VB Stuns Creighton, Falls to Kansas in Lawrence
The bad news in a Friday surprisingly lacking it - in addition to football crushing Ohio, women's soccer won at Louisville on a Maddy Williams hat trick - was that the volleyball team dropped a 1-3 decision to AVCA #7 Kansas at the Kansas Invitational ... and that was even more understandable when you know that it was the first time the volleyball team had ever faced two top-10 opponents in the same day.
The good news is that their first opponent was also their highest-ranked victim of the season. The Boilers took command early against AVCA #9 Creighton, rolling to a 3-1 win over the Bluejays ... who turned around and swept the Jayhawks on their home court to finish the tournament. The Boilers preceded that with a 3-0 win over Belmont to push their record to 8-1 on the season. Overall, they rose two spots in both the AVCA poll (to #15) and Massey's ratings (to #16), while Creighton (AVCA #8/Massey #10) stayed roughly the same and Kansas (AVCA #9/Massey #12) dropped a bit.
#18 Purdue 3, #10 Creighton 1 (25-21, 25-15, 22-25, 27-25)
While this match went four sets, you might be forgiven for thinking it was a five-setter; the second set was the only one that was relatively drama-free, and even that one was even as late as 13-13. Creighton was able to salvage the third set in a back-and-forth affair, but despite leading 21-22 in set four, the best they could manage down the stretch was the last four of 14 ties in the set, eventually falling 27-25.
Set one began ominously, with Creighton taking the first point, then going up 1-3, 2-6, and 3-10. In other years, that could have been a warning sign, but this year, it was the opposite. Two Sherridan Atkinson kills sandwiched three straight Creighton attack errors, and with an Azariah Stahl kill following a CU timeout, the lead was down to one, 9-10. Taryn Kloth broke that run with a kill, but the Boilers roared back with 5 more, and after a Blake Mohler attack error, they added another 3, and suddenly it was 17-12 with the Bluejays having burned both timeouts. Creighton would string together consecutive points three more times, but they managed just two each time, and a pair of Marysa Wilkinson attack errors keyed a three-point Boiler run that turned a 19-16 lead into a safe 22-16 advantage. Atkinson and Mohler provided the last three Purdue points as the Good Gals took set one, 25-21. That was enough of a surprise itself ...
... but set two was a level beyond it. Creighton started off with an 0-3 lead, and even though they couldn't stretch it past three points, they also kept the Boilers from tying it until a Lydia Dimke (yes, the former Boiler) service error and attack errors by Kloth and Jaali Winters leveled the score at 11-11. An Ashley Evans attack error and a Kloth ace made it 11-13, but once again, the Boilers rose to the challenge: two more Creighton attack errors, a Cuttino Sisters block, and kills by Danielle Cuttino and Brooke Peters (yep, back-row players do get those sometimes, you know) pushed the Good Gals in front, 16-13. An Evans service error stopped the run, but the Boilers added three more on kills by Atkinson, Stahl, and Shavona Cuttino, and a Dimke ball-handling error made it 20-14. Brittany Lawrence got the final Creighton point with a kill to make it 20-15, but then Purdue drove it home with a 5-0 run: Atkinson kill, two Stahl kills around the only Creighton timeout that was used, a Mohler solo block, and another Atkinson kill. The Boilers headed to the locker room up 2-0 and looked for all the world like the team that stunned Stanford in Palo Alto last year.
Set three also began with a Creighton point, but the Boilers responded quickly, going up 2-1. Unfortunately, they couldn't get more than a one-point lead, and the inevitable Creighton runs finally arrived. Three Winters kills and a Naomi Hickman ace put the Bluejays up 8-11; Winters served back-to-back aces after a Dimke kill to make it 10-15, and Creighton would lead the rest of the set. The Boilers did not go away, closing to 17-19, 18-20, and finally 21-22, but they could not get the points they needed, and attack errors from Evans and Atkinson finished it off, 22-25.
Any KU fans looking to find their seats early for Kansas-Belmont would be treated to one heck of a set in number four, with 14 ties, 3 lead changes, and neither team managing more than a 4-point lead. Once again, it was the Bluejays on the board first, on a Wilkinson kill. The teams traded points through 2-2 and tied again at 3-3; Danielle Cuttino put the Boilers up 4-3, but after a Wilkinson attack error, two Kloth kills leveled it at 5-5. Ties again at 6-6 and 7-7 preceded an 0-3 Creighton run, with a kill and an ace by Kloth on either side of a Mohler attack error. Stahl and Danielle Cuttino brought Purdue within one; two Winters kills and a Mohler attack error made it 9-13, with Purdue using a timeout at 9-12. Danielle stopped the Creighton run and Wilkinson's attack error cut the lead in half, but more point-trading and a Dimke kill saw Creighton back up to 13-17; an Atkinson kill and a Peters service error left it at 14-18, and it looked like a fifth set was coming. However, what is now the #1 offense in DI volleyball struck back, with kills by Atkinson, Stahl, and Evans twice (around a Creighton timeout); the teams would proceed to trade points again all the way through 22-22, when a Shavona Cuttino kill broke the tie, but they continued to trade after that through 26-25, with Creighton fighting off match points at 24-23 and 25-24. The third time proved to be the charm, as a Winters attack error gave the Good Gals the set, 27-25, and the match, 3-1.
The Boilers dominated most aspects of the box score, outhitting Creighton .411 to .234 and leading in assists (64-50), digs (54-46), and blocks (7.0-3.0). The one sore spot was serving, as Purdue was bitten by tough competition, failing to record an ace and posting a -8, while Creighton served 10 aces and was +4.
Individually, the pin hitters were on fire, as Stahl hit .357 with 11 kills ... and was third-best on the team. Danielle Cuttino and Atkinson led the way with 21 kills each on exceptional hitting, .576 for Cuttino and .500 for Atkinson. Evans notched 57 assists and added 12 digs to offset 3 service errors, with 0.5 blocks added for good measure. Peters returned to the top of the digs leaderboard with 17 (and 3 service errors), as Stahl came close to a double-double with 7 of her own. Mohler's solo block was the only one in the match; her two block assists tied her with Shavona Cuttino for match honors with 2.0 total.
The Bluejays saw three players hit double digits in kills, led by senior MB/RS Marysa Wilkinson (14 kills at .310), with junior OH Jaali Winters (13 at .179) and junior OH Taryn Kloth (11 at .176) close behind in kills, but not nearly as accurate (the trio combined for 16 attack errors). Senior setter Lydia Dimke posted 39 assists and 7 digs, but had three service errors of her own. (You can take the player out of Purdue, but you can't take Purdue out of the player?) Winters had a season-high 4 aces and was also +4 from the line; sophomore libero Brittany Witt (3, +3), Kloth (2, +1) and freshman MB Naomi Hickman (1, 0) accounted for the other aces. Witt (14) and Winters (10) were the only Creighton players with double-digit digs; Hickman was the only Bluejay with more than one block assist, leading the team with 1.0 total blocks.
#18 Purdue 1, #9 Kansas 3 (18-25, 17-25, 25-18, 19-25)
(Sorry, I had to take a short break. I forgot that the one huge flaw in Sidearm Sports is their insistence on a nagging ad-blocker that pretends you're missing out on the full experience if you block their ads. Please. This isn't 1997, nobody believes your sad claims, and if you need to you can blame the decades of intrusive advertising that came before you, but you're just as bad. I've blocked that nag on 7 sites already.)
Knocking off one top-10 team at a neutral site is one thing; knocking off another on the road on the same day is another thing entirely, and despite set three, there really wasn't a time in the match where it looked like the Boilers would manage the trick. There was just one lead change (set four) and four ties in the four sets that Kansas and Purdue played, so you can guess how the match went ... but I'll give you a quick recap anyway.
Set one was lost just about as soon as it started: Kansas took the first point, Purdue got a point of their own, and then it was 1-6 Kansas. The Boilers never threatened; they scored on their serve just four times the rest of the way, drawing as close as 15-19 before a 1-3 Kansas run but the set out of reach. A Kelsie Payne kill gave the hosts the first set, 18-25.
Set two was different only in that it went Kansas' way quicker: 0-2, 1-7, and 2-10. Again, the Boilers would put together runs just three times, getting no closer than six points (6-12), but they were able to score on Kansas' serve enough to prevent a complete blowout. At the break, the Jayhawks were playing excellent volleyball, and the Boilers looked outmatched, as we thought they might be. Massey did suggest they'd take one set, so I thought maybe there'd be a chance in set three. Turns out, there was.
Purdue scored the first point in set three and went up 2-1; Kansas responded with a point each time. At 3-2, a Mohler kill and a Mohler/Atkinson block put the Boilers up 5-2; after a Payne kill, three more Boiler points forced a Kansas timeout at 8-3, but the damage had been done. KU would draw to within three at 9-6, 10-7, and 11-8, and again at 14-11, but this time the Good Gals scored on their own serves: a 3-0 run to go up 14-8, another to go up 17-11, and a 4-1 run to make it 21-14. A fourth set was guaranteed as the teams traded points the rest of the way, with a Danielle Cuttino kill giving the Boilers a 25-18 win ... but joy from the set win would not last long.
Purdue scored first in set four as well, on a kill by Caitlyn Newton; Kansas roared back with a 1-6 run, and that was that. Once again, the Boilers scored just four points on their serve, and the Jayhawks were barely troubled, forcing Purdue's second timeout at 14-20 and cruising to a 19-25 set win and 1-3 match win.
Kansas dominated the box score as well as the match: hitting (.271 to .218), assists (59 to 45), aces (4/-4 to 1/-7), and digs (60 to 51). The Boilers did manage 7.0 blocks to 4.0 for the hosts, but it was small consolation.
While Danielle Cuttino (11 at .161) and Atkinson (10 at .161) took kill honors, they were topped in percentage by Stahl (7 at .312) and Newton (9 at .294 in just two sets); the freshman came in at OH as Dave Shondell shifted Danielle back to MB to try to shake up the lineup, with Shavona Cuttino sitting out the last two sets. (It worked in set three; notsomuch in set four.) Evans had 37 of the 45 assists, adding the team's only ace (+1), 11 digs, and 1.5 blocks, with Peters taking team honors with 14 digs, and Mohler sharing match honors with Payne at 2.0 blocks.
Senior RS Kelsie Payne had an outstanding match for Kansas, leading all attackers with 19 kills at .366; senior OH Madison Rigdon added 15 at .237, notching her 1000th career kill in the process. Sophomore OH Jada Burse added 5 kills at .714, with sophomore MB Zoe Hill contributing 5 at .364. Senior setter Ainise Havili topped the entire Purdue team with 50 assists, adding 2 aces (0) and 10 digs, one of four Jayhawks in double figures: sophomore libero Allie Nelson had a match-high 16 digs, with the two joined by senior DS Tori Miller (13) and Rigdon (10). Payne added 8 digs of her own to go with her 2.0 total blocks.
#18 Purdue 3, #149 Belmont 0 (25-13, 25-17, 25-19)
The Boilers wrapped up their road trip with an easy win over Belmont Saturday, cruising to a 3-0 victory. Shondell was able to clear his bench, getting Lexi Dorn, Olivia Van Zelst and Erin Williams playing time. As Purdue returned to their sweeping ways from earlier in the season, individual stats were proportionally smaller, but they dominated all the same.
Belmont did push the Boilers a bit, with 9 ties and 3 lead changes in the three-set match, but there really wasn't a point where Purdue looked like they'd slip. Big runs keyed an easy opening-set win, 25-13; the Bruins stuck close to Purdue in the second, but the Good Gals steadily pulled away to win comfortably, 25-17; and even though Belmont led by as many as three (5-8) in the third set and was tied as late as 11-11, the Boilers once again created separation, going up 24-17 and closing out the match on a Belmont service error to win 25-19.
Purdue's victory was as notable in the box score as it was on the scoreboard; the Bruins did manage to hold Purdue under .300, but were still outhit .271 to .011, and while Belmont topped Purdue at the line, 4 (-4) to 3 (-4), the Boilers led in assists (33-23), digs (36-28), and blocks (9.5-2.0).
Danielle Cuttino was the lone player with 10+ kills, hitting the number on the nose at .364; Stahl (8 at .368) and Shavona Cuttino (3 at .333) joined her above the .300 mark, with Atkinson (8 at .200) and Mohler (5 at .077) rounding out the top hitters. Evans added 30 assists, one ace (+1) and 6 digs, with Peters taking match honors at 11, followed by Jena Otec (7), Evans, and Carissa Damler (5). Atkinson and Danielle Cuttino had one solo block apiece and also tied for block honors at 2.5, with the team ending up at 9.5 thanks to a dreaded triple-block (dreaded only for scorekeepers and stat perfectionists) in set one by Cuttino, Cuttino and Atkinson.
The Bruins were led by senior OH Arianna Person with 9 kills at .143; senior RS/MB Brie Lewis (6 kills at .105) was the only other Bruin above zero. Freshman setter Akia Warrior had all 23 of Belmont's assists, adding one of their four aces (+1) and 4 digs. Person and junior libero Haley Sullivan shared the team lead with 7 digs, and fifth-year OH Jessica Vestal added 6. Warrior's solo block led the team at 1.0, with Vestal and junior MB Alexa Nichols splitting the other for 0.5 each.
This was better than I expected, particularly in terms of the way they beat Creighton. A 3-1 win is one thing, but this was a decisive win over a team that whipped Kansas the next day, and that's going to look pretty solid come tournament time. The loss to Kansas was entirely understandable, and even that came with a silver lining, as Caitlyn Newton came in and looked completely ready for Big Tenteen volleyball. Purdue now looks to have at least one player's worth of depth at all positions: OH (Newton), MB (Williams), S (Dorn), and DS (Reisinger/Van Zelst). That's a nice thing to see this early in the season.
Also, the Boilers really are #1 in hitting percentage at .354. That's outstanding.
The Boilers return to cool Holloway for the Stacey Clark Classic, facing Miami (NTM) and Loyola-Chicago, with the Ramblers match on Sunday instead of the usual Saturday. That gives me a full day to go down and do 50 miles at the Hope Ride on Saturday and then recover before heading back to West Lafayette Sunday.
Massey, unsurprisingly, predicts 3-0 sweeps on both days. In fact, the Boilers shouldn't lose a set until Ohio State comes to town on the 23rd, and they shouldn't drop a match until they head to #1 Minnesota on October 11. (Well, the match at Illinois on 10/6 is basically a toss-up, but Purdue's a 74% favorite or better in the rest.) How does 16-1 sound to you? That's what I thought.
Sorry, no video. But there are sundaes on Sunday. That counts for something.
Feature image courtesy of the Purdue Exponent and Purdue Athletics. Man, we need a home match so we can get some more great pictures.