VB Falls To Wolverines, Looks For Revenge Tonight
A conference opponent got the best of the Boilers on the road, as volleyball picked up their fourth such loss on Saturday in Ann Arbor, falling 1-3 to the Wolverines. While it's a totally understandable loss, it also put a crimp in Purdue's hopes for hosting NCAA matches, as they dropped to #17 in Massey and #25 in RPI. There's a chance that they'd catch a break if a higher-seeded team couldn't host due to scheduling conflicts, but for now, it's likely out of their hands. If they can take down Michigan and Michigan State this week, that might be enough to get them back into the top 16.
One item of note: Blake Mohler did not play in either match and didn't appear to travel with the team. I've found nothing to suggest why, so I assume it's an injury she picked up that's preventing her from playing. That would have been a factor in the Michigan game and likely will make this week's matches more challenging if she's still unavailable.
#13 Purdue 3, #240 Rutgers 0 (25-19, 25-11, 25-18)
Shondell cleared his bench for this one: Erin Williams had 1 kill at .500, while Lexi Dorn and Olivia Van Zelst played but had no stats. With Blake Mohler out, Shavona Cuttino got the start at MB, and the rest of the lineup stayed the same.
Rutgers actually played Purdue well in the first set; they were in it as late as 18-15 before a 4-0 run iced the set. In contrast, after they jumped out to an 0-3 lead in set three (they led just twice in the match), Purdue ran off 12 straight points and never looked back. Instead of a recap, I thought it'd be more fun to do an all-conference team with two catches: just one player from each school, and enough players at each position that you could actually field a team.
Illinois: DS Brandi Donnelly
Indiana: S Victoria Brisack
Iowa: OH Taylor Louis
Maryland: OH Gia Milana
Michigan: MB Claire Kieffer-Wright
Michigan State: DS Jamye Cox
Minnesota: S Samantha Seliger-Swenson
Nebraska: L Kenzie Maloney
Northwestern: OH Symone Abbott
Ohio State: DS Hannah Gruensfelder
Penn State: MB Haleigh Washington
Purdue: MB Danielle Cuttino
Rutgers: DS Karysa Swackenberg
Wisconsin: OH Kelli Bates
#13 Purdue 1, #30 Michigan 3 (25-23, 22-25, 22-25, 22-25)
No Mohler, so Shavona Cuttino starting at MB. No subs in, and Carissa Damler played in just two of four sets. Scaling the recap down in the interest of time.
Set one: Purdue 25, Michigan 23
Opening lead: Michigan 0-2
First Purdue lead: 5-4
Last Purdue lead: won set
Largest Purdue lead: 7-4
Largest deficit: 12-16
Key runs: Down 12-16, a 4-0 run tied it at 16; Michigan answered with three straight, but a 3-0 run tied it at 19. Purdue wouldn't trail by more than one the rest of the way.
Set two: Purdue 22, Michigan 25
Opening lead: Michigan 0-1
First Purdue lead: 2-1
Last Purdue lead: 13-12
Largest Purdue lead: 13-10
Largest deficit: 15-18, 22-25
Key run: A 1-6 Michigan run that turned a 13-10 lead into a 14-16 deficit; the Good Gals would tie at 19 and again at 22, but could not take the lead either time.
Set three: Purdue 22, Michigan 25
Opening lead: Purdue 1-0
First Purdue lead: 1-0
Last Purdue lead: 22-21
Largest Purdue lead: 22-20
Largest deficit: 8-12, 9-13, 11-15
Key run: The closer. Michigan scored the last five point of the set.
Set four: Purdue 22, Michigan 25
Opening lead: Purdue 1-0
First Purdue lead: 1-0
Last Purdue lead: 1-0
Largest Purdue lead: 1-0
Largest deficit: 5-12, 6-13
Key run: Purdue scored five of six to tie it at 18, but after a Michigan timeout, the Wolverines scored three straight. Purdue would get no closer than 22-23 after that.
In a match as closely contested as this one (30 ties, 13 lead changes), you'd expect the box score to be close. It sort of was, although there were a couple of interesting differences. Purdue led in kills, 56-54, but trailed significantly in hitting percentage, .241 to .147, in large part because of unforced attack errors (21 to just 9 for Michigan). All of Michigan's kills were assisted, while the Boilers had 52 assists. At the line, Purdue had 7 aces (-2) to just 1 for the Wolverines (-4). Michigan outdug the Boilers 60-53 and outblocked them 12.0-11.0.
Sherridan Atkinson led the Good Gals with a match-high 20 kills at .302; Caitlyn Newton added 10 at .250, while Danielle Cuttino, the focus of the Michigan defense, had 12 kills but hit just .049. Ashley Evans had 47 assists and 2 aces (even), with Jena Otec (2/+1), Brooke Peters (2/-1) and Atkinson (1/-1) serving the others. Peters had a team-high 15 digs, with Azariah Stahl the other Boiler in double figures with 10. Danielle Cuttino had the only Purdue solo block and added 5 assists for a team-high 3.5, with Shavona Cuttino right behind her at 2.5.
Michigan was led by Indianapolis (Carmel; I know, Carmel HS isn't in Indy but this is how she's listed) native Carly Skjodt - the junior OH led all players with 16 kills and hit .295, getting a double-double with a match-high 16 digs. Skjodt was joined by senior OPP Katherine Mahlke, who had a huge match, hitting .500 with 14 kills, and sophomore OH Sydney Wetterstrom, who added 12 kills at .286. Sophomore setter MacKenzi Welsh posted a double-double of her own with 46 assists and 11 digs - junior libero Jenna Lerg was the other Wolverine in double figures with 15. Senior OH Adeja Lambert had the only ace and was even at the line. Five Wolverines recorded solo blocks, with redshirt sophomore MB Cori Crocker adding 4 assists for a team-high 3.0 total blocks.
Mohler's absence was notable, but the Michigan match was still close enough that a more accurate Purdue attack could well have won it. Still, that's part of playing on the road - it's easier to recover when the crowd is supporting you rather than your opponents. Hopefully her situation is just an injury that needed rest and she'll be back in action tonight.
Penn State swept Indiana and Rutgers to move to 17-1, but they have a huge challenge this week, traveling to Wisconsin and Minnesota to close out conference play. If they stumble, Nebraska will be the regular-season champs (and would anyway if tiebreakers count, since they beat PSU in their only meeting), as the Huskers finish at Northwestern and home to Iowa; they dropped a set at Ohio State but swept Maryland. Minnesota beat Northwestern but was upset at Illinois to drop out of contention for the title, falling to 14-4. Michigan State was swept at Michigan, but swept Indiana to keep pace at 13-5. The Good Gals are next at 11-7, with Wisconsin at 10-8 thanks to wins over Illinois and Northwestern, and Illinois matching that. Michigan's perfect weekend moved them to 9-9, hitting .500 for the first time since 9/30.
Rutgers will close Big Tenteen play with just three sets in their pocket, as they also visit Minnesota and Wisconsin to close out their season. Indiana is stuck on one win, with Northwestern out of reach at 4-14. Maryland surprised Iowa to improve to 6-12, tied with Ohio State, who was swept by the 7-11 Hawkeyes.
With the uncertainty around the start time of the Bucket game, the Michigan return match was moved to Wednesday, so Senior Night will be Friday against Michigan State instead. Win these two, and the Good Gals have an outside chance of hosting; drop one and that's probably going to put them on the road. Even if they lose both matches, their NCAA spot is assured.
Two road matches means limited selection of pics: feature photo courtesy of Purdue Athletics