The Bradley Braves volleyball team brought their brooms to Renaissance Coliseum against Indiana State, sweeping the Sycamores in their two-match series on Sunday and Monday for their first series victory of the year.
The Sycamores gave Bradley all they could handle in a Valentine’s Day matineé, but the Braves bore down on defense and overcame Indiana State, three sets to one.
After a 25-12 win in Sunday’s first set, the Braves see-sawed with Indiana State throughout set two. After facing match point, down 24-22, sophomore Raeann Bergman and junior Kat Poore came up with a few clutch kills and Bradley took a 27-26 lead. However, the Sycamores showed their resilience, reeling off three straight points to take the second set 29-27.
Bergman and fellow middle Karragin Coggin had high expectations set for them on Sunday and they delivered with 13 and 14 kills, respectively. The pair of sophomores also recorded four blocks each.
“We knew before the game that we were going to have to show up to play and we did,“ Coggin said of her and Bergman. “What clicked for us was having good communication with our setters.”
Sunday’s third set saw much of the same action, with no team leading by more than three points the entire way. This time, the Braves were determined to not let another one slip away, eking out a grueling 31-29 win. Bradley capped off the day with a 25-15 triumph, giving the squad momentum after dropping consecutive matches to Drake previously.
“We were kind of uptight and stressed but we knew we could do it,” Coggin said. “We had to play our game and not worry what was on the scoreboard.”
Sophomore Serena Sparks gave the Braves 34 digs on Sunday, a career-high effort that eventually led to MVC Defensive Player of the Week honors. The Braves weren’t done setting records though.
After Monday’s 3-0 victory, junior outside hitter Hannah Thompson became the second player in Braves volleyball history to have 800 or more kills and 1,200 or more digs. The junior is now eighth in digs in BU history.
Monday’s match was not just the Hannah Thompson show though, as junior setter Kora Kauling and freshman defensive specialist Abby Johnson stepped up in the eyes of Carol Price-Torok. Kauling put up a balanced effort of seven kills, 27 assists and 14 digs while Johnson had a season-high five kills. The Braves’ coach raved about her team’s depth as Indiana State neutralized the duo of Bergman and Coggin in the second contest.
“We don’t want to rely on one person. It’s really easy to scout especially when you’re playing the same team back to back,”Price-Torok said.
The Braves used 4-0 and 6-0 runs to take a 14-9 lead in Monday’s first set, but Karinna Gall added seven kills for the Sycamores, who took a 23-22 lead. Thompson had other ideas, attacking with two kills and finishing the set with a block to give the Braves a 25-23 victory.
That was the hardest it would get for Bradley, as they took the following sets to the tune of 25-17 and 25-15. The series sweep got the Braves back to level ground at 3-3 for the season.
Price-Torok attributed the Braves’ wins to not only their depth, but their success in serving.
“One of our big keys to success was winning the service game,” Price-Torok said. “We wanted to make some runs from the service line and we really focused on that during the week.”
The Braves also played stellar defense, holding Indiana State to a .104 hitting percentage on Monday in addition to putting up 84 digs, one short of the team’s 3-set match record. Sunday’s game saw 105 Braves digs, fifth-best in a four-game set in Bradley history.
Ahead of Bradley’s clashes against Evansville (3-5), Price-Torok said it was time to be more aggressive on offense.
“We want to be ready to transition and score points. Digging is a great thing for us to do but we want to flip that a little bit more and think about points scoring,” Price-Torok said.
The Braves will travel to Evansville to battle the Purple Aces on Feb. 21 and 22.