VB Sweeps OSU, Drops Heartbreaker to Maryland
It was ... not the best weekend for Purdue sports. Wrestling had to move its practice from the South End Zone plaza to Holloway Gym because of the cold, that one thing happened, and soccer was bounced from the Big Tenteen quarters on a free kick in the 88th minute that bounced right to an unmarked Wildcat. So despite the easy 3-0 win that volleyball managed on Friday in Columbus, there were omens aplenty heading into the Sunday match in College Park, and indeed the Boilers couldn't escape the trend, falling 2-3 to a team that had few convincing wins heading into the weekend (but did sweep now-#18 USC back in September at home).
#21 Purdue 3, #38 Ohio State 0 (25-16, 25-17, 25-22)
One lineup change: Caitlyn Newton starting at OH instead of Shavona Cuttino, with Danielle moving to MB. No subs got playing time in Columbus.
Coming into the match, Ohio State had been swept at home just twice this season: once by now-#25 Western Kentucky in September and once the week before the match by #2 Minnesota. Among other strong home outings, they took #1 Penn State to five sets ... but Friday, they could manage just one good set out of three, and it was not the first. An Ashley Evans service ace put the Boilers up 1-0; Madison Smeathers responded with a kill, but it was the last time OSU would be tied until the third set. Purdue ran off four straight points to lead 5-1; OSU slowly cut the lead down to 1 twice, using a timeout at 7-4 to key a 1-3 run, but they couldn't get closer than 7-6 and 8-7. The Good Gals pushed the lead up to 12-8; OSU slowly whittled it back to 14-12, only to see a 3-0 Boiler run, including a challenge of a ball spot on a call that stood, put the visitors up 17-12. Luisa Schirmer stopped that run with a kill, but Purdue ran off four more, burning the other Buckeye timeout, to make the lead a safe 21-13. OSU would not score on their serve again, but the Boilers would, with a Cuttino/Sherridan Atkinson block of Ayanna Swan wrapping up the first set, 25-16.
Set two was much like set one, only without the tie: an Atkinson kill on OSU's serve got the Boilers a 1-0 lead, and a Jena Otec service error was the only break in that 7-1 run that forced the Buckeyes to use an early timeout again, as both Otec and Brooke Peters recorded aces. After a Lauren Witte kill, Purdue ran off three more, and at 10-2, the set was basically over - Ohio State would put together 0-3 runs twice, but both times, Purdue answered with 3-0 runs, drawing the other OSU timeout at 13-5 and stretching the lead back to 7 at 19-12. Purdue would only score one more time on their serve, off a Newton kill, but OSU could not score on theirs, and the Buckeyes were seen off by an Azariah Stahl kill, dropping the set 25-17 and seemingly on the way to a disheartening sweep.
They would be swept, but the third set did not come nearly as easily to the Good Gals. Newton started the set the way she finished the second, but two Purdue errors (service by Evans, attack by Cuttino) put the Buckeyes up 1-2. A Schirmer attack error tied it at 2; kills from Schirmer and Smeathers made it 2-4. A 3-1 Boiler run evened the score at 5-5, and a 2-1 run put them up 7-6, but Witte and Ashley Wenz put the Buckeyes back in front, 7-8. A Blake Mohler kill and a Wenz attack error gave Purdue a 9-8 lead; a Witte kill and a Newton attack error took it back, 9-10. After a Cuttino kill, OSU finally got the run they'd badly needed, putting the Boilers at the biggest disadvantage they'd seen, 10-14, and forcing Dave Shondell to call his first timeout of the match. Purdue responded with a 3-1 run, and it was OSU now taking a timeout at 13-15. After trading points, the Boilers finally drew even on an Evans kill, a Mohler solo block and a Bia Franklin attack error, but Ohio State grabbed the lead again on a Wenz/Witte block of Newton. Newton put the next Evans set down for yet another tie; Taylor Hughes put OSU ahead 18-19 ... but the Buckeyes were barely hanging on, and a run of four OSU errors put them down to stay, burning their remaining timeout. They would close to two three times, twice on Schirmer kills and once on an Atkinson kill that was reversed on challenge to an attack error, but each time, the Boilers responded, closing the match with an Atkinson kill at 25-22.
The Boilers dominated the stat sheet, leading in every category: attack percentage (.322 to .121), assists (40-33), aces (4/-2 to 0/-4), digs (37-33), and blocks (7.0-3.0). Cuttino got a lot of attention from the Buckeye defense, getting 8 kills at .200, but that opened things up for her teammates, with both Atkinson (10 at .471) and Newton (10 at .350) in double figures with fine percentages, and Mohler (5 at .571) solid on fewer attempts. Evans had 36 of Purdue's 40 assists (with Cuttino second at 3; she had just 12 in her career entering the match and had never notched 2 in a match prior to Friday) and one (-1) of Purdue's four aces (Otec 1/-1, Peters 1/even, Stahl 1/+1), while Carissa Damler took dig honors with 8, followed by Stahl (7) and Peters (6). Mohler had 2 of Purdue's 5 (!) solo blocks (Cuttino, Evans, and Stahl had the others), and her 2.5 total was the highest on either team.
Ohio State's attack was led by senior OH Luisa Schirmer, who had a match-high 12 kills but hit just .231, and sophomore MB Madison Smeathers (from Bargersville, IN), with a team-high .429 and 6 kills. Junior setter Taylor Hughes had 30 of the 33 assists, while sophomore OH Bia Franklin had a match-high 9 digs and freshman MB Lauren Witte posted a team-high 1.5 total blocks.
#21 Purdue 2, #42 Maryland 3 (23-25, 25-23, 21-25, 27-25, 15-17)
As you can see from the heading, this was a much more competitive match than Friday's, with only one set decided by more than two points. While sets 2 and 3 saw just one tie and no lead changes, there were 23 ties and 9 lead changes in the other three sets, so I apologize in advance if the recap runs a little long. Lineup was the same as for Maryland, and Lexi Dorn got a brief run at setter, but did not record anything in the box score.
Set one got off to a rough start for both Boilers and fans, as Maryland took a quick 0-2 lead, but then three consecutive service errors saw Peters serving at 2-3. The two sides traded pairs of points through 4-7, then individual points through 5-8, before a 4-0 Purdue run got the Good Gals in front for the first time, 9-8. A longer sequence of traded points found Maryland serving at 12-12, and a Samantha Drechsel ace, her second and the team's third of the set, put the Terrapins back in front, 12-13. Maryland slowly pulled away, going up by as many as 3, 15-18, before Purdue called a timeout that prompted a 3-0 Boiler run ... only to be countered by a Maryland timeout and an 0-3 Terps run. Purdue used their second timeout, got a service error, but lost the serve on an Evans ball-handling error, and Maryland added a Drechsel kill to lead 19-23. Stahl responded to cut the lead to three, and a Samantha Snyder ball-handling error after a Maryland timeout made it 21-23. Gia Milana got the hosts to set point with a kill, but Atkinson and Stahl moved Purdue within 1 ... unfortunately, the comeback ended on a Mohler ball-handling error (this ref was ... fond of that call, let's say), and Maryland put the first set in the books, 23-25.
Set two wasn't much different than set one - points from both sides, lots of mistakes - but it did turn out to be the only set in which Purdue never trailed. A Samantha Snyder service error put the Boilers up 1-0, and after a Milana kill tied it, a 4-1 run put Purdue in front for good. Erika Pritchard got the Terps within two, 5-3, but then a rough stretch of play saw seven of the next eight points earned through errors, with only a Milana kill earned by an attacking team. When the dust cleared, the Good Gals led, 10-6, and an Atkinson kill then made it 11-6, with Maryland using a timeout. A 1-3 rally got them within three, but back-to-back kills from Atkinson and Stahl pushed the lead back to five, 14-9. The teams traded points through 17-12, including a run of three consecutive service errors, before the Boilers got a Cuttino kill to make it 18-12. Maryland would not go quietly, getting a 2-7 run to draw within one, 20-19. A Purdue timeout led to a 3-1 Boiler run, so it was Maryland's turn for a timeout at 23-20; two straight Maryland points made it 23-22, timeout Purdue. Stahl put the Boilers on set point with a kill; Pritchard responded with a kill for 24-23, but Mohler had the answer the Good Gals needed, giving them a 25-23 win and tying the match at 1-1.
Maryland came out of the locker room on fire, rolling out to a 1-5 lead, then expanding it to 3-8; a 3-0 Boiler run got the Good Gals within two, but Maryland scored the next six points, burning a Purdue timeout to lead 6-14. The Boilers would close to 9-15 and looked to make it 10-15, but a Maryland challenge overturned a call and gave Drechsel a kill for 9-16. Purdue crept back into the match, slowly cutting into the lead: 10-16, 12-17, 15-19 (timeout Maryland), and 17-20, but they just couldn't get any closer, and a Julianna Reisinger service error on set point #2 put the hosts up 1-2. If Purdue were to pull out the match, they'd need a strong performance in set four.
They'd get one, but it turned out that they'd need every bit of it. After a 3-0 start, once again a run of service errors slowed the match down, ending up with a 4-2 Boiler lead. Maryland crept within one three times before getting an 0-5 run on two attack errors, two Drechsel kills, and a Drechsel/Hailey Murray block of Cuttino, and Purdue found themselves down a timeout and 8-11 on the scoreboard. They promptly ran off five straight on their own, burning a Maryland timeout and retaking the lead, 13-11, but the Terrapins got the next two points for 13-13 and got two more after a Milana service error to lead 14-15. The Boilers moved back in front on an Atkinson kill and a Reisinger ace, but a Pritchard kill tied it at 16-16. Purdue took a two-point lead, 18-16, and traded points through 21-20, when a Milana kill tied it again at 21-21. A Stahl kill was followed by kills from Pritchard and Milana, and Purdue used a timeout at 22-23; a Murray service error and an Evans/Mohler block of Pritchard made it 24-23 Purdue, timeout Maryland. The Terrapins held off set point #1 with yet another Pritchard kill, but Purdue earned a second with a Stahl kill. Stahl could not serve out the set, but Newton made it 26-25, and set point #3 was good, with a Cuttino/Newton block of Angel Gaskin making it 2-2 overall, although a late challenge (occurring right before the teams took the court for set five) by Maryland after the set looked to be done was denied; the call on the court was confirmed, and 27-25 meant a fifth set.
It was Purdue's turn to come out strong, and they led 1-0, 4-1, and 6-2, getting Maryland's first timeout. The teams traded points through the switch at 8-4 and then through 9-6, when a Milana kill got Maryland within two, 9-7, for the first time since 4-2. Purdue got back-to-back kills from Atkinson to lead 11-7, and Maryland had to use its final timeout. While things looked good from the Boilers, it would be all uphill from there, as Milana, Pritchard and Drechsel recorded kills to make it 11-10, with a Purdue challenge on Pritchard's kill confirming the call. Shondell used a timeout, but Stahl was blocked by Drechsel and Murray, and the set was even at 11-11. Milana's service error gave the lead back to the Boilers, and Atkinson pushed them up two, 13-11, but a Peters service error and a Jada Gardner kill tied it at 13-13. Purdue got the first match point at 14-13 on a Pritchard attack error, but Reisinger's service error tied it at 14-14. Pritchard made it 14-15 Maryland, and after Purdue's final timeout, Stahl tied it at 15-15. Pritchard had a final kill to earn Maryland's second match point, and it was all they would need, as Gardner put down an overpass to win the set 15-17 and the match 2-3 for the home team.
While this wasn't the cleanest of matches, it was certainly an exciting one to watch (if one can set aside the final result), and the box score bore that out. Purdue had only a slight attack advantage, .366 to .351, but Maryland had a kill advantage, 72-64, and had 65 assists to 61 for the Boilers. Both sides left much to be desired at the service line, as Maryland had 7 aces but also 22 service errors for -15, while the Boilers had 3 aces and 15 errors for -12. Purdue had an edge in digs, 55-47, and in team blocks, 9.0 to 4.0, but also had 4 ball-handling errors to 2 for the Terrapins.
Atkinson had a fantastic day, with a match-high 19 kills at .633; Stahl added 17 at .364, and Cuttino rounded out the group in double figures with 10 at .273. Evans had 48 of the 61 assists, with Peters narrowly missing out on a double-double with 8 of her own (plus a return kill), and the junior libero shared match honors with a team-high 14 digs, as Evans added 9, Atkinson 8, and Stahl 6. Cuttino and Newton each had a solo block, with Cuttino posting a match-high 3.5 total blocks. Reisinger had 2 of the three aces, but was -2, and Otec had the other at -3.
Four players hit double figures in kills for the Terrapins, led by freshman OH Erika Pritchard (18 at .324). She was joined by sophomore OH Gia Milana (13 at .188); freshman OH/OPP Samantha Drechsel (one of three Samanthas to get playing time; a fourth goes by Sam) had 13 at .429, and junior OPP Angel Gaskin had 11 at .261, with senior MB Hailey Murray hitting .750 with 9 kills and freshman MB Jada Gardner hitting .438 with 8 kills. Sophomore setter Samantha Snyder had 41 of Maryland's 65 assists, while Milana (2/-4), Drechsel (2/-3) and freshman libero Sam Burgio (2/-1) had six of the seven aces (Murray had the other at -1). Burgio tied Peters with 14 digs, with Milana getting the lone double-double of the match by adding 11. Gardner had the only solo block for Maryland, and Drechsel and Murray shared three blocks for a team-leading 1.5 total.
This is a standard Big Tenteen road trip experience in just about every sport you can imagine - there are simply too many tough places to play to be able to escape when you don't play well, and the Boilers certainly didn't Sunday, giving away far too many points to a capable Maryland team. In context, it's worth remembering that Ohio State is roughly as good, at least at this point in the season, and Purdue rolled past them easily. A weekend that includes an easy win and a close loss, both on the road, is not a bad thing, especially not when you want to find quality wins for your NCAA portfolio.
The fact that Caitlyn Newton has earned a starting role is impressive; seeing her hit .350 on the road against a solid opponent is a great sign. It's been quite some time since the Boilers have had a collection of attackers like they have this season, and with Cuttino and Stahl graduating, any experience Newton gets this year will be invaluable when she's called upon to complement Atkinson next year. (I suspect Purdue will also look for a transfer OH, since Atkinson and Newton are the only returning OH. If there's another Sherridan out there, we'd be more than happy to see her come to Purdue!)
Another week, another two wins for Penn State, as they beat Wisconsin 3-1 at home and swept Illinois on the road. Nebraska kept pace with road wins at Michigan State (3-1) and Michigan (3-0), as did Minnesota, who stayed a game back with wins against Illinois (3-2) and at Rutgers (sweep). Michigan State defeated Iowa 3-1 but fell two games back of the leaders, with Illinois' 0-2 weekend dropping them to a tie with the Good Gals at 7-5. Wisconsin is 6-6 after their sweep of Northwestern, but they have a very favorable schedule down the stretch, so they could easily end up 12-8 or 13-7; with matches left home against Penn State and at Purdue, they probably won't run the table, but it wouldn't be much of a surprise if they did.
Rutgers is 0-12 and is unlikely to win any sets the rest of the way, with Michigan being their lone remaining unranked opponent. Indiana took a set at Maryland but was swept by the Buckeyes and remain winless against non-Rutgers conference teams. Northwestern swept Rutgers for their third win, all against IU and Rutgers. Iowa dropped road matches to MSU and Michigan to fall to 4-8, with Michigan, Maryland and Ohio State at 5-7, a game behind Wisconsin.
Penn State and Minnesota remain #1 and #2 in Massey's ratings, with Nebraska up one spot to #4, Wisconsin steady at #8 despite being 15-6 (their strength of schedule is just 3rd, behind UCLA and Nebraska), and Michigan State down one spot to #10. There's a big drop to #21 Illinois, with Purdue also sliding one spot to #22. Michigan (#29), Iowa (#31) and Maryland (#33) are grouped closely but outside the top 25, with #38 Ohio State a bit behind them.
The Good Gals are in corn country for a nothing-to-lose match at #4 Nebraska and a very winnable one at #31 Iowa; Massey says expect nothing at Nebraska and a 3-2 win at Iowa. As we saw last week, it doesn't always work out that way, but the Boilers need to get these quality road wins to get themselves in better position come NCAA tournament time.
Note that the time change is this weekend, so you get an extra hour of sleep before the Iowa match - woo!