Crusaders Knock Panthers From League Tourney
Nov. 17, 2007
MILWAUKEE - Angie Porche had 19 kills and Val Bollenbach added 17 as Valparaiso upset the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee 30-25, 30-17, 22-30, 30-26 Saturday afternoon in the semifinals of the Horizon League Volleyball Tournament at the Klotsche Center.
The fourth-seeded Crusaders (21-10) will advance to Sunday's championship match against second-seeded Cleveland State. Meanwhile, regular-season champion Milwaukee (26-3) will await word of a possible at-large berth in the NCAA Tournament when the pairings are announced next Sunday.
Jamie Gabrielsen and Natalie Schmitting had 17 kills apiece to lead the Panthers, who again found themselves battling from behind most of the day. After dropping the first two games, Milwaukee bounced back with a win in the third and trailed only 17-16 midway through the fourth. But, the Crusaders made the final surge in snapping the Panthers' 12-match overall winning streak and 21-match homecourt winning streak.
"You can't let this one match define your season," UWM head coach Susie Johnson said. "I am proud of this team. They have already done things that other teams here have not. You have to let go of this match and remember the entire season. We overcame a lot of injuries and difficult matches to get to this point, and I really believe the season will continue."
Milwaukee's at-large resume includes 26 wins, with losses only to nationally-ranked Wisconsin, Cleveland State and Valparaiso. The Panthers, who did capture at-large bids in 1999 and 2000, are 3-0 against the Big East and own wins against the ACC and Missouri Valley. Plus, Milwaukee has been ranked in the top 40 in the NCAA's RPI much of the season.
"I really do feel like we have a good chance," Johnson said. "I told the team that we will practice and prepare this week as if we are in the tournament. I think we have accomplished a lot this season and I certainly think we deserve to be in and have our season continue."
Valpo's effort Saturday also included 13 kills apiece from Jill Meyer and Tiffany Meikle, while the Crusaders hit .285 as a team. The Panthers, meanwhile, had 29 hitting errors and hit just .206. Twenty-two of UWM's errors came in the first two games.
"It is hard to play in the tournament. You are supposed to play it just like any other match throughout the season, but everyone knows it is not," Johnson said. "Loyola and Valparaiso both played some of their best volleyball of the season against us, and they made it very hard for us to overcome any of our own mistakes. Valpo blocked the right side on us early, so we adjusted and we did get better on offense. But, give them credit, because they really played well."
Valpo came from behind to win the first game. The Crusaders turned a 15-10 deficit into a 25-21 lead, with the run sparked by the serving of Meikle. Two kills by Bollenbacher also helped the surge, and Valpo's lead was still 27-23 after a kill by Tara Newton. UWM did cut the edge to 27-24 but a kill by Porche and two Panther errors wrapped things up for the Crusaders.
Game two was all Valpo, as the Crusaders used a 16-5 run to blow the frame open. Valpo hit .421 in the frame while limiting the Panthers to a .049 hitting clip.
The Panthers bounced back with an easy win in game three. Milwaukee scored 10 of the first 14 points of the game to take control and lest 13-6 after a block from Gabrielsen and Schmitting. The lead grew to 20-9 on a block by Nicole Vilter and Gabrielsen and UWM never let Valpo closer than seven points the rest of the way.
Milwaukee was in it throughout the fourth game but could never take the lead. A kill by Schmitting brought the Panthers to within 17-16 but Valpo scored the next three points to take control. UWM did fight back to within 28-26 on another Schmitting kill but two kills by Porche wrapped up the game and match for Valparaiso.