VB Falls to Penn State, Sweeps Rutgers
If you knew nothing more about volleyball than "gosh, Penn State always seems to be good" and "wow, Rutgers isn't very good at all", you'd already know enough to predict last week's matches, and in fact, they went exactly according to Massey's schedule: the Boilers managed to take a set from the best team in the country, then rolled to an easy 3-0 win over an undermanned Rutgers squad, stopping a three-match losing streak (which, to be fair, came against three of the top 5 or 6 schools in the country; the Good Gals got swept in just one of those matches). While the Penn State match was understandably sold out (I actually saw someone scalping tickets), so was the Rutgers match - apparently those family packs sold pretty well. If only we had a larger arena, we could have sold more seats ... if only ...
Recaps will be a little light since roughly half of the weekend's action was not competitive, so we'll take another look at leaderboards after we wrap up.
#19 Purdue 1, #1 Penn State 3 (22-25, 14-25, 25-21, 10-25)
One lineup change for the Boilers, an expected one: Caitlyn Newton starting at OH, Danielle Cuttino moving to MB and Shavona Cuttino on the bench, so that Danielle could attack from a different position. Shavona and Julianna Reisinger got some playing time, with Shavona getting a block assist and Reisinger recording 3 digs and an assist. Olivia Van Zelst had her right thigh bandaged, but didn't appear limited in warmups; Brooke Peters had a compression sleeve on her left thigh, but was similarly unaffected and played the whole way at libero as usual. (Also Hayley Bush has a jump serve. Will we get to see it next season when she's a redshirt freshman?)
The first set was unexpected in that Purdue went toe-to-toe with Penn State, leading for a good bit and never falling far behind. PSU did get the first two points, off a kill by Simone Lee and an ace from Lee, but the Boilers took the next two, and from there it was back and forth until a 3-0 Purdue run got the Good Gals out in front for the first time, 7-6. Three exchanges of points were followed by two more Boiler points for another 3-0 run, and at 12-9, Purdue seemed to be in a reasonable position, but the Nittany Lions hung around: 12-10, 13-12, and 14-14. Purdue got an Azariah Stahl kill to lead 15-14 at the media timeout, but All-American Haleigh Washington took the lead right back with a kill and an ace, and the Boilers would not lead again, although they would trade points through 18-19, when PSU took the lead back on a Sherridan Atkinson attack error. A Danielle Cuttino attack error drew a Purdue timeout at 18-20; the Boilers used a 3-1 run to tie at 21-21, but an Ali Frantti kill and a Stahl attack error set the lead back to 2 and used the other Boiler timeout. A Washington/Abby Detering block of Stahl gave the Nittany Lions set point; a Frantti service error closed the gap to 22-24, but a Lee kill ended the set, 22-25.
The first part of set two seemed much like the first: PSU up 0-2, Purdue tied it at 2-2, alternating points through 4-4, PSU up 4-6, Purdue 5-2 run to lead 9-8.
Then it got ugly. The visitors doubled their point total, burning both Purdue timeouts - an Atkinson kill stopped the bleeding, but at 10-16, the Good Gals weren't really in a good position, and after trading points through 12-18, an 0-4 run closed the door. Another Lee kill set up set point at 14-25, and Frantti locked it up with a kill, sending Purdue to the locker room down 0-2 and feeling worse than that.
Whatever Dave Shondell said during the break should probably have been captured on video, as it worked magic in set three. Penn State again scored first, but the Boilers roared back with three straight to lead 3-1. Trading through 7-5, the Nittany Lions took the lead back with a three-point run capped by a Frantti kill to lead 7-8; Purdue responded with three of their own to lead 10-8. Two PSU points tied it at 10-10, then the teams alternated through 12-12 until yet another Lee kill made it 12-13 visitors. The sides traded points through the media timeout at 14-15; a Heidi Thelen kill gave Penn State its first two-point lead of the set, but at 15-17, Purdue scored four straight to go up 19-17, and PSU used its first time out of the match. Two more Nittany Lion points tied it at 19-19, drawing a Purdue timeout; a Kendall White service error keyed a 3-0 run by the Good Gals to put Purdue back up 22-19, ending with a Penn State challenge (in the box score, finally!) that was denied. PSU cut it down to 22-21, but a Stahl kill made it 23-21, and the Lions used their final timeout; a Brooke Peters ace got set point for Purdue, and a rare Washington attack error gave the Boilers the set, 25-21.
That, as they say, was that. Purdue led 1-0 in the fourth, but fell behind 1-3; a 2-0 run tied it at 3-3, but a flood of points buried the hosts: 3-6, 4-6, and then here it comes ... 4-9, timeout Purdue; 4-10, Purdue challenge, denied; 4-12, timeout Purdue; 4-15, Purdue challenge, denied (at this challenge, Penn State was lucky they don't have basketball rules in play, as the player waiting to serve bounced the ball hard on the court in seeming frustration; Big Tenteen refs T that stuff up in a heartbeat over in Mackey). An Atkinson kill made it 5-15, and a Frantti attack error cut the lead to single digits, but there were no illusions among the sellout crowd as to what the final outcome would be, and while the Boilers would cut it to 9 again at 9-17, an 0-4 run warmed up the bus, and two Thelen kills set it in motion, with PSU cruising to a 10-25 win.
Penn State entered the match as the #1 attacking team in the country and left it the same way, dominating in all aspects of the game. They hit .336 to Purdue's .172, recording 58 assists to 38 for the Good Gals, and ran through aces (7/-3 to 3/-5), digs (53-45), and blocks (10.0-7.0) the same way.
Moving Danielle to MB did do some good, as she managed 15 kills at .273, and Atkinson joined her with 11 kills at .269, but the rest of the Purdue attack was completely shut down: Mohler 5 at .091, Newton 3 at .091, Stahl 5 at .000. Evans posted another double-double with team-leading marks in assists (35, also high for the match) and digs (14), with Peters (8), Stahl and Jena Otec (6 each) farther behind in the latter. Stahl also had the only solo block for Purdue, sharing the total block lead with Danielle Cuttino and Evans at 1.5 each.
Senior OH Ali Frantti led Penn State with 15 kills at .238; while the Boilers limited her and senior OH Simone Lee (13 at .161), they could not stop senior RS Heidi Thelen, who had 14 at .542, and while they limited the nation's top attacker, senior MB Haleigh Washington, she still managed 10 kills at .450. (She was actually hitting .506 coming into Friday's match; Washington also recorded her 1000th kill the next day at Indiana.) Senior setter Abby Detering nearly matched Evans with 34 assists, as junior setter Bryanna Weiskircher added 20; Washington and Weiskircher each had 2 aces at +1 to lead the Nittany Lions at the service line. Sophomore libero Kendall White, an Indianapolis Cathedral graduate, led all players with 19 digs, with Lee a distant second (12). Thelen had PSU's solo block and matched Washington with 3.0 total blocks each.
#19 Purdue 3, #240 Rutgers 0 (25-11, 25-21, 25-16)
Rutgers has 18 women on the roster, but only 12 have seen action in at least half the team's matches, and those 12 looked like the only ones who made the road trip last week; a bad team with less than a full complement of players is simply in a bad position, and that's exactly what we saw Saturday. Thanks, Delany!
Purdue stuck with the Danielle-at-MB lineup for the first two sets, with Shavona Cuttino sitting out; it's possible she was physically limited (even though I saw no sign of it in warmups), since she got no playing time Saturday. Much of the bench did, as Lexi Dorn got a late appearance (4 assists, 1 block error), as did Van Zelst (recording an 11,000, the volleyball version of a trillion: 1 set, 1 match played, 0 kills, 0 errors, 0 total attacks, no other stats) and Erin Williams (2 kills on 5 attacks, .400, 1 solo block); Williams also started the third set in place of Newton, as Danielle moved back to OH.
Set one was never in question, as Purdue went up 7-1, 10-2 (Rutgers timeout), and 14-3 (Rutgers timeout). At 15-3, the first set was basically over. The Scarlet Knights managed to score twice on their serve the rest of the way, but the Boilers topped that with three on their own, and a Stahl ace put away set one, 25-11. At this point, the crowd was expecting a walkover.
They would not get it in set two, as the visitors played much, much better and nearly stole it. A Sahbria McLetchie kill started them off 0-1; Purdue scored three straight to go up 3-1, capped by an Otec ace, but Rutgers came back to tie it at 3-3, and after a Danielle Cuttino kill, they got back-to-back kills to go up 4-5. Neither side was able to string points together until an 0-3 run turned an 8-7 Boiler lead to an 8-10 deficit; after trading points, Purdue rattled off four straight to lead 13-11 and force a Rutgers timeout ... which triggered a run of seven consecutive points around an unsuccessful Purdue challenge and a Boiler timeout. A Stahl kill stopped the run, but it was 14-18, and a Stasa Miljevic kill made it 14-19, putting the Good Gals in a bad spot. They weren't in it for long, as Stahl and Mohler combined for a block and two kills to cut the lead to 17-19; after the other Rutgers timeout, an Atkinson ace and a McLetchie attack error tied the set at 19-19, and a Rutgers challenge did not change that. McLetchie put the next point down to put the Scarlet Knights up 19-20, but they couldn't hold off the charging Boilers, who finished on a 6-1 run to take a 25-21 set that was much closer than anyone expected.
As is often the case, the underdogs seemed to have nothing left after the narrow loss, and Purdue quickly dispatched them in set three, taking leads of 4-0, 6-1, 12-4, and 16-5. By 19-7, Rutgers had used both timeouts, and at 21-8, the match was basically over. Rutgers would draw within 8 twice, at 23-15 and 24-16, but Atkinson put a Dorn set away to send the Boilers off with their 9th consecutive win by a sweep - the last time Purdue won a match in which they conceded a set was the September 8 win against Creighton in Lawrence.
Purdue enjoyed a big advantage everywhere except in blocks (tied at 7.0), hitting .405 to Rutgers' .134 and leading in assists (39-32), aces (7/+6 (!!) to 3/-3), and digs (39 to 24). Purdue's performance at the service line was by far their best of the season, with 7 aces just one short of their season high and +6 topping their previous high of +4 against Eastern Michigan in Laramie.
Danielle Cuttino topped the Boilers with 10 kills at .333, but Rutgers' focus on her was costly, as Atkinson (8 at .400) and Mohler (8 at .778) smoked the Scarlet Knights. Atkinson was fantastic at the line, with a career-high 4 aces and no errors; Otec added 2 with no errors and chipped in a return kill, and Stahl had the other ace, with Reisinger committing the lone service error. Evans led all players with 30 assists, but fell just short of a double-double with 9 digs, trailing only Peters, who had a match-high 13. Stahl also had 2 solo blocks and a team-high 3.5 total blocks.
Rutgers was led by junior OH Sahbria McLetchie, a transfer from VCU, who had a match-high 14 kills at .216; freshman RS Kamila Cieslik had 10 kills at a team-high .273. Sophomore setter Megan Sharkey had 28 assists and one ace (+1), with Cieslik recording the other two (+1). Sophomore libero Karysa Swackenberg had 9 digs for the Scarlet Knights, while McLetchie and sophomore MB Stasa Miljevic, a transfer from Florida State, each had a solo block, with Miljevic adding 4 assists for a team-high 3.0 total blocks.
Sets two and four against Penn State were a little disheartening, but it's been evident this season that Purdue just isn't on par with the elites, and Friday was no exception. They did play two solid sets, as they did at Minnesota, and took one, as they did against Nebraska, so all things considered, that wasn't too bad. The win against Rutgers was underwhelming only because of the letdown in set two, but if you look at how the Boilers came back (rather than conceding the set), and how they played in the other two sets, it's worth remembering all the sweeps the Good Gals have managed this season: while they may have stretches of poor play against weaker competition, those stretches rarely cost them a set, and that's a pleasant change from recent years.
Purdue is still an elite attacking team, sitting in 4th in the country at .321 (with Penn State still in first, now hitting .351). They're also 21st in kills per set (14.24) and 26th in assists per set (13.19), and their overall winning percentage of .762 puts them in a tie for 38th.
Evans has the highest individual rank, sitting 17th in assists per set (11.37), and is also 81st in total assists (796). The Cuttinos take up most of the rest of the honors, with Danielle 32nd in kills per set (4.16), 39th in points per set (.460), 119th in hitting percentage (.336), and 121st in total kills (287), and Shavona 247th in blocks per set (0.97). Mohler is the other Boiler on the boards, with a team-high .343 hitting percentage putting her 107th in the country.
Penn State swept Indiana to stay in a first-place tie with Nebraska, who swept Northwestern and beat Illinois in Lincoln. Minnesota swept Ohio State in Columbus and thumped Wisconsin in Minneapolis to stay a game back, tied with Michigan State, who beat Michigan 3-1 and swept Maryland in College Park. Illinois edged Iowa 3-2 in Iowa City to hang onto fifth, one game ahead of the Good Gals, who are alone in sixth place, with Wisconsin behind them at 5-5.
Rutgers nearly shocked Indiana in Bloomington, pushing the Hoosiers to five sets before giving the home team their first conference win. Northwestern was swept at Iowa, falling to 2-8, while Maryland was swept by the Badgers at home to drop to 3-7. Iowa, Michigan, and Ohio State are all 4-6.
The Good Gals wrap up October with four road matches in a stretch that sees them play six of eight away from home, heading east to face Ohio State and Maryland before swinging west to visit Nebraska and Iowa; a grueling homestand against Minnesota and Wisconsin provides something of a break before they finish the road trip at Rutgers and Michigan. Purdue then returns home to finish regular-season play against Michigan (on Wednesday of Thanksgiving week rather than Saturday, due to a presumed time change for the Old Oaken Bucket game; with Michigan playing at Indiana Friday, neither side wants to play earlier on Saturday) and Michigan State.
Note that the Maryland match is Sunday afternoon, not Saturday evening, and it's still EDT, not EST - clocks don't change until the following Sunday. Apparently Maryland doesn't post links to live stats until after the match starts because ... anyway, thanks, Delany!