VB Splits Michigan Trip, Falls To 7th In Big Tenteen Action
All things considered, the week wasn’t as bad as it could have been. Sure, the Good Gals visited Ann Arbor and came away with an 0-3 loss, and the following day, Indiana took Michigan to five sets while Purdue was getting whacked in the opening set in East Lansing … but the Boilers settled down and took the next three sets from the young Spartans. So far, they’ve taken three matches from teams below them - two of which came on the road, and here is where I remind you that there are 13 arenas in the Big Tenteen that are tough places to play - and lost only to teams above them. Purdue is still a young squad, so while they’ll lose a couple of solid players, another incoming class like the 2018 class could change results of weekends like this past one.
The opposite of last week: since Michigan jumped out in front every time, some backups got playing time. Jael Johnson played in two sets and was 1 for 5 at .000; Garrett Joiner played in one set and was 0 for 1 at .000; Emma Terwilliger played in one set.
In East Lansing, Johnson played in all four sets, with Shavona Cuttino seeing only limited action in one set. Hopefully that was just to give Johnson playing time and not an injury thing - I did not watch the match closely and couldn’t tell if anything happened. Anyway, no other subs played … I was a little surprised that Joy Chen didn’t make an appearance in her hometown of Ann Arbor, but sometimes it’s just not the right time. (And sometimes I wonder if volleyball does have the equivalent of football, where if you don’t play someone past X point in the season you can redshirt them. Typically that’s only for medical hardship waivers, but football changed it for 2018, so who knows?)
#18 Purdue 0, #12 Michigan 3 (15-25, 16-25, 14-25)
The polls were wrong about the Wolverines even before the match and were possibly wrong-er afterward: Michigan played like a Final Four team and Purdue played like a young team with a handful of experienced players, which is exactly who they are. So the best thing about this match was that it was on BTN and I couldn’t watch it - following the stat tracker was just about enough.
The hosts jumped out to an 0-3 lead, which isn’t always insurmountable, but they built it to 1-5, traded points through 5-8, and then scored five unanswered points to make it 5-13. Dave Shondell took a timeout at 5-11, but it was probably less about turning things around and more about just slowing things down so it didn’t end up 7-25. While that didn’t happen, Purdue’s first point on their own serve made it 8-15, as part of a 4-1 run that cut the lead to 10-16; Michigan made it 10-20, burning Purdue’s other timeout, and that was that. The teams traded twos through 14-24; the Boilers had a brief spark of hope after a MacKenzi Welsh service error on set point, but Welsh set Paige Jones for the deciding kill on the next point, and Michigan was up 0-1 on a 15-25 rout.
Purdue managed to lead once in the second set, at 1-0: Michigan ran off five straight immediately after that. The Boilers stayed close, getting it down to 6-7 and 8-10, and again to 11-13 on three consecutive UM errors (service, attack, bad set), but a 1-4 run around a media timeout made it 12-17; another 1-4 run after a Jena Otec kill made it 14-21. Purdue would get another point after a Boiler timeout, then one more on a Welsh service error, but the Wolverines had little trouble the rest of the way, with a Kayla Bair unassisted kill closing the door at 16-25. Down 0-2, the Boilers headed to the locker room like a team about to get swept.
To their credit, they were simply overmatched: they took a 2-0 lead in set three, then gave up four straight, and as in the first two sets, they would not come back to tie. They didn’t give up another run longer than three until 12-19, where a Caitlyn Newton kill after a Purdue timeout had given the Boilers the serve. Michigan scored five straight, including three aces by Paige Jones, and when a Jones service error on set point gave the Good Gals one last chance, they could do no more than two points; a Bair kill ended the set at 14-25, and just like that, the match was over.
As you might expect from a match in which the Boilers scored more than two points in a row exactly once, the boxscore was overwhelmingly maize and blue. Michigan had a crushing edge in attack, hitting an amazing .435 with 44 kills to Purdue’s .106 on 29 kills. For context, Purdue’s topped .400 just once this year, hitting .432 against Tulsa in the season’s first week - Michigan’s performance came against a top-25 squad who is still top-50 in both blocks per set and opponent hitting percentage. The Wolverines also had decided advantages in assists (42-27), aces (6/+1 to 2/-4/=.087), blocks (6.0 to 2.0), and digs (40-31).
If I told you that Sherridan Atkinson led the Boilers in just one stat, you would probably guess either kills or hitting percentage, and you would be wrong on both counts. She was held to just .063 with 3 kills; Blake Mohler managed to put down 11 at a nice .389, which tells you how the rest of the Good Gals fared against Michigan’s defense. Mohler’s 11 also tied her for match honors with UM’s Paige Jones. Otec was 1 for 3 at .333; Marissa Hornung was also 1 for 3, but hit .000 (one error). Atkinson actually led the Boilers in digs with 7. Hayley Bush recorded 26 of the 27 assists (Grace Cleveland had the other, on the Otec kill), while Brooke Peters (1/even) and Julianna Reisinger (1/-1/-.143) had Purdue’s two aces. Mohler and Cleveland combined for the two shared blocks, each getting 1.0.
Michigan’s attack was led by two outside hitters: senior Carly Skjodt, a Carmel alumna, and freshman Paige Jones, each with 11 kills; Jones was the boom-or-bust hitter, with 5 errors in 21 attacks for .286, while Skjodt was more successful, 0 errors in 28 attacks for a solid .393. Junior OH Sydney Wetterstrom was the third Wolverine in double figures, with 10 at a sizzling .833, missing on just two attacks and committing no attack errors. Junior setter MacKenzi Welsh had a match-high 39 assists, while Jones was also boom-or-bust at the service line, drilling 5 aces but serving 3 errors for +2, while senior setter Maddy Abbott (+1) had the other ace. Skjodt and sophomore MB Kiara Shannon each had a solo block, with Shannon adding 2 assists for a total of 2.0 that led all players. Senior libero Jenna Lerg had a match-high 16 kills for the Wolverines.
#18 Purdue 3, #35 Michigan State 1 (15-25, 25-12, 25-19, 25-17)
I didn’t make it long into the first set before I muted it; if you’d told me the second set was 25-12 but didn’t say who won, I wouldn’t have assumed it was the Boilers, but remember the matches earlier in the season where they’d drop the first and roar back? That happened again, with the host Spartans unable to top 20 in the remaining sets.
Set one fit right in with Friday’s match, as the Spartans took the first point, then scored four straight after an Atkinson kill. After a pair of 1-2 runs, they ran off four more, and suddenly it was 4-13 and Purdue was down a timeout. The Boilers did manage a three-point run, pulling within six at 10-16, but MSU matched them to push the lead back to nine at 11-20, Purdue had no timeouts left, and the rest of the set was academic. An 0-3 run wrapped things up, with a bad set by Bush and an attack error by Cleveland ending it at 15-25. If only we’d known that the Good Gals wouldn’t drop another set the rest of the night …
Early on, it did not seem like that would be the case. Purdue did lead 1-0 and 3-1, but MSU hung around through 7-5: finally, for the first time all weekend, the Boilers strung some points together, and a 6-1 run burned a Spartan timeout and made it 13-6. The hosts would use their other timeout at 17-9 after back-to-back bad-set calls, and they’d close to 17-11, but the Good Gals scored seven straight, including a fantastic dig by Bush (a diving dig that sailed up and behind her, over the net, and away from the Spartans who were following the attack that put it there), and even though an Atkinson attack error burned set point #1, Boiler fans didn’t have to wait long, as Newton put away a Bush set for a resounding 25-12 win. The match was even at 1-1, but the Boilers had to be the team with momentum heading into the break.
Indeed, they came out for set three like a team on fire, scoring three straight and then four more after an Elena Shklyar/Naya Gros block of Cleveland. Down 7-1, it would be understandable if the Spartans bent beneath the weight of the impending blowout, but they did not - after a timeout, a 1-4 run made it 8-5, and they answered a 3-0 run with an 0-3 of their own for 12-9. It wasn’t until 14-11 that the Boilers finally pulled away, scoring five straight around MSU’s other timeout to lead 19-11. Michigan State nibbled at the lead, but couldn’t score more than two straight, and after a Mohler service error gave MSU one last chance at 24-19, Maddie Haggerty was called for a bad set (I started to wonder if the up ref was one of those people who just likes to make calls), and the Good Gals went up 25-19 and 2-1.
Michigan State needed to change things up in set four, and at the start, they did just that, leading 0-3 and 2-5, then getting three in a row for 5-9 and holding that at 6-10 and 8-12. The home crowd was starting to sense a five-match set, but the Boilers were having none of it, and four points later, they’d tied the set at 12 and MSU had to use a timeout. Purdue took its first lead at 14-13, then again at 15-14 and 16-15, with the Spartans responding each time, but they only had so much left in the tank, and finally, two Newton kills around a Bush kill gave Purdue a reasonable 19-16 lead. MSU would get one more point on an Alyssa Chronowski kill, but the last six points would be Purdue’s, with Newton scoring the final two and finishing off the Spartans, 25-17 and 3-1.
The big loss in set one did keep Purdue’s advantage down in the box score, and the Spartans even managed an edge in blocks (11.0 to 9.0) and aces (2 to 3), but everything else was Old Gold and Black: attack (49 at .199 to 39 at .095), assists (46-39), serving (-4/-.045 to -5), and digs (60-58).
Cleveland returned to the top of the kills leaderboard, hitting .367 with 15 kills - solid numbers for a freshman in a Big Tenteen road match. Newton had 12 kills at .259, with Atkinson hitting just .182 with 9 kills against a Spartan defense determined to shut her down. Bush had 37 assists, just missing a double-double with 9 digs, and added an ace (+1/+.048), with Atkinson (even) serving the other. Cleveland also had two solo blocks (Atkinson had a third), adding 4 assists for a match-high 4.0 total; Mohler matched her 4 assists but did not have a solo. Peters had a match-high 17 digs, with no other Boiler topping Bush’s 9.
Sidearm gave MSU a crappy volleyball site, since the code they apparently use for other Big Tenteen sites isn’t working here (you can’t change the roster view from VERY TALL ROWS to grid view, which is much more useful for … well, everything), so this paragraph took me about three times the normal amount of time to thanks. Sparty, No! Sophomore OH Alyssa Chronowski led the Spartans with 12 kills but hit just .095, although she did add 10 digs for a double-double; redshirt senior OH Maddie Haggerty had 10 kills but hit .176. Freshman setter Elena Shklyar had 24 assists, with junior setter Maggie Midgette adding 11. Chronowski (even), junior DS Samantha McLean (even), and freshman DS Lauryn Gibbs (+1) each had an ace, with McLean adding a team-high 12 digs and sophomore libero Jamye Cox adding 10. Chronowski and Haggerty each had a solo block, with freshman MB Rebecka Poljan posting a match-high 5 assists for a team-leading 2.5 total blocks.
The score in Ann Arbor was a bit worse than I thought it would be, but sometimes you just aren’t the better team, and that was definitely the case Friday. All things considered, Purdue was +2 for the weekend (Massey predicted 3-6 total; the Good Gals went 3-4 and actually won a match), and that MSU road win is going to look nice come tournament time. Sure, the Spartans are tied for 10th in the conference, but they’re #38 overall, and they’re definitely a tough out in Jenison - the crowd of 2,678 is larger than you’d see in Holloway, although not by much.
Minnesota is the lone unbeaten, posting a decisive 3-1 win in Lincoln that included a 25-14 win in set three. Wisconsin pulled Illinois into the two-loss group with a 3-1 win in Champaign and then fell in five sets in Iowa City; other than that, the most surprising results were Indiana’s 2-3 loss in Ann Arbor and Ohio State’s 3-2 win in New Brunswick. Indiana also lost in five sets in East Lansing, so it’s safe to say that the Hoosiers have already turned things around under Steve Aird; Ohio State may be heading in the opposite direction. (Rutgers isn’t in the 300s - last week, I put the NCAA rankings instead of the DI rankings. There isn’t much difference until you get out of the 100s, which for this conference means the only team that was really off was the Scarlet Knights.)
UPDATE: Fixed the standings, I had not updated this week’s schedule and thus had nothing to say. Minnesota gets another tough test against Illinois, while Penn State heads home from West Lafayette to host Nebraska. The 2-4 teams should sort themselves out, as Michigan State faces both Maryland and Ohio State, while Northwestern has a grueling road trip to Wisconsin and Minnesota.
Two more tough matches before the Boilers stay home for a week - Penn State greets the Boilers for an ESPNU weeknight match, then Purdue travels to Iowa to play the Hawkeyes on Central Time. Massey still says 1-3 PSU and 2-3 Iowa, but the Boilers might be able to steal the latter, and coming back from this trip with two road wins would be a huge win for the Good Gals.
As per usual, you can listen for free online or on WSHY 104.3 FM. The Iowa match is on FloVolleyball because I guess you can make any kind of TV deals you want as long as the players don’t get anything out of it, and apparently they don’t believe in stat trackers (but at least BTN+ is still covering it). That is … not the way to build support for a program that’s having an excellent year so far. (See above: any win over Wisconsin this season is a great win.)
Road matches mean a single pic per match, so the feature pic is courtesy of the good folks at Purdue Sports