Way-Too-Early Look at 2024 Valpo Volleyball
VB: Beacons begin offseason after early tourney exit
The 2023 Valparaiso volleyball season wasn’t supposed to end like this.
Not in a year when Carin Avery was celebrated for becoming the all-time winningest coach in school history.
Not in a year where Bella Ravotto and Miranda Strongman returned for an extra season of eligibility with hopes of a deep postseason run.
Not in a year in which the Beacons flirted with a top-three finish in the Missouri Valley Conference and obliterated undefeated Northern Iowa in the first set last weekend.
The path was there for the Beacons. A first-round matchup with a Belmont team that Valparaiso swept last month at the Athletics-Recreation Center. A second-round meeting with a Southern Illinois squad that Valpo beat twice this season, including a sweep at the ARC during Homecoming weekend.
Get to the semifinals and it’s another 20-win season for the program and a surefire return to the NIVC for a third straight year. Figure out a way to bottle the momentum from the 25-13 win over the Panthers in the first set earlier this month and then the Beacons would be one match away from the NCAA tournament.
Instead, Valparaiso let a set point slip away in the second set on Sunday, allowing the Bruins to tie the match. The Beacons then had two set point opportunities in the third set, but couldn’t close the door. Finally, the Bruins came out dominant in the fourth set and coasted to victory.
The 2023 Valparaiso volleyball season wasn’t supposed to end like this and short of the 2021 season when the team was knocked out of the conference tournament due to COVID protocols, this might be the most frustrating end to a season during Avery’s tenure.
“One hundred percent,” Avery said on Monday afternoon after returning to Valparaiso. “It 100 percent ranks up there and it’s maybe No. 1. The COVID year was out of our control. This was totally in our control.”
Avery talked through some of the inconsistency issues that plagued the Beacons throughout the year on Monday, but she did so with a resignation that the season was over and she was still coming to terms with that reality.
“You have to remember that one game doesn’t define an entire year, but this game did define our entire year because this was our entire year,” Avery said. “Our entire year was highs and lows, just very up and down. That was (Sunday afternoon) for us.”
“It’s hard because even in the locker room you’re pissed and you’re trying not to let (the loss) define you,” Avery added. “But you are pissed and I guess it just really hasn’t sunk in yet. It’s very hard for me to wrap my head around the fact that it’s done because the season did end so abruptly. It takes time to wrap my head around the fact that we’re not going to see Bella in a uniform again. Mallory (Januski) and Victoria (Bulmahn), those three have been with us full time. We added some really wonderful transfers in the mix. It’s just really hard to wrap my head around the fact that it’s over.”
With Valparaiso failing to get out of the first round of the Missouri Valley Conference tournament, it seems highly unlikely that the NIVC would invite Valpo to the postseason tournament. With that in mind, it’s time to take a look at who the Beacons are losing, who is coming back and who is coming in for next season.
Here is The Victory Bell’s Way-Too-Early Look at the 2024 Valparaiso Volleyball season with quotes from Avery on each of the newcomers.