VB Tops Maryland, Pushes Wisconsin in Madison
Yes, if it's another Tuesday, it must be time for another recap of a Big Tenteen split for Purdue volleyball ... but this one arrived in a most unusual way, even if the match results played out exactly as most would have guessed. The Boilers took down Maryland in Holloway with a bit more difficulty than expected, 3-1, concluding a 2-1 home stand that felt something like a success, then headed up to Madison for what was sure to be a whipping at the hands of the Badgers.
Instead, Purdue nearly pulled off their second huge road comeback of the season, falling behind 0-2 before knotting the match and forcing a fifth and deciding set as they did at Stanford. The Boilers didn't have quite enough left to stop Wisconsin, but the resulting 2-3 loss, coupled with the 2-3 loss earlier in the season in West Lafayette, does suggest that the Good Gals are capable of holding their own with just about anyone in the country.
Purdue 3, Maryland 1 (25-23, 25-15, 16-25, 28-26)
No injuries means no changes to the Boilers' usual lineup. Linnea Rohrsen served in one set, committed a service error, and did not play again, which is about what you can expect from someone in her situation - without more match experience, she's unlikely to suddenly become a consistent server.
Those who hoped for a quick sweep in Holloway so that they could then watch an amazing Game 7 from the comfort of the nearest TV were in for a significant surprise, as the first set featured 18 ties and 6 lead changes, numbers that probably exceeded expectations for the entire match. Purdue ran out to an early 3-0 lead, as is their particular ... idiom? ... but Maryland cut the lead to 3-2, gave up a point on a Danielle Cuttino kill, and ran off four straight to go up 4-6. Purdue tied it at 6, traded service errors for 7-7, and then alternated points and two-point runs to tie at 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13, 14, 15, 16, 17, and 18! After an Ashlyn MacGregor ace gave Maryland an 18-19 lead, Dave Shondell used a timeout ... but Maryland went up 18-20 anyway on a Hailey Murray/Angel Gaskin block of Cuttino. The Boilers responded with a Blake Mohler kill, and a Murray attack error tied the set at 20 and drew a Maryland timeout. The Terrapins broke the tie, as Gia Milana hit through a Sherridan Atkinson block for 20-21, but Cuttino evened it at 21 with a kill. Another Milana kill made it 21-22 Terps; an Atkinson kill made it 22-all. Finally, another Murray attack error put Purdue up 23-22, and Maryland used their second timeout, getting one more Milana kill to make it 23-23. Atkinson put the Boilers back in front, 24-23, and a ball-handling error on Taylor Smith gave Purdue set 1, 25-23.
Set 2 was more like pre-match expectations, although it took a while for things to get where they needed to be. Maryland struck first on a Gaskin kill, but 0-1 quickly became 2-1 after a pair of Cuttino kills. The Boilers led by as many as 3, at 6-3, 7-4, and 10-7, but Maryland would not go away, and another Gaskin kill started a 1-5 run that put the visitors up 11-12 and got Shondell to call his first timeout. A MacGregor service error stopped the run, and after an exchange of points, Purdue used kills by Cuttino and Azariah Stahl plus a Liz Twilley attack error and a solo block by Mohler of Smith to go up 17-13, forcing Maryland to use its first timeout. Two Milana attack errors - one on an Atkinson/Mohler block and one unforced - drew the second, and while a Milana kill got the Terrapins back within 5, 19-14, Purdue scored the next four points to get the set safely in hand, and after a Murray block of Faye Adelaja, they scored the final two for a 25-15 set and a 2-0 lead at the break. Surely the visitors' spirit had been broken, and set 3 would be a blowout, right?
Well, no and yes, and not in the way you'd expect it to be a blowout. The Good Gals scored first, but Maryland opened up a 2-5 lead and never really looked back; the Boilers would get within one at 5-6, but a three-point run burned timeout #1, and at 9-12, Maryland scored four in a row to burn timeout #2. Purdue simply couldn't put points together the rest of the way; even when they did, cutting a 12-19 lead to 14-19, the Terrapins responded, going up 14-22. At 16-23, Milana's kill gave Maryland set point, and Murray and Gaskin would combine for another block of Cuttino, leaving the match at 2-1 and raising questions about whether or not it would end up the way it was expected to.
The start of set 4 didn't give Boiler fans much reason for optimism. Maryland scored first, responded to a 2-1 Purdue lead by going up 2-3, and at 4-4, the visitors scored six of the next seven points (with a yellow card on the Maryland bench somewhere in there - the box score says 5-8, but I have my doubts); after a Purdue timeout, they added another, leading 5-11, and even when a Stahl kill got the Boilers serving again, another two made it 6-13 Terrapins. Still, the Good Gals would not go away, and they began to chip away at the lead: kills from Evans and Cuttino made it 8-13. Twilley extended the lead to 6, but a Sam Higginbothem service error started a 4-0 Purdue run that got them within 2, 12-14. The sides traded points through 14-16, when a Milana kill and a Mohler error pushed the difference to 14-18, and most everyone's thoughts were on a fifth set. Again, Purdue worked their way back into the set: 15-18, 17-19, 19-20, and Maryland used their second timeout. Gaskin and MacGregor stuffed Cuttino for 19-21; Evans answered for 20-21. Two kills from Milana made it 20-23 and drew Purdue's second timeout; Cuttino got a kill and a solo block of Gaskin to make it 22-23. Milana gave Maryland set point #1 with a kill, but Atkinson and Mohler denied her attack, keeping Purdue alive at 23-24, and Milana's unforced error stopped set point #2, putting the set at deuce, 24-24. If you guessed Milana as the Maryland player earning set point #3, you would be correct; but her service error knotted the score again at 25-25, and this time Purdue would get match point #1 on a Murray attack error. Mohler's serve went awry, but at 26-all, Adelaja got the Boilers match point #2, and Evans drove it home, giving Purdue a hard-fought 28-26 set and 3-1 match.
If you hadn't noticed already, Maryland did themselves no favors. While Purdue outhit Maryland .250 to .208, a good bit of that was on the Terrapins, as 15 of their 22 attack errors were unforced. They added 12 service errors (-9, to Purdue's 2/11 for -9), plus 2 ball-handling errors for a total of 31 (Purdue's 2 aces count as return errors). The Boilers also had the upper hand in assists (54-48), digs (66-57) and solo blocks (3-1), while Maryland managed to match them in total blocks with 7.
Purdue was led yet again by Danielle Cuttino with a whopping 22 kills at .246, although even that count wasn't enough to lead everyone in this match. Azariah Stahl was the only other Boiler in double digits (12 at a solid .310), and Ashley Evans added 5 at .444. Evans had a match-high 47 assists, but did not have an ace (Carissa Damler (-2) and Blake Mohler (0) each had 1). The match leader in digs wasn't libero Natalie Haben (although she did have 13), but DS Brooke Peters, who notched a career-high 20. Damler (13) and Evans (10) joined them in double figures. Three Boilers had a solo block apiece, with Mohler's 3 assists giving her a team-high 2.5 total.
On the other side, Gia Milana was far and away Maryland's attack leader, posting a match-high 23 kills at .241; Hailey Murray added 10 at .273, and Ashlyn MacGregor had 6 at .357. Taylor Smith led the Terrapins with 42 assists and had one of their three aces at -2 (Milana (-1) and MacGregor (-1) had the others). Kelsey Wicinski had a team-high 16 digs, with Smith (11) and Milana (10) rounding out the group in double digits. Murray added the only solo block for Maryland, and with 4 assists, she led all players with 3 total blocks.
Purdue 2, Wisconsin 3 (22-25, 24-26, 25-22, 25-16, 10-15)
The only lineup change from Wednesday to Saturday was that Rohrsen did not make an appearance. Well, if you believe the box score rather than your own lying eyes, there was another: Cuttino was libero in set one. I think we all know that Haben was libero and simply came in for Cuttino to start ... not sure who would have thought Purdue's best MB (and one of the best in the country) would be restricted to back-row play. Anyway.
Anyone who thought Wisconsin would have their way with the Boilers in Madison (I may have feared that would happen myself) were convinced otherwise almost from the very beginning of the match. The Badgers did jump out in front early, 0-2, but Purdue responded with two of their own, and after a Romana Krišková kill, an Adelaja kill and a Mohler/Cuttino block of Krišková put the Boilers up 4-3. The two teams traded one-point leads and ties through 8-7, when Wisconsin put a Lauren Carlini/Haleigh Nelson block of Stahl in between attack errors by Atkinson and Adelaja to take an 8-10 lead ... which was promptly ended on kills by those two Boilers. After two more one-point UW leads and ties, Evans and Mohler stuffed Molly Haggerty, and the Good Gals had their turn up one and tied through 16-15; an Adelaja/Stahl block of Tionna Williams gave Purdue its largest lead of the match, 17-15, but four straight Wisconsin points turned that around, and the Boilers would get no closer than one the rest of the way, with Lauryn Gillis providing the clinching point on a Kelli Bates set. Even though they were down 0-1, Purdue had to be feeling pretty good about the match to that point.
Set two was as close as set one, but unlike the opener, it was led almost the entire way ... by the Boilers! An Evans kill and a rare bad set by Carlini gave the guests a 2-0 lead that they almost managed to keep the entire way; five times, the Badgers managed to tie it, and four times, Purdue got the next point to stay in front. However, they never really managed to lead by much, in part thanks to on-point coaching by Kelly Sheffield. He used his first timeout when Purdue grabbed a two-point lead at 8-6; the next point was a Mohler service error, and Wisconsin stayed within one or two until a solo block of Haggerty by Evans made it 12-9 Boilers. At 14-11, Wisconsin took advantage of two Purdue attack errors (a Carlini/Williams block of Stahl and an unforced Mohler error) to get the lead back to one, 14-13, and they tied it at 15 on a Gillis kill, forcing Shondell to respond with a timeout. The Good Gals then took the next three points, and after an unusual kill by Damler on an overdig, Sheffield used his remaining timeout at 18-15. It seemed as though UW didn't have quite enough to even the set, as the Boilers stayed up two or three through a Cuttino kill to make it 21-18, but indeed they did have it - Haggerty and Gillis cut the Purdue lead to a point, and after Cuttino and Atkinson responded in kind, a Williams kill and two more Wisconsin blocks tied the match at 23 ... and now it was the Badgers breaking ties, with Carlini putting UW in the barn at 23-24. Atkinson denied set point #1 with a kill, but an Evans attack error gave the hosts another chance, and Nelson finished the set, 24-26. Although it was 0-2 heading into the break, neither set was out of hand. If Purdue had just a little bit more, they'd make a match out of this yet.
Set three got off to an inauspicious beginning, as the sides traded service errors for a 1-1 start. Wisconsin pulled ahead 1-3, but a Carlini service error made it 2-3; at 2-4, a Cuttino kill and a Haggerty attack error tied the set. Wisconsin stayed in front just a bit longer, going up 4-6 and 5-7, but three straight Purdue points had the Good Gals out front at 8-7, and it was Purdue's turn to lead and Wisconsin's to chase. The Boilers led by as many as three, but Wisconsin responded with an 0-3 run to draw even at 12, and just as in the Maryland match, Purdue found themselves tied again and again: 13, 14, 15, and 16. Finally, the Badgers broke the rhythm, with a Mohler service error and a Gillis/Williams block of Atkinson giving the hosts a two-point lead; after a Purdue timeout, the Boilers ran off three straight to force a Wisconsin timeout. The Badgers managed to level the set at 19, but Adelaja would have none of it, rattling off three straight kills around Wisconsin's other timeout; a Cuttino kill made it 23-19 Good Gals, and Purdue was in great position to win the set. They did give up a couple of points, prompting Shondell to use his remaining timeout, but Adelaja had one more kill left, and after a Nelson kill, Cuttino would give the Boilers the set, 25-22. With three sets in the books, Purdue had yet to look outclassed, and with momentum on their side, their hopes may have been raised a bit. Set four would justify those hopes.
It didn't start out unlike the other sets, with Purdue leading 1-0 and Wisconsin responding with two points, but from there, things quickly went the way of the Good Gals. A Cuttino kill and two Krišková attack errors (one unforced, one a Cuttino solo block) put Purdue up 4-2; after two Haggerty kills, the Boilers ran off six in a row, mostly with Evans at the line, and mostly on Wisconsin attack errors (four in a row, two unforced). From there, the Badgers got no closer than 12-9; it quickly became 15-9 and then 18-10, and at that point it was clear there would be a fifth set. The Boilers made short work of it, scoring the final three points on kills by Mohler and Stahl and an Adelaja/Atkinson block of Gillis, winning the set decisively, 25-16. Could set five be more of the same?
Alas, it was not to be. The Boilers managed only a tie at 1-1 on another Carlini service error, but Wisconsin pulled away, leading 2-6, 3-8 and 5-12 before cruising to a 10-15 win. The Badgers came away with a hard-earned, well-deserved 2-3 win, but the Boilers posted a very credible performance in forcing that fifth set after losing the first two.
In fact, Purdue actually outhit Wisconsin in the loss, .232 to .20, and led in digs (75-69), service performance (-6 to -11, despite 0 aces to Wisconsin's 2) and blocks (16-10), while the hosts had 64 aces to 59 for Purdue. Molly Haggerty led all players with 24 kills at .319, with Romana Krišková adding 12 at .219 and Haleigh Nelson recording 11 at .333. S Lauren Carlini had a match-high 57 assists and added 12 digs, with libero Kelli Bates tops on Wisconsin with 18 and Haggerty also in double figures with 11. Nelson also had a match-high 3 solo blocks and 4 total blocks, plus Wisconsin's only two aces.
For the Good Gals, it was Faye Adelaja on fire, posting a team-high 21 kills at .690. Yes, that is a 6. 21 kills on 29 attacks. Wisconsin's front line is one of the best in the country, yet Adelaja hit almost .700 against them in a sport where a match at .300 is good. By comparison, Danielle Cuttino had 19 kills at .275, which itself is a good number and is still .415 short of Adelaja's percentage! Ashley Evans had 56 of Purdue's 59 assists, but couldn't quite hit double figures in digs (9); Natalie Haben did that and then some, with 25 to lead all scorers easily and set her own career best, while Brooke Peters (16) and Carissa Damler (10) joined her. Cuttino had 2 of Purdue 4 solo blocks, but it was Azariah Stahl leading the Boilers with 3.5 total.
Purdue's performance against Maryland wasn't great, Bob. The one thing that makes it somewhat better is that the Terrapins did take down Ohio State in five, so it wasn't like the Northwestern loss (which is still the Wildcats' only win in conference play). However, the five-setter in Madison is easily one of Purdue's best performances of the year, despite losing the match. The only other conference match where Wisconsin dropped more than one set was the sweep by Minnesota; in fact, Wisconsin had swept Ohio State and beaten Illinois and Penn State in four, so even quality sides had trouble in Madison prior to Purdue's visit.
That said, the Boilers could have used another marquee win, just in case. Road matches against Indiana and Maryland loom as potential bad losses, and it'd be nice to have just a little more insurance in case there aren't any good wins remaining. Tough losses don't necessarily count against you, but if the remaining schedule goes as Massey suggests, Purdue would lose 5 of its last 9, which might not compare favorably to the finish of a team in a weaker conference. The Michigan win should help, especially with it coming in four sets, but I don't count tournament appearances until I see the bracket, and there's still a ways to go before it comes out.
The depth of the conference is a little surprising, with Purdue still trying to get into the top half of the standings, and that might be the other issue: will the committee take 9 or 10 teams, even if they are all deserving? If they don't, who do you leave out? As much as the Boilers' resume stands out against, say, Ohio State, the Buckeyes do have a four-set win at Nebraska, and they also host Purdue the day after Thanksgiving in a match that might well knock the loser onto the bubble or even off it. The Boilers would be well served to take care of business when the opportunity arises.
It's East Lansing for the Boilers tomorrow night, as they'll face a red-hot Spartans team that has won six of its last seven and nine of its last eleven, including a 3-0 win over Ohio State, a 3-2 win over Minnesota, that 3-1 win at Purdue, and a 3-0 sweep of Illinois. The schedule is even harder on MSU than Purdue, though, as each of their six remaining matches is against a Massey top-30 team. Michigan State is safely in the field of 64, but they'll certainly want to improve their #15 RPI in hopes that they'll host first- and second-round play in Jenison Fieldhouse.
After that, it's back home again on Saturday, as Purdue will celebrate the final home match of redshirt senior Faye Adelaja's career, hosting Iowa for Senior Night. (Hey, if there were more than one, it'd be Seniors Night, right?) Now that you live in a universe where the Cubs are reigning World Series champions, you have time to do the little things, right? Come on down and watch the Boilers wreak havoc on the Hawkeyes. Why? Because I said so, that's why.
With the Boilers having faced both opponents already this season, rather than repeating myself, I'll just refer you to previews of Michigan State and Iowa past. Yes, you'll have to scroll, sorry, we aren't putting anchors in the posts yet, and by "we" I mean "me".
Given the vagaries of technology, none of this may be true by tomorrow, but for now, count on watching the MSU match on BTN+ at 7:00 ET (you did turn your clocks back, didn't you?) and the Iowa match at the same bat-time on the same bat-channel Saturday. Radio coverage will be on WSHY 1410 AM as always, and there is always the GameTracker approach if you feel lucky, punk.
The Boilers are sitting squarely at #20 in Massey's rankings, and although they're tied for ninth in conference play, that's not so bad when you realize five of the eight ahead of them are in Massey's top ten, with Michigan at 15. (Illinois and Iowa are ahead of Purdue in conference play but not in Massey.) AVCA has the Boilers just outside the rankings at 26; four Big Tenteen schools are in their top ten, with MSU 15th and Michigan 17th.
Images from Maryland match courtesy of Purdue Sports and Dave Wegiel