GREEN BAY, Wis. (GreenBayPhoenix.com) - Trailing 9-3 and 12-7 in the fifth set on the road and looking to avoid a four-match losing streak, the Green Bay (9-14, 5-6 HL) rallied to stun Valparaiso (16-9, 7-4 HL) in Horizon League volleyball action Saturday evening. The 3-2 (25-23, 16-25, 25-23, 20-25, 15-13) win secured the program's first season sweep of Valpo.
Junior Carmen Leitermann (Schofield, Wis.) had 19 kills and seven blocks to lead the Phoenix while senior Abbey Gitter (Hortonville, Wis.) continued her recent strong play with 15 kills. Junior Brittany Groth (Oak Creek, Wis.) tallied 30 digs and is now just 10 away from reaching 1,000 for her career.
The Phoenix led both 1-0 and 2-1 in sets, but the Crusaders, looking to avenge a 3-0 loss in Green Bay on Sept. 23, claimed the fourth set to force the decisive fifth.
In the fifth, Valpo scored five points in a row to take a commanding 9-3 lead and look to be on the way to the victory. Two kills from senior Carlie Willison (Greenfield, Wis.) kept the Phoenix around, but Valpo was only three points from the win after a Sarah Dooms kill made it 12-7.
A kill from Gitter and a Groth service ace cut the lead to 12-9 and forced a Crusader timeout, and a Leitermann block followed to cut it to 12-10. After a Valpo kill made it 13-10, Gitter started the final rally with another kill. A Valpo attack error, kills from sophomore Leah Van Zeeland (Kaukauna, Wis.) and Leitermann and a stuff block from Leitermann completed the unlikely rally.
"I am proud of the way we rebounded after last night's loss," said head coach Debbie Kirch of her team, which fell 3-0 Friday night at UIC. "Valpo is a tough place to play and we dug ourselves a big hole in the fifth set, but because of our serve and block, we got ourselves back in position to win. A lot of credit to goes to Abbey Gitter. She was our rock this weekend."
Gitter opened the match Saturday with six kills and just one error as the Phoenix pulled out a close opening set that Leitermann ended with a kill, 25-23. With 14 assists from setter Leah Poel (Jenison, Mich.), the Phoenix had 18 kills and hit .255 in the set against the league's top defense. Poel finished with 44 assists and 12 digs for her fourth double-double in the past five matches.
Despite splitting the first two sets after dropping the second 25-16, Green Bay had just 2.0 team blocks at that point. The Phoenix had a season-high 15.0 team blocks during the sweep of Valpo on Sept. 23.
That began to change in set three, with the Phoenix posting 4.0 team blocks and getting five kills from Leitermann to pull out another close set, 25-23, and take a 2-1 lead.
The Phoenix had 6.0 more blocks in set four and rallied from 7-1 down to at one point take a 20-19 lead, but the Crusaders scored the final six points to close it out and set the stage for the thrilling fifth set.
Sophomore Katie Mroczenski (New Berlin, Wis.) had five block assists to support Leitermann's total as the Phoenix finished with 13.0 team blocks, tying its second highest total of the season. Zabkowicz aided Groth's effort in the back row with 16 digs.
Green Bay returns to action on Friday at the Kress Center, hosting Loyola at 7 p.m.
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