VB Sweeps OSU, Moves Up In Conference Play
“We’ve got to finish this weekend. We owe it to the Boilermaker Nation.” - Dave Shondell
After a sold-out Ross-Ade Stadium crowd watched Ohio State dance like marionettes on Saturday, volleyball had a tough act to follow the next afternoon: as heavy favorites against the Buckeyes, the Good Gals wouldn’t surprise anyone with a resounding win, but Shondell was right in that the capacity crowd, many of whom were still buzzing from that 49-20 blowout, were ready for another win.
They got one. Ohio State managed just one close set out of three, and the 3-0 win was the third straight victory for Purdue, lifting them into a tie for sixth with Nebraska.
Similar to last week. Erin Williams and Olivia Van Zelst had brief appearances against Maryland, while Jael Johnson and Shavona Cuttino split time at MB behind Blake Mohler. Johnson and Cuttino also shared time against OSU, while Williams and Van Zelst saw additional time, and Joy Chen came in to serve for the first time this year. Garrett Joiner is no longer wearing her knee brace, but did not appear in either match.
#19 Purdue 3, #76 Maryland 1 (25-21, 23-25, 25-20, 25-13)
The Boilers got exactly what Massey expected from Maryland, going 2-1 in three closely-contested sets before pulling away in the fourth. The Terrapins have already passed Michigan State, Ohio State and Northwestern in the standings; they seem to be headed on the same trajectory toward middle-of-the-pack play that current Indiana coach Steve Aird had them playing through last season.
At the beginning of the match, a woman in Ohio State gear was sitting next to me; they had come down early to see their son and to watch some volleyball. She assured me that Saturday’s game would be close; I politely demurred, expecting a bigger loss. Turns out we were both wrong …
Purdue scored first in set one and quickly led 4-1, but they wouldn’t score on their serve again until a three-point run answered back-to-back Maryland points and put the Boilers up 11-7. At 13-9, Maryland scored two more points on a kill and an ace from Katie Myers, but the run Purdue fans had been waiting for finally arrived, with five straight points around a media timeout and a Maryland timeout; at 18-11, the Good Gals looked safely home. Instead, Maryland made a couple of runs: an 0-4 run to close to 20-17, which was answered by two points after a Boiler timeout, and a 1-4 run after a Maryland timeout to close to 23-21. They would get no closer, as Sherridan Atkinson put down a Hayley Bush set for set point, and an attack error by Liz Twilley gave Purdue set one, 25-21.
Although Maryland took the first two points in set two, Purdue scored 10 of the next 12 to lead 10-4 and burn a Maryland timeout. The Boilers led by six as late as 14-8, but the Terrapins began to chip away at the lead, first with an 0-3 run to cut it in half, then with a 1-3 run to get it down to 16-14. A kill from Mohler and an attack error by Erika Pritchard made it 18-14, but Maryland kept inching closer, getting three in a row after trading points for 19-18, then two more after calling a timeout at 22-19. Atkinson made it 23-21, but a bad set by Bush and a Myers kill tied it, and Purdue had to use a timeout. It wouldn’t be enough, as kills from Pritchard and Twilley finished the set, and the Boilers headed to the locker room tied at 1 instead of up 2-0.
Surprisingly, it was the visitors who jumped on top in set three, getting four straight after a Johnson kill; the Boilers evened the score with a three-point run that included a reversal of a touch call, one of two reversals on the day that went in Purdue’s favor. Maryland got the next two, leading 4-6, but a Hailey Rubino attack error brought Marissa Hornung to the line, and after a run that included three aces and a Maryland timeout, the Boilers led 11-6. The Terrapins weren’t done; at 14-10, they got six of their own around a Purdue timeout, and suddenly the Boilers were facing the prospect of being down 1-2 at home. Four straight Boiler points settled things down a bit and burned Maryland’s remaining timeout; the Terrapins would not lead again, and at 21-20, Purdue would score the last four points, taking set three 25-20.
Maryland seemed emotionally spent after seeing their comeback in the third set go to waste; they played even through the first seven points, but a 7-1 Purdue run put the Good Gals up 10-5, and this time, the visitors would not recover. Maryland used one timeout during that run and the other at 14-8; the best they could do was 14-9, and at 16-10, a 5-0 run, again with Hornung serving, put the set and match safely in Purdue’s hands. Van Zelst came in, followed later by Williams, and the subs helped close out the final set, with Atkinson getting the final point at 25-13.
After two tough defenses the week before, Maryland was a welcome change, with the Boilers hitting .308 with 58 kills to just .140 and 51 for the Terrapins. Purdue also led in assists (57-50) and blocks (8-5), but were roughly even in serving (7 aces/even to 4/+2) and just barely trailed in digs (63-64). Atkinson led the team with 16 kills at .333, while Caitlyn Newton was just behind at 15 and hit .444, best among all OH. Mohler (11 at .611) and Grace Cleveland (10 at .158) rounded out the double-figure group in kills. Bush recorded 52 kills and just missed a double-double with 8 digs; Brooke Peters led all players with 20 digs, while Hornung (12) and Jena Otec (10) also had 10+. No Boiler recorded a solo block, so Mohler’s 4 assists led the team with 2.0 total blocks. Hornung also had a spectacular performance from the service line, tying a career high with 5 aces and setting a team high with +5 (.227). Atkinson and Peters had the other two aces and were both even from the line.
Purdue’s defense did a great job on sophomore OH Erika Pritchard, who shared match honors at 17 kills but hit just .078; senior OH Liz Twilley also had 17 and hit .217. Sophomore setter Nicole Alford had 44 assists and 7 digs, plus 1 (even) of Maryland’s 4 aces; redshirt freshman MB Katie Myers (+1), sophomore OH Hailey Rubino (+1) and junior setter Samantha Snyder (even) had the others. Myers had the only solo block of the match and added two assists to match Mohler with 2.0 total blocks. Freshman libero Allegra Rivas had a team-high 19 digs; Pritchard added 13 for a double-double.
#19 Purdue 3, #46 Ohio State 0 (25-17, 25-22, 25-13)
After the delirium of 49-20 had somewhat subsided - not much, since we didn’t get home until almost 2 and had to leave around 11 to get to Holloway when the doors opened - there was noticeably less scarlet in the crowd than there had been on Friday, and you may already know that one of Maryland’s 14 colors is red, not scarlet. (It’s also fair to point out that College Park is much farther away than Columbus, and OSU fans are well known for traveling wherever to see their teams play. Maryland fans may be as uninterested in making the trek to Big Ten country as we are in having them in our conference.)
Set one started on even ground as the two teams split the first six points, then traded three-point runs to tie at 6 and split points to make it 7-7. Purdue got the first solid run with Mohler on the line, ending a 4-0 run when a back-row attack from Mohler went into the net. (They rarely run anything for her back there because she doesn’t usually serve for herself, with just 72 serves through 21 matches - counting Ohio State, and because middles don’t generally hit like outsides. It’s easy to forget that when watching players like Cleveland or Danielle Cuttino.) The Buckeyes got the lead down to 12-10, then 13-11, but had to call a timeout at 15-11. Things looked OK at 15-13, but then the match got away from Ohio State as Purdue scored six straight; OSU called timeout at 18-13, but Atkinson got an ace on an unreturned serve on the next point, and head coach Geoff Carlston got a yellow card after a Cleveland kill on the next point. (There’s something about him I don’t like, not sure what it is. I think he has something of a temper. I should look through past recaps.) Atkinson got another ace for the final point of the run at 21-13, and from there it was all academic, with Newton getting set point to put Purdue up 1-0.
Like Maryland, the Buckeyes put forth a solid effort in set two, jumping out to a 2-4 lead and then running off three straight after an Audra Appold service error; a Purdue timeout stopped that run, and after a Vanja Bukilic kill, three Boiler points made it 7-8. Runs of 1-3 and 3-1 followed by split points saw the Boilers down 12-13; Ohio State got two straight points on blocks of Newton, but the Good Gals answered with three in a row, the last on a Bush kill from a Mohler pass/set (of course it usually runs the other way), then got two more to make it a 5-1 run and a 17-16 lead. OSU called timeout and tied it at 17 on a Becca Mauer kill; the Boilers took the lead backl on a Bia Franklin attack error that was challenged and upheld, continuing Purdue’s review luck. OSU still took the next two points, leading 18-19 and surviving a Purdue challenge, then got another and forced Purdue’s final timeout at 18-20. Six points later, the Boilers were in the barn at 24-20 and OSU was out of timeouts; they would stave off two set points, but Atkinson put down the third, and the Good Gals were up 2-0 at intermission.
Oddly, neither team left the court, perhaps because the locker rooms weren’t ready or something? I don’t know, and we never get explanations for these things. Anyway, OSU probably could have used a better break, because Purdue quickly went up 9-1 in set three, and at that point, we knew it would be a sweep. The Buckeyes called timeout and got a couple of points back, but the Boilers made it 13-3, and the best the visitors could do after that was 13-7. Van Zelst came in and served for Mohler, getting a couple of Johnson kills to keep her on the line before an error gave the serve back to OSU. She would stay in for a full rotation, and then at 22-13, Williams came in for Mohler, combining with Bush to block Adria Powell for 23-13 and with Cleveland to block Bia Franklin for match point. Chen came in to serve for Atkinson, and the crowd roared as Bush set Williams for the winning point; the final score was 25-13, but it didn’t even feel that close.
Purdue dominated the box score as the match suggested, hitting a solid .386 with 41 kills and just 9 attack errors to .082 and 31 for Ohio State. The Boilers had 38 assists to 29 for OSU, leading in digs (40-32) and blocks (14-4) as well, and barely squeaked out an edge in aces (5/even to 5/-1).
The match was so quick that Atkinson was the only Boiler in double figures, and she just barely made it, but also hit .476 on those 10 kills, with no errors in 21 attempts. Cleveland (8 at .333), Mohler (8 at .400), and Newton (7 at .308) also had excellent attack numbers, as did Johnson (a perfect 5 for 5, 1.000). There would be no double-doubles, as Bush had just 2 digs to go with 36 assists; Peters had 15, but Otec was a distant second with 8. Atkinson (2/+2/.111), Peters (2/+1/.048), and Otec (1/-2/-.200) had the five Purdue aces. Cleveland (2) and Newton (1) recorded solo blocks, with Cleveland posting a match-high 3.0 total blocks as one of eight Boilers with at least 0.5, while Newton and Mohler were right behind her at 2.5.
Ohio State’s attack was led by sophomore MB Lauren Witte (.176) and junior OH Bia Franklin (.154), both with 8 kills. Sophomore setter Becca Mauer had 24 assists. Franklin (+1) had a team-high 2 aces, with freshman opposite Vanja Bukilic (even), senior OH Audra Appold (even), and freshman OH Adria Powell (+1) each serving one - note that Appold played the first two sets at libero. Redshirt sophomore MB Jordan Fry had the only solo block for the Buckeyes and led the team with 1.5 total. Sophomore DS/libero Hannah Gruensfelder was the only OSU player to hit double-digit digs, just barely making it with 10.
The Boilers struggled on occasion, but in general, they played solid volleyball against weaker teams at home, which was really good to see. Serving was generally better, the attack was much sharper, and defense was great - the kind of across-the-board performance Purdue will need to replicate against the top half of the conference. The Boilers still travel to Wisconsin, Minnesota and Illinois in addition to Penn State, so they have plenty of tough challenges ahead, and they’ll need to build off this week to reach a point where they can spring a road upset.
Minnesota’s Tour of Victory continued with commanding wins over Iowa and Nebraska; they have a key matchup in Ann Arbor against third-place Michigan. Penn State hosts Purdue and surprising Indiana, while Illinois has to visit Nebraska, who’s dropped their last three and has OSU on the road next. Wisconsin also has the UM-MSU road trip next, which means Michigan can take a huge step forward with a pair of home wins; MSU will likely fall farther back after failing to win a set last week at Northwestern (!) and Illinois. Iowa joined MSU and OSU in the no-set-wins category at Minnesota and Wisconsin, then lost Wednesday at home to Northwestern (not included above). The Wildcats’ win over Michigan State leaves Rutgers alone in last; they host Indiana and Purdue like Penn State does, so expect them to be 0-12.
The best of times, the worst of times, as the Good Gals head to Rutgers in what should certainly be a sweep before stopping in University Park on the way home for a rematch with #5 Penn State. Can the Boilers take a set at PSU? Even if they don’t, they may end up as high as a tie for fourth, with Nebraska and Michigan facing tough competition as well this weekend.
As per usual, you can listen for free online or on WSHY 104.3 FM. Again, note that the PSU match starts at 8 rather than 7 even though Pennsylvania is on Eastern time and the match is on BTN+ and not BTN. I don’t know either. ETA: an oops on my part, the same reason why Purdue plays IU at 8 next weekend: Penn State football is playing at 3:30, so volleyball gets pushed back an hour.
Feature image courtesy of Purdue Volleyball on Twitter. I don’t know why they’re not posting to Exposure this season like football and WBB are …