VB Keeps Monon Spike In Five-Set Thriller, Now Tied For Third
If you were in Holloway late Saturday evening, still glowing from the narrow win that football posted over Iowa, you’d be forgiven if you caught yourself looking at the scoreboard and wondering if it was really true that Indiana had lost 11 straight matches to Purdue, if they’d really lost 10 straight Monon Spike matches, and if Dave Shondell was really 27-3 against them. In fact, you might have been wondering if the Boilers would somehow manage to pull this one out, too.
But if you stayed - and not everyone did, since an 8:00 start and five sets meant a late finish, as you can tell from the Purdue Sports byline - then you’d have seen five good sets of volleyball, something that hasn’t been seen in this series for some time. If Saturday’s match is any indication, the final week of the season just got more interesting, as that Wednesday match in Bloomington doesn’t look quite like a 3-1 win for the Boilers, at least not right now. (Ask #14 Michigan how playing at IU went for them.)
Shavona Cuttino had a compression sleeve on her left calf, which may or many not mean anything. She didn’t seem limited in warmups and did play against Indiana, but Jael Johnson also started in both, so the most likely scenario seems that Johnson played her way into the lineup, but Cuttino is still available as a strong MB off the bench. Brooke Peters was the libero for all nine sets. No other subs made an appearance.
#12 Purdue 3, #60 Michigan State 1 (25-18, 19-25, 25-18, 25-19)
As is frequently the case, the first set was a slow start for the Boilers, with MSU taking the first three points and sitting on a 1-4 lead before a 4-0 run keyed by consecutive Sherridan Atkinson aces put the Boilers in front. The teams traded points through 7-7, when a 3-0 Purdue run drew an MSU timeout. Oddly enough (given the way the set started), the Spartans never drew closer than 2, even though Purdue would have just one more run of more than two points, a 3-0 run to make the lead 21-15. MSU cut the lead to four, but the Boilers took four of the last five points, getting two Atkinson kills to end the first set 25-18.
Set two also featured a quick Spartan start, as they scored four straight after a 1-1 tie, but this time the Boilers did not immediately retake the lead. In fact, after cutting the lead to 3-5, Purdue wouldn’t score on their own serve again until a 3-0 run cut an 8-12 lead to 11-12. After two more MSU points, Purdue did get a 4-0 run to lead 15-14; after the media timeout, the teams traded points through 17-16. The visitors then went on an 0-5 run, burning both Purdue timeouts, before a Jael Johnson kill finally got the Good Gals back on the board, but 18-21 was too much of a hole to climb out of. Purdue would score once more, on an Atkinson kill for 19-22, before Michigan State took the final three points. As has often been the case in conference play, the Boilers headed to the locker room even at 1-1.
After the break, MSU made it three straight sets with an early advantage, as they scored the first six points, drawing a Purdue timeout at 0-5 and following that with a Molly Johnson kill. A 4-1 run cut the lead in half, but the Spartans held firm, getting two more for 4-9 and answering a 3-0 Purdue run with two more points of their own. Still, the Boilers slowly crept back into the match, getting a 6-1 run to turn a 9-14 deficit into a 15-15 tie and drawing an MSU timeout. The Spartans had one more good run, a 1-3 burst to make it 16-18, but then the wheels came off as they allowed Purdue to score the last nine points of the set, with five attack errors (one unforced), an ace, and kills from Grace Cleveland, Caitlyn Newton and Blake Mohler giving the Good Gals a 25-18 win that did not reflect the way most of the set played out. Nevertheless, Purdue was the side up 2-1, and that’s generally meant good things at home.
While the Boilers should have had momentum after that 9-0 run, it was the Spartans who once again led early, with an 0-4 lead that they pushed to 1-6, drawing another early Boiler timeout. This time, Purdue had more trouble coming back, going from 4-8 to 4-11 and using their second timeout. They did score twice, but gave two points back, and at 6-13 the fourth set wasn’t looking good. The Good Gals then put together a 9-1 run, taking seven straight and burning an MSU timeout, then adding two more after an Alyssa Chronowski solo block of Atkinson to take their first lead of the set at 15-14. MSU tied it at 15, but Purdue added two more points, and the Spartans had to use their last timeout at 17-15. As in the first set, the damage had already been done; Michigan State would not score on their serve again, and Purdue would score the final four points of the match, getting two kills from Newton and one from Johnson for match point, then seeing a Chronowski attack error give them a 3-1 win.
Purdue’s slight edge on the scoreboard looked a bit bigger in the box score, at least in a couple of areas: attack (59 kills to 41, .268 to .139) and assists (56 to 39). MSU had the edge in aces (5/+1 to 4/-3/-.032), while Purdue had a small advantage in blocks (7.0 to 6.0) and digs (54-47). Atkinson had another great night, posting a match-high 18 kills at .417 with just 3 attack errors; she also had 5 digs and was the only Boiler with multiple aces (2/+1/.063). Newton added 14 kills at .300 and Cleveland had 12 at .114. Hayley Bush had 49 assists with an ace (even), and Marissa Hornung had the other (+1/.043). Mohler had two solo blocks and 3.5 total to lead the Boilers, while Peters (16) and Hornung (12) were the two Purdue players with double-digit digs.
Redshirt senior OH Maddie Haggerty had a team-high 11 kills for the Spartans, but hit just .143; freshman MB Rebecka Poljan added 10 at .304, with sophomore OH Alyssa Chronowski (Munster, IN) just missing double figures (9 at .067). Freshman setter Elena Shklyar had 26 assists, with junior setter Maggie Midgette adding 11. Haggerty tied Atkinson for match honors with 2 aces (+1); Shklyar (1/+1), sophomore libero Jamye Cox (1/even) and junior DS Samantha McLean (1/+1) had the other Spartan aces. Chronowski had 2 solo blocks to lead the team, and Poljan had three assists for a team-high 1.5 total blocks. Cox had a match-high 21 digs, with Haggerty recording 11 for a double-double.
#12 Purdue 3, #61 Indiana 2 (25-22, 22-25, 25-18, 23-25, 15-12)
On Saturday, the Boilers began set one in almost exactly the opposite of the way they started against Michigan State most sets: a 7-1 run after conceding the initial point put the Boilers up 7-2 and raised the possibility of a quick match. IU wasn’t having any of it, slowly chipping into the lead: 4 of the next 5 points went to the Hoosiers, leaving Purdue up just 8-6. The Good Gals pushed the lead to 10-6, then traded points through 14-11 before getting four in a row around an Indiana timeout for 18-11. A 1-3 run narrowed the gap to 19-14, but a Newton kill made it 20-14 and drew the other timeout, which led to another 1-3 IU run; at 22-17, back-to-back Indiana points forced Dave Shondell to call his first timeout. Kills from Atkinson and Mohler put the Good Gals on set point, but an Atkinson service error gave IU another chance, and attack errors from Atkinson and Cleveland made it 24-22. Shondell used his second timeout, and the Boilers finally took care of business on set point #4, using a Mohler kill to go up 1-0.
Set two started off with the teams trading the first four points; Indiana got a Breana Edwards kill on their serve to lead 2-3, then again the teams traded points through 5-6. After an Atkinson attack error and a Newton kill made it 6-7, Indiana ran off seven points to lead 6-14 and burn both Purdue timeouts. The Boilers cut the lead to six, but couldn’t get anything going; they won a challenge that reversed a touch call, but lost the next three points to trail 10-19. Finally, at 13-22, they scored six of seven around both IU timeouts, and at 19-23, a comeback seemed possible; after an Elizabeth Asdell kill put the Hoosiers on set point, it was set one in reverse, as Purdue fought off three straight set points to draw within 22-24, but Lexi Johnson and Hayden Huybers combined to block Cleveland for set point, and once again, the Boilers left the court tied at 1.
Indiana put together back-to-back points twice near the beginning of set three, but could only lead by two, and Purdue took advantage with a 3-0 run to regain the lead at 8-7. Trading points through 10-9, IU got another two points to lead 10-11, and again it was Purdue with a 3-0 run to break another trading-points streak, going from 12-13 to 15-13 and drawing Indiana’s first timeout. A Deyshia Lofton kill stopped that run, but Purdue took the next four points and burned the Hoosiers’ final timeout, leading 19-14. IU took two of the next three points, but conceded another 3-0 run, and at 23-16 the Boilers simply traded points to close out the set, with Mohler providing the winner. Up 2-1, it looked like the Good Gals would grind out another four-set victory and let everyone head home at a reasonable hour.
Set four did start that way, although Purdue errors kept Indiana in it: two service errors and an attack error were the only Indiana points in a 5-3 Boiler run. IU eventually got their attack going, nibbling away at the lead until they finally retook it on an Asdell/Huybers block of Cleveland, 9-10. Purdue used kills from Johnson and Cleveland to lead 11-10, but Huybers tied it with a kill, and a Mohler attack error made it 11-12 IU. Purdue would make the next run, getting three straight to make 13-14 into 16-14 and draw an Indiana timeout; IU scored the next five, burning both Purdue timeouts to lead 16-19, but the Boilers got three of their own and burned Indiana’s remaining timeout at 19-all. A Kamryn Malloy kill gave the visitors a 19-20 lead, but three more Purdue points made it 22-20, but at 23-21, Indiana made a run, and three points later, an Abigail Westenhofer ace gave the Hoosiers a 23-25 win and forced a deciding fifth set.
Purdue started off poorly in the final set, falling behind 1-4 and forcing Shondell to call a timeout; they rallied to take five of the next six points and lead 6-5. Each team scored back-to-back points for 8-7; after the switch, a Huybers kill tied it at 8. Newton made it 9-8 Purdue; Lexi Johnson tied it at 9, and a Newton attack error put the Hoosiers up 9-10. The Boilers then made the biggest run of the night, taking four straight to lead 13-10 and burn both Indiana timeouts. IU wasn’t done, getting kills from Malloy and Lofton to cut the lead to one and draw the final timeout of the match. At 13-12, an Edwards attack went long; Indiana (and former Maryland) coach Steve Aird challenged that there was a touch, but replay confirmed no touch, and the Boilers had two match points coming. They’d only need one, as Atkinson put away a Peters set, and Purdue wrapped up its 11th straight Monon Spike win, 3-2.
As is usually the case with five-set matches, there were plenty of big numbers on the board. Purdue had their usual edge in attack, with 70 kills to Indiana’s 62 and an attack percentage of .273 to .184 for IU; the Boilers also led in assists (65-57) and digs (77-68), but were tied in blocks (10-10) despite recording no solos to Indiana’s 5, and the visitors had a big edge in aces, 5/+1 to 6/-6/-.056.
Once again, Atkinson led the way in kills, with 23 at .304; Newton (15 at .286), Mohler (14 at .357) and Cleveland (10 at .091) also hit double figures. Bush had 58 of the 65 assists and added 17 digs for a double-double, just behind Peters’ team-high 21 and ahead of Jena Otec’s 15. Atkinson again had two aces, but was -2/-.095 at the line; Otec also had two (even), with Hornung (1/even) and Peters (1/-1/-.045) rounding out the group. Mohler and Cleveland each had 7 block assists for a match-high 3.5 total blocks apiece.
The Hoosiers were led by freshman OH Breana Edwards, who had 19 kills at .140; sophomore OH Kamryn Malloy added 11 at .226 and senior RS Elizabeth Asdell (South Bend/Mishawaka Marian) had 10 at .222. Junior setter Victoria Brisack had a double-double with a team-high 31 assists and 10 digs; freshman setter Abigail Westenhofer added 22 assists. Malloy and junior MB Deyshia Lofton each had two solo blocks, with Lofton adding a block assist for 2.5 total to match freshman MB Lexi Johnson, who had the other solo plus three assists. Sophomore libero Bayli Lebo (La Porte - she’s Taylor’s younger sister) had a match-high 28 digs, while Malloy added 14 for her own double-double.
The Boilers weren’t at their best Saturday, and it almost cost them … but once again, they were able to win close sets when they needed to, and they remained unbeaten in five-set matches this season (6-0). Purdue’s seen opponents make some great plays to keep the ball in play against them, but they’ve also been able to reload their attack when necessary, and that’s something they weren’t always able to do in previous years. Atkinson is rounding into dominant form, but Peters hasn’t been her rock-steady self in the back row, so again I think it’s notable that Shondell is doing this with a team mostly comprised of underclassmen (right now, the only other Boiler with significant playing time who won’t be here in 2020 is Mohler). If the young kids can keep winning big matches, the next 14 months should be really interesting.
One thing they’re starting to do more often against weaker opposition is go on long runs. There are few things more satisfying than watching your team force the opponents to burn both timeouts and still give up points; against both Rutgers and Michigan State, the Boilers used a long run to close out a set. They won’t have any more easy matches this year, but hopefully that’s something to watch for next season.
The two real surprises both involved Michigan, as the Wolverines fell in four sets in Bloomington but turned around and did the same thing in Madison; that plus Minnesota’s win dropped the Badgers into fifth. Penn State’s loss in Lincoln dropped them into a third-place tie with the red-hot Boilers, as the only two teams left in front of Purdue are teams with at least the same streak: Illinois ran through Ohio State and Maryland to extend their streak to seven, and Minnesota continued their double victory lap with that big win in Madison and a surprisingly close win over Michigan State at home.
While it won’t be a true tournament, the top four teams do meet each other, and the higher seed gets home court in both matches, as a full seven-match slate on Saturday sees Purdue visit Minnesota and Penn State travel to Illinois. Indiana’s bid for an NCAA spot will face a harsh test as they join Purdue on the Minnesota-Wisconsin road trip, while Michigan has to hold off Nebraska in Ann Arbor to keep from falling any further out of the pack, and Maryland (at Michigan) and Iowa (vs Nebraska) also have stern tests awaiting them.
A possible NCAA regional preview awaits the Boilers, as they travel to Wisconsin Friday evening and Minnesota Saturday evening. The Badgers may have played themselves out of a top-four spot, but they’ll still be a difficult opponent, perhaps moreso given the loss to Michigan; the Gophers have basically locked in home court through the first four rounds, and guess where the Final Four is this year? Still, the Spartans may have given the Boilers some hope - if they can force a fifth set …
TBH I could see either this or Penn State-Illinois being a good BTN match, so not getting the BTN crew on Saturday is reasonable. Sucks if you don’t have BTN+ though. As per usual, you can listen for free online or on WSHY 104.3 FM.
All pics from the Indiana match courtesy of Purdue Athletics, taken by Charles Jischke, because that’s the way we roll around here. Also because there aren’t any on Exposure from the MSU match.