Illinois State & Indiana State Move on; MVC Tournament Recap (Day 1/Round 1)

  0 Derek Johnson | November 24th, 2017 | College - Women's Indoor, Missouri Valley Conference, News


#5 INDIANA STATE DEF. #4 DRAKE 3-0 (25-23, 30-28, 25-19)

The first match of the 2017 Missouri Valley Conference tournament was technically an upset – although the five beating the four isn’t too crazy. Still, Indiana State finished four conference matches back of Drake, so it’s not as if the two were neck-and-neck for seeding. Both of these teams knew coming in they’d need to win the MVC Tournament to make the NCAA Tournament too, so Indiana State’s hopes stay alive while Drake’s are likely crushed.

The first two sets were absolute thrillers, with Indiana State squeaking things out 25-23 after seven ties and three lead changes in the first. The second was even closer as the two teams battled through extra points until Nikkie White (10 kills, .320, eight digs, four blocks) laid down the final kill of the set at 30-28. In total for the second game, there were 15 ties and four lead changes.

The third may have been a representation of two tough set losses wearing on Drake, as they just couldn’t muster up quite the same energy. After Drake led 2-0 early, Indiana State pushed in front 8-4 and never looked back as they held the lead to the end of a 3-0 sweep.

Besides White, Rachel Griffin (36 assists, 14 digs, two aces) and Laura Gross (11 kills, 15 digs) posted big numbers with double-doubles for Indiana State. In the losing effort for Drake, Natalie Fry was third on the team with eight kills, but had the most blocks (six) and hit efficiently at a .368 clip.

However, outside of Fry, Indiana State held down the Drake offense as they hit .162 as a team (and just .130 taking out Fry). They did so by winning in the front row (10-7 in team blocks) and back row (68-63 in digs) on the day as the Sycamores also hit at a stronger .206 rate.

At 124th in the RPI, Drake’s season is likely done as they’ve lost four straight (and three via sweep) – although they may have a chance in the NIVC Tournament that will take 64 of the best non-NCAA Tournament teams. For Indiana State, they advance to the MVC semifinals to face the top seed in #25 Missouri State.

#3 ILLINOIS STATE DEF. #6 VALPARAISO 3-1 (23-25, 25-15, 25-23, 25-19)

In the second match of the day, the higher seed won as Illinois State downed Valparaiso on their home court. The Cardinals move to 21-11 overall with the win, as they sit on the NCAA Tournament bubble. Their RPI was 96 coming into the week though, so it’s not looking good. Most likely they need to win the MVC Tournament, but regardless they need a big win tomorrow against (RV) Northern Iowa to boost their case and stay alive.

Despite being the lower seed, early on it was Valparaiso striking behind Sydney Bronner (11 kills, .259) and Taylor Graboski (11 kills, .258) while Rylee Cookerly (26 digs) patrolled the back row defense. In total there were nine ties and three lead changes in the opener, but Valpo came out on top 25-23.

The second set had plenty of ties (eight) and lead changes (three) as well, but all came early. A 13-2 Illinois State fueled by Jaelyn Keene (14 kills, .375, five blocks) turned things around to a 25-15 set win. The third was similarly close, but stayed that way throughout as this time it was the Red Birds with the 25-23 set win to take the 2-1 advantage.

In the fourth, Illinois State led for all but one moment as setter Stef Jankiewicz (51 assists, 15 digs) continued to lead the offense as five Red Birds were in double-digit kills. In total, that offense hit .218 as a unit.

Defensively, Courtney Pence had a match-high 32 digs as Valparaiso was held to a .138 mark with the Red Birds totaling more digs (96-82) and blocks (9-8). Part of their defensive success came from strong serving too, as they logged seven aces to Valparaiso’s two.

Next up, Illinois State takes on the two-seed in (RV) Northern Iowa – although it comes as a technical home match. For Valparaiso, their season likely comes to a close but there is still hope for the NIVC Tournament.

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