Defense Delivers As Rise Defeat Valkyries, 3-1

GRAND RAPIDS RISE 3 vs. Orlando Valkyries 1

April 18, 2024

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich.  — In a Pro Volleyball Federation match that could have significant playoff ramifications a few weeks from now, the Grand Rapids Rise defeated the Orlando Valkyries, 3-1, on Thursday to remain in third place in the League standings. The Rise won inside Van Andel Arena by set scores of 25-14, 17-25, 25-20, 25-13.

Grand Rapids had three players finish with double-digit kills in Emiliya Dimitrova (19, .274), Claire Chaussee (16, .239), and Erika Pritchard (19, .429). The Rise hit .272 as a team — their third-highest attacking percentage of the season and first time over .250 since March 26 at the Vegas Thrill. The offense was enabled by a stellar defensive showing. Grand Rapids picked up 78 digs for the team’s second-most in a four-set match this season.

The Rise scored the first three points to open the match and didn’t look back. Leading 14-11, Grand Rapids tied its season high with seven straight points to take a double-digit lead. The Rise claimed the first frame 25-14 for their largest set win this season. The previous best was a 25-15 first-set win over the Columbus Fury on March 9. The new mark to beat was topped again three sets later when the Rise won 25-13 to close out the match.

Grand Rapids hit .306 in the first set, with Dimitrova leading the charge with six kills and no attack errors on 13 swings (.462). Orlando was held to a .025 attack percentage.

The second set swung in Orlando’s favor. The Valkyries took control with a 4-0 run to lead 8-6 and pushed the advantage out to five points, 12-7, to force an early Rise timeout. More kills from Kaz Brown and Shaïnah Joseph helped Orlando pull away for good. Grand Rapids ended up allowing only 12 kills in the set but was aced four times — three from Jill Gillen — and got blocked three times. As a result, Orlando rolled to a 25-17 win to even the match at one set apiece.

The Rise controlled the third set and never relinquished the lead. Orlando got within two points a couple of times but couldn’t draw even. A setter kill from Ashley Evans following a reflex dig from Dimitrova gave Grand Rapids a 23-19 lead. Then, on set point, outside hitter Chaussee provided a rare assist to set up a kill off the block by Erika Pritchard. Her eighth kill of the match gave the Rise a 25-20 win. Pritchard finished with her first double-double of the season with 10 kills and 13 digs.

Evans, also getting a double-double, was all over the floor with 48 assists, 21 digs, three kills, and a block. Led by Evans, four Rise players finished with double figures in digs: Camila Gómez (17), Dimitrova (13), and Pritchard (13).

The fourth set was a landslide from the start as the Rise raced out to a 10-1 lead. This included a 9-0 run to set a franchise record after matching the previous 7-0 mark in the first frame. During the middle of the decisive outburst, Kayla Caffey and Pritchard made point-blank digs to keep a point alive before Dimitrova laced a ball down the line for another kill. All out of sorts, Orlando went out of rotation to give the Rise a free point to make the score 10-1.

Back-to-back blocks from Caffey and Dimitrova increased the Rise advantage to 10 points, 19-9. Caffey finished with a match-high four blocks. Grand Rapids scored three of the final four points with a kill and block from Evans and middle blocker Marin Grote powering down her ninth kill of the match. Orlando hit .024 with just seven kills in the final set.

The Valkyries only had one player, Skylar Fields (11, .140), who achieved over eight kills in the match. Anae, averaging 4.47 points per set entering the match (third-best in the League), was held in check with only seven points for the whole match.


  • The Rise improved to 13-5 in the first set this season with a +53 point differential (445-392).
  • After featuring 13 players on April 16 in Atlanta, Grand Rapids tightened the rotation and only used two substitutes on Thursday against Orlando. Shannon Scully saw action in the second, third and fourth sets, while Sarah Sponcil served once in both the third and fourth frames.
  • The Rise evened the season series against the Valkyries after Orlando won the first two meetings on March 1 and April 6. Grand Rapids battled back to beat them on consecutive Thursdays, April 11 and April 18, and dropped only one set in the process.
  • Grand Rapids is now 5-4 at home and has won two straight matches inside Van Andel Arena for a second time this year.
  • Dimitrova had the lone ace for the Rise. The 17-year pro is now one ace behind team leaders Chaussee (13) and Grote (13) for the season.


Post-Match Interviews

Photo Gallery

Box Score

ORL       14          25          20          13 — 1

GR         25          17          25          25 — 3

Team Leaders

ORL: Kills — Skylar Fields 11, Kaz Brown 7, Adora Anae 6, Shaïnah Joseph 6; Assists — Wilma Rivera 25, Carly Graham 8, Georgia Murphy 2; Aces — Jill Gillen 3, Brown 1, Anae 1; Blocks — M’Kaela White 2, Fields 2; Digs — Murphy 19, Gillen 10, Rivera 9.

GR: Kills — Emiliya Dimitrova 19, Claire Chaussee 16, Erika Pritchard 10; Assists — Ashley Evans 48, Camila Gómez 4; Aces — Dimitrova 1; Blocks — Kayla Caffey 4, Dimitrova 2, Chaussee 2; Digs — Evans 21, Gómez 17, Dimitrova 13, Pritchard 13.

A — 3,252

Record / Next Match

Grand Rapids: 9-9 / Sat., April 20 at Vegas Thrill, 10 p.m. ET

Orlando: 7-11 / Sun., April 21 vs. Atlanta Vibe, 2 p.m.

Photo by Nicolas Carrillo/Rise