VB Breezes Past ORU, Cleveland State
West Lafayette, IN - It's 10:00 AM, I've successfully escaped the maze of construction that occupies the greater Lafayette area these days, hooked back to the R Lot since you may have guessed that the F Lot doesn't have spaces on Friday morning, and made the long hike to Holloway. (See Doc, I am increasing my exercise*. 12.8K steps today! I even declined a ride from a nice cart guy who saw me walking toward Holloway.)
*no worries, my blood pressure is a little high and my HDL is a little low. At my age, if that's all the doctor has to lecture you about, you're doing all right.
I make it inside, late enough that I missed the pregame stuff but early enough that I didn't miss a point (or the free breakfast, unlike last year - pancakes and sausage, yes!), I get my ticket scanned, I walk into the gym ... and it's not oppressively hot. I mean, yeah, the annual contributions we at BS make toward the Boilermaker Fair-Weather Fund finally paid off this weekend, but it's still a small gym with bright lights and terrible air circulation. Are we not grads/fans/students at/otherwise connected to an engineering school?
Apparently we are. While Mike Bobinski wasn't able to put in a true central-air system, they've got trucks piping cold air into one door and a cyclone fan to circulate it - you can definitely feel the difference when you walk through the opposite doors. So instead of this being the usual sweat-soaked opening weekend, it was a perfect day to watch #22 Purdue open their season against #251 Oral Roberts and #85 Cleveland State. It went about how you'd expect.
Purdue 3, Oral Roberts 0 (25-15, 25-13, 25-20)
You can usually tell how strong Purdue's opening opponent is by how many new faces you see on the court in the Old Gold and Black. With the graduation of Faye Adelaja and the absence of Linnea Rohrsen and Natalie Haben, there were spots to fill even if the Boilers weren't playing a minnow ... and indeed, we saw every player likely to take the floor for Purdue this season. Four of the five freshmen saw action in this match: OH Caitlyn Newton, DS Julianna Reisinger, DS Jena Otec, and redshirt freshman DS Olivia Van Zelst. With just five DS on the roster this year, Dave Shondell doesn't have the luxury of redshirting any of them, and at least one of those three should get plenty of playing time.
Of course, with a senior-loaded team like Purdue has this year, you'd expect returning players to be heavy contributors, and even with Shondell's normal early-season lineup juggling, that was the case in match 1. The Boilers hit .482 against ORU, which is just as good as it sounds (and was better to watch): redshirt junior OH Sherridan Atkinson led everyone with 13 kills at .632, while senior OH Danielle Cuttino joined her in double figures with 11 at .429. Atkinson also had a match-high 2.0 blocks, with Cuttino, redshirt sophomore MB Blake Mohler, and junior transfer MB Erin Williams adding 1.0 each. Senior S Ashley Evans had 40 of 44 assists, and junior libero Brooke Peters was the only player on either team in double figures with 15 digs. Atkinson, Peters, and Otec each added an ace.
The Golden Eagles had two players with 11 kills, sophomore OH CeCe Madison and senior OH Laura Milos. ORU ran a two-setter offense, splitting assists between junior S Bria Bergman (17) and senior S Lucija Bojanjac (13). Junior libero Tori Roe led the team in digs with 8, 4 Golden Eagles had 0.5 blocks each (that's just two team blocks in three sets, which is a really low number BTW), and sophomore OH Katarina Mikulic had their only ace.
None of the sets was really that close; while ORU did play pretty close in the third set, the Boilers flipped a 13-14 deficit into a 19-15 lead, and from there it was just a matter of playing out the string and clearing the bench. Evans led the Boilers around the court in the traditional post-match lap (even though there weren't that many people there, it's what we do here), Alabama and Cleveland State took the floor, and yr obd't svt headed off to get cookies, a new jersey, and a nap back at the hotel before the evening match.
Purdue 3, Cleveland State 0 (25-21, 25-21, 25-18)
This was ... maybe not what you would expect, although the Boilers have occasionally struggled out of the box, and the Vikings did make the NCAA tournament last season, although they got bounced 3-0 in the first round by Arizona. Perhaps that was why Shondell shortened his bench for this match, with only Otec and Reisinger seeing any action.
The first two sets were close for the majority of play; in set 1, Cleveland State was tied at 19 before a service error keyed a 5-0 Purdue run that gave the Good Gals the set, and in set 2, the Vikings were tied at 19 before an attack error started a 3-0 Purdue run that was essentially the margin of victory. Set 3 was tied at 3 ... but then the buses were warming up or something, and the Boilers ended up leading by as many as 8 before CSU righted their ship - at that point, the match was basically over, as the teams essentially traded points the rest of the way.
At one point in the first set - the play-by-play suggests it was 11-7 Purdue during a CSU timeout - I looked up at the scoreboard and saw that Danielle Cuttino had just one kill. She finished with 17 kills and a career-best .696 hitting percentage, third-best in team history among players with 20 or more attempts. (Team record is .773 by Samantha Mader, 18-1-22 vs. Illinois on 10/20/2006.) Senior OH Azariah Stahl added 10 kills; Evans had 31 of Purdue's 37 assists; Cuttino added 2.5 of Purdue's 6.0 blocks, and Peters had a team-high 10 digs.
The real story was the service game. Both teams had 10 service errors, but Purdue recorded 8 aces: 3 from Stahl (her career high is 4 against Southeastern Louisiana last year, 2 each from Atkinson and Evans, and 1 from Otec. One match doesn't make a pattern, but it's notable that this came against the stronger of the two teams Purdue's faced so far this year. (Reisinger also had a couple of hard serves against Oral Roberts, so I expect she'll show up in this category eventually.)
The Vikings attack was led by two MH, sophomore Trinniti Hall and senior Alexis Middlebrooks, both with 8 kills. Senior S Gina Kilner posted 24 of CSU's 34 assists, while senior libero Shannon Grega led all players with 11 digs. Middlebrooks also had a block assist on both of the Vikings' blocks, and sophomore OH Sara Skeens got two aces from her jump serve to lead CSU.
Next up for the Boilers is Alabama, who swept Oral Roberts but spotted Cleveland State a 2-0 lead before storming back to win in five sets. Match time is 3:00 PM, so it'll go as scheduled regardless of the length of the ORU-CSU opener at noon. If you've got BTN2Go, you can watch it there, or you can listen online for free (not sure they are on radio this year). You could also use the outdated GameTracker, which still uses Flash for some reason, but then it tried to spring a pop-up ad on me just now, so I dunno, maybe don't. Anyway, tomorrow's post-match coverage will include a season preview as well, since if you're following along you're probably wondering about things like "where is player X" and "who is player Y that you just mentioned."
Photos from the Oral Roberts match by Charles Jischke, courtesy of Purdue Athletics. Sorry, the CSU photos aren't up yet, or at least the link isn't.