ST. LOUIS - Saint Louis turned away Valparaiso's comeback attempt and earned a 27-25, 25-19, 20-25, 25-23 victory Friday night on day one of the Active Ankle Challenge at Chaifetz Pavilion.
The Billikens improved to 1-3 on the season, while Valparaiso fell to 2-3.
Lauren Baumet and Lindsey Dinkelacker tied for match-high honors with 14 kills apiece for Saint Louis, while Carly Marcum added 10 kills. Megan Gilbert and Cassie Clarke collected seven kills apiece for the Bills.
Grace Bonoma registered 21 digs, followed by Dinkelacker with 12, Anna Church with nine and Clarke with eight. Gilbert and Carly Schumacher led the way at the net with five blocks apiece, with Marcum tallying four and Baumet chipping in with three. Clarke recorded 42 assists.
"The Billikens had a good, hard-fought win tonight against a quality opponent," head coach Kent Miller said. "I'm excited about how well our team played together, executed our game plan and played with intensity. We've had a challenging start to our season, but the team has taken it in stride. It showed tonight with their determination to get this win."
After Saint Louis jumped out to a 3-1 lead in the opening set, Valparaiso rattled off a 12-3 run to claim a 13-6 cushion. However, the Billikens responded with an 11-4 spurt of their own to knot the score at 17.
Three more ties followed before the Crusaders scored three straight points for a 23-20 edge. Dinkelacker's kill and a block by Gilbert and Schumacher narrowed the gap to one, but Valpo earned two match-point chances on a Morgan Beil kill.
Gilbert fought off one match point with a kill, then teamed with Schumacher for another block that made it 24-all. Valparaiso took a 25-24 lead, but the Bills closed with a 3-0 flurry consisting of a Gilbert kill, a Valpo ball-handling error and Bonoma's service ace.
Valparaiso went up 3-0 in set two, but Saint Louis quickly regained command with a 13-4 spurt for a 13-7 lead. The Crusaders never drew closer than four points, and the Billikens stretched the margin to 10 points, 22-12, before settling for a six-point set victory.
The third set was nip-and-tuck early on, with neither team leading by more than two points until Valparaiso went on top 14-11. SLU tied it at 14, then overcame a 17-14 deficit to pull even at 17. Valpo forged another three-point lead at 20-17, and this time the Crusaders fought off the Billikens to collect a 25-20 win.
In set four, Saint Louis led by three on five occasions, the final time a 16-13 advantage. Valparaiso rallied for a 17-17 tie, and the score was knotted at 18, 19 and 20 before a Bonoma ace and a Valpo attack error gave the Billikens a 22-20 lead.
When the Crusaders battled back and surged ahead, 23-22, it appeared as if the match might be headed to a fifth set. But the Billikens tied it on a service error and got a kill by Baumet and an ace by Church, one of her match-high three, to secure their first win of the season.The Active Ankle Challenge concludes Saturday, Sept. 1, with four matches at Chaifetz Pavilion. Valparaiso and South Alabama get things started at 10 a.m., followed by SLU vs. Southern Illinois at noon, Southern Illinois vs. Valparaiso at 4:30 p.m., and SLU vs. South Alabama at 7 p.m.