’s front row, finishing the match with 17 kills. As the Brown and Gold knotted the match at two apiece, a fifth set was needed to decide a victor.

The Redbirds may have been better off heading out after set four as Valpo embarrassed their Missouri Valley counterpart 15-2 in a shocking fifth set.

The tall task all Valley teams have had to face throughout the season is bak-to-back games. Johnson spoke of being at a disadvantage in night two after securing a win in night one.

“It is hard to beat a team two nights in a row when you win the first night because they have all the obvious adjustments in their pocket. We are against the odds if you [we] win night one. We just have to keep our heads up and recognize that we are playing good volleyball,” said Johnson.

The Redbirds will have some time to recoup before they trek to Loyola-Chicago on Sunday for a match against the Ramblers at 3 p.m.