VB Sweeps to Reamer Club Title, Back-to-Back 3-0 Starts
Hey, before we get started, I checked my quick predictions for last season. I said 21-9, losses to Creighton and Kansas in non-con play, 13-7 in conference play, no hosting NCAA matches and losing in the second round. Well, I can't count, because the Boilers ended up 22-9 in regular-season play, beat Creighton but lost to Kansas, went 12-8 in the Big Tenteen, and did lose in the second round on the road. Not bad ... for a prediction that wasn't really that detailed. Will the Good Gals go 21-8 overall, 12-8 in the conference, and lose in the second round, like I predicted last week? No, because naturally I miscounted again, missing the fact that Purdue has 11 non-conference matches. Will they go 22-8? We'll find out, one week at a time.
Reamer Club Xtra Special Volleyball Premier Recap
Yep, that's the actual title. I miss the days of the Mortar Board Premier. It took me longer to type that title than it took the Boilers to wrap up theirs, facing danger in just one of the nine sets they played, and that in a match that until set three had been nowhere close to competitive.
#19 Purdue 3, #166 Wofford 0 (25-15, 25-18, 25-17)
Sidearm Sports has redone the Purdue Sports site; it looks much nicer, although it does have that ridiculous full-screen nag about ad-blocking (fortunately, if you have AdBlock Plus, once you learn the ID for that screen you can block it on any school that uses Sidearm). In particular, the PBP is easier to read, and it has a nice summary on the first page, so when you're done here, you should go there and check out the stats.
It looks like Dave Shondell has found a rotation he likes: Sherridan Atkinson, Caitlyn Newton and Grace Cleveland at OH, with Atkinson as the six-rotation player, Blake Mohler and Shavona Cuttino at MB, Hayley Bush setting, Jena Otec and Marissa Hornung at DS, and Brooke Peters returning as the libero, with Julianna Reisinger serving for Mohler sometimes and staying in the back row sometimes.
Set one was roughly even through 10-9, when a 7-1 Purdue run around a Wofford timeout put the set out of reach, capped by a pair of Atkinson aces. Wofford would get no closer than 5, and a 4-0 run at 18-13, this time with a pair of aces by Reisinger, gave the Good Gals more breathing room. A Kelly Bossert kill and a Taylor Gill ace got the Terriers to 22-15, but kills by Cuttino and Newton gave the Boilers set point, and a Cuttino/Atkinson block of Colleen Reilly earned Purdue the first set, 25-15.
Set two also saw even play through 10-9, but at 11-10, the Boilers ran off seven of the next nine to lead 18-12; no aces this time, as two attack errors and a service error by Wofford did much of the damage. The visitors used a late 1-4 run to make it 22-18, but again the Good Gals scored the last three points, this time on attack errors by Reilly and Bijonae Jones around a Hayley Bush kill. At 25-18 and 2-0, the Boilers headed to the locker room with a comfortable advantage, and we would see them keep it through set three.
Jael Johnson made her Purdue debut as a starter in set three, stepping in while Cuttino got some time off. The first run in this set belonged to Wofford, not Purdue, as the Terriers came back from 7-4 to take a 7-8 lead, but a Gill service error tied it up, and Purdue added three more to restore their three-point lead and draw a Wofford timeout at 11-8. Alternating points kept the lead between 2 and 3 through 15-12, but a 6-1 run starting with that 15th point burned the last Wofford timeout and gave the Good Gals all the space they'd need, as Reisinger added two more aces and Mohler added two kills and half a block. At 22-17, Purdue would close with three points for the third straight time, with Olivia Van Zelst making an appearance on match point.
As you might expect, Purdue had a big edge in the box score, leading Wofford in kills (39 to 27), hitting percentage (.280 to .038), aces (7/-3 to 2/-3), and blocks (7 to 5). Atkinson led all players with 20.5 points, hitting .516 with 17 kills on 31 attacks and adding 10 digs for her first career double-double. Cuttino added 3 kills at .500; no one else managed 10 kills or hit .300, but they didn't need to. Bush had 32 of Purdue's 37 assists, Peters had a team-leading 17 digs, and Cleveland had the only solo block by a Boiler, tying Atkinson and Mohler with 1.5 blocks each. Reisinger led all players with 4 aces and was +3 at the line.
I'm trying something new this year - I looked for rate-based service stats and couldn't find anything better than per-set numbers, so I'm compiling my own and doing them like attacks (ace %, error %, service % like attack %). Reisinger had 10 serves against Wofford, so she aced .400 for a net .300, well ahead of her teammates (the only other positive was Atkinson at .077). That might be why Shondell had her serve for Mohler for most of the match; Blake had just 5 serves. (Hornung had the fewest opportunities in the rotation, with 9; 0 aces and 2 errors meant she served -.222.)
On the other side, Wofford's attack was led by senior MB Colleen Reilly, who had 10 kills at .300; no other Terrier had even half that number, and only sophomore MB Riley Coonan (1 at .333) topped .300. Assist honors were shared by freshman Noa Miller and junior Lorissa King, with both setters recording 12; senior OH Bijonae Jones (+1) and senior libero Taylor Gill (even) had the only aces. Jones, Reilly and junior RS Kelly Bossert each had a solo block, with Reilly taking team honors at 1.5 total blocks. Gill posted a match-high 21 digs as the only Terrier in double figures.
#19 Purdue 3, #140 Bowling Green 0 (25-16, 25-15, 25-20)
Starters were unchanged from the first match, but Van Zelst got her first dig in 2018, and Erin Williams made her season debut.
As in the first match, it was close until it wasn't, but unlike the first match, Purdue pulled away earlier, with a 5-2 run to lead 12-8 and then a 5-0 run after a Katelyn Meyer kill. At 17-9, the Boilers were in control, and after another Meyer kill, they ran off four more points to lead 21-10. Although the Good Gals would commit three straight service errors, they didn't have to score on their own serve, with a Katie Kidwell attack going long for set point, 25-16, after a Bowling Green challenge was unsuccessful.
Set two was nothing like the first four: instead of playing even for the first few points, Purdue blew the Falcons off the court, going up 5-1 and then 11-2. Purdue wouldn't score more than 2 consecutive points the rest of the way, but they didn't need to, as the visitors managed a pair of 0-3 runs but couldn't get closer than 19-13, and an Atkinson kill on set point sent the Good Gals off to the locker room with their second straight 2-0 advantage.
It took six sets, but finally Boiler opponents were able to extend them through an entire set. Bowling Green took the first two points, let the Boilers go up 4-3, and then after a 6-6 tie, Purdue didn't score on their own serve until 12-14, and even that was on a Nikolija Katanic attack error. The Falcons got their last bit of momentum on a Meyer kill to make it 14-16; after that, a 7-1 run gave the Good Gals a 21-17 lead, and back-to-back attack errors by Hornung (yes, a DS, more on that later) and Bush gave Bowling Green their last chance. Cleveland put the next point down, Atkinson followed to draw the Falcons' last timeout (they'd used the first at 20-17 after two Atkinson kills), and after Bowling Green's final point on a Celena Kanagin kill, Atkinson put the Boilers on the doorstep, and a Kanagin error pushed them through it. 25-20 was the closest of the six sets, but even so, Purdue finished on a 14-6 run.
Purdue's edge wasn't as big in this match; the Falcons did a good job tracking down Purdue attacks, holding the Boilers to a .243-.057 attack edge, but between the Good Gals up front and Bowling Green's attack errors, the kill advantage was 43-27 Purdue, enough to cost the visitors a set on its own. Purdue also led in assists (33-26), aces (4/-2 to 3/-1), and blocks (9 to 4), but the Falcons had a 51-49 advantage in digs.
Bowling Green's coaching staff took notes from the morning match, and it showed: Atkinson managed just 11 kills on 31 attacks for a hitting percentage of .194, but she had more help this time, as Newton led everyone with 12 kills (although she hit just .290), and Cleveland (7 at .250), Mohler (6 at .286) and Bush (3 at .333) took advantage of the Falcons' focus on Atkinson. Bush added 29 assists, 1.5 blocks and 10 digs for her first career double-double. Atkinson had 2 aces (+1) but served just .091, with Peters (1/even/.077) the only other Boiler serving above even, as Otec (1/-1/-.071) recorded the other Purdue ace. Mohler and Cleveland each had a solo block, with Mohler adding 5 assists to retake her usual spot at the top of the board with 3.5 total blocks. Peters had a team-high 11 digs, with Hornung joining Bush in double digits as both freshmen set career highs.
Freshman OH Katelyn Meyer led Bowling Green with 11 kills at .206, just missing a double-double with 8 digs. Junior Isabelle Marciniak and freshman Hanna Laube split the setting duties, with Marciniak recording 15 and Laube adding 9. Junior DS Paulina Iacobelli had all three of the Falcons' aces and no errors, giving her a match-high +3, while sophomore MB Katie Kidwell led Bowling Green with 1.5 total blocks. Senior libero Kallie Seimet did an excellent job keying their back line, covering seemingly every long hit and leading all players with 16 digs.
One final note on this match: the Boilers made Tyler Trent an honorary coach for it, and it wasn't just for show. Near the end of the Wofford-Tulsa match, Tyler rolled up to the end of the media section where Shondell typically watches a few points (and where, a bit later and farther down, a Tulsa player ran full tilt into the "boards", knocking them back about a foot; she didn't get the point, but that was some effort - and she surprised the heck out of the media person on the other side who didn't realize those things are on wheels). Shondell shook his hand and talked to him for a bit. Then, as that match wrapped up and Purdue began their warmups, they moved a chair and had Tyler sit at the end of the coaches' section with them. When the starting lineup was announced, every Purdue player went down the line like normal, then doubled back behind it to greet Tyler. They explained what they were doing and why (for the few people who hadn't heard what he's fighting), and I think you could say it was well received. It was nice to see the Purdue volleyball organization do all that - players, coaches and staff all showing the class we always want to see from fellow Boilers.
#19 Purdue 3, #151 Tulsa 0 (25-9, 25-11, 25-23)
You read that right: Tulsa was never close for the first two sets, but nearly stole the final one as the Good Gals simply could not put the Golden Hurricane away. No change in starting lineup for Purdue, but freshmen Garrett Joiner and Emma Terwilliger both made their debuts, with Joiner recording an attack error and Terwilliger getting her first dig.
Set one was almost worse than the final score showed: after an opening Rachel Moore kill, Purdue ran off five quick points, three on aces by Peters. After a Peters service error, a pair of Mohler kills made it 7-2, but the teams would split the next 8 points for 11-6 ... and that was it for Tulsa. Newton rattled off three straight kills, drawing a Tulsa timeout that was followed by an Elyse Savadove kill. A Mariah Pardo service error put Hornung on the line at 15-7; by the time she was done, it was 22-8, and the Good Gals were home free. An Atkinson ace on set point gave Purdue an easy 25-9 win and their third straight 1-0 match lead.
Set two was slightly closer on the scoreboard but not as close on the court, as Tulsa would score only once on their serve in the set. At 4-3, the Boilers got a disputed kill from Cleveland that review could not overturn; Jena Otec then served four straight points to make it 9-3, and that was it for the visitors. Hornung served four straight herself to turn a 14-7 lead into an 18-7 lead, and Atkinson got her first break of the night as she gave way to Terwilliger on defense at 21-9. Joiner would replace Newton at 23-10, and after an Otec ace, her attack error would give Tulsa one last shot, but a Hannah Overmyer service error put Purdue within a set of a 3-0 start, and after 25-9 and 25-11 wins, pretty much everyone expected a quick third set.
We did not get one. After an Emily Thorson ace, Purdue and Tulsa traded three-point runs with aces; a 2-1 Purdue run leveled it at 5, but Tulsa ran off three straight to lead 5-8, the Boilers' largest deficit of the tournament. They'd see it again at 7-10 and 8-11 before a 5-1 run put the Good Gals in front, 13-12, and after a Savadove kill tied it at 13, three more Boiler points made it 16-13, and Tulsa had no choice but to call a timeout. Maggie Hembree got the visitors within two, but Purdue scored four of the next five, capped by a Reisinger ace, to take what seemed to be a comfortable 20-15 lead. But a Reisinger error made it 20-16, a Hembree ace closed it to 20-17, and a Callie Cook/Rachel Moore block of Newton forced Shondell to call a timeout at 20-18. Tulsa would eventually pull to within 23-22 on a Cleveland attack error and again at 24-23 on a Savadove kill, but Atkinson was having none of it, and she put the match away with a kill to keep the Boilers perfect in nine sets.
Defense was the story against Bowling Green, but here it was offense: Purdue was fantastic on attack (49 kills at .432 to 25 for Tulsa at .133), and they were a solid +6 at the service line, with 11 aces to just 5 errors on 73 serves for a net .082. They nearly doubled Tulsa's assists (47 to 24) and easily topped them in blocks (54-37), but barely held their own in blocks (5-4).
Atkinson once again led the way, this time with 18 kills at .516; I'll wait while you read that again. OK? How about Mohler, with 9 at .471, and Newton, with 9 at .350? Cuttino with 5 at .455? Cleveland with 7 at .375? Bush only had two attacks because she didn't need many, not the way Purdue was hitting; her 42 assists were easily the best number of the weekend. Peters had a match-high 4 aces (+3, .176) and added a whopping 23 digs; Hornung (2/+1/.056), Atkinson (2/+1/.111) and Otec (2/+2/.167) all had multiple aces, with Reisinger (1/-1/-.111) registering the other. Cleveland added the lone solo block of the match and led everyone with 2.5 total blocks.
No Tulsa player had double-digit kills, with senior OH/MB Rachel Moore the closest, hitting .238 with 9 kills, while freshman MH Elyse Savadove added 7 at .174. Once again, Boiler opponents split their setting duties, as both junior Mariah Pardo and sophomore Lindsey Ledyard had 11 assists. Senior OH Emily Thorson, junior libero Taylor Horsfall, and sophomore MB Maggie Hembree all had an ace and no errors at the service line. Moore and sophomore MB Callie Cook shared team honors with 1.5 total blocks, while Horsfall was the only Tulsa player in double figures in digs, getting 16 of the team's 37.
Atkinson is averaging more than 15 kills per set and hitting .409, so ... not bad, amirite? Purdue dominated this weekend, which is what we hoped/expected to see. More importantly, several newcomers played well: Bush looked a little shaky in the first warmups but seemed to have no problems once the real thing started, while Cleveland looked at home in the front row and Hornung more than held her own at the back, even getting a few attacks in. She and Otec combined for five attacks; given that they're swinging with the outsides and middles during warmups, I wouldn't be surprised to see them get a few kills along the way. At 5'10", Otec is tall enough to have a natural swing, but the surprise was Hornung - at 5'7" - looking just as polished. If volleyball recruiting works like football recruiting (the closer to the top you are, the more likely it is you'll be solid at the next level), then it shouldn't be a surprise, because that's exactly what they predicted for her.
Johnson, Joiner and Terwilliger played sparingly, but since the NCAA's new redshirt rules apply only to football, that means that none of the three will redshirt. That's not much of a surprise - again, top recruits generally sign to play, not to wait - so it'll be interesting to see how things develop once they get more playing time. I believe there are two types of freshmen: those who are ready to play immediately and those who are getting there. None of us amateurs can really tell if a freshman will never pan out, and even if I could, I'd defer to Shondell and his staff. So the fact that "only" two of the six true freshmen played a lot simply means that the rest are on a normal pace ... and if they had played more, well, what would we have thought about the players who'd normally have had those minutes? Exactly. Everything's fine. If someone isn't getting much playing time after two or three years, then maybe you can start drawing conclusions, but for now, stop worrying and enjoy some wins.
Oddly, it seemed like Purdue wasn't quite ready to start the season. The scoreboard didn't show any individual stats on either day, the program didn't have much info (no last year's records) and was hastily typed in places (Reamber Club, Tulsa head coach Ryan Wills listed as Ryan Wi), and from what I heard, the net and support weren't even in place when Holloway opened at 9 AM for the first match. (It opens an hour early; without exception, everything's ready to go when we get there. This time, I was sleeping in, so I got there about 9:30 or so, and at that point, the net was up.) Hopefully the scoreboard thing will be fixed - it's hard to tweet stats when you don't have any! Then again, there wasn't a stat tracker either. I figure that was because Sidearm got the contract late in the summer; we've followed Purdue away matches through them before, and they do a fantastic job, much better than Purdue's old provider, so it's not because they can't do it, they probably just weren't set up yet.
I also noticed that there's no Mackey match this season. I'd thought Notre Dame would be it, but apparently not. There are 18 home matches, which is nice - 10 conference matches, the two usual three-match tournaments, plus Oakland and ND this coming weekend. Almost seems like something on the road fell through and the athletic department scrambled to get two local-ish teams (remember, Oakland U is in Rochester, MI, not California) here on an unconventional Saturday-Sunday weekend.
Hurray! We've got a link to stat tracking, and it's a generic link that'll work all season long, so if you hit it now, you'll see stats for the Tulsa match, and right away, you'll see what I mean about quality service (well, both from Sidearm and the Boilers).
Purdue moves up 1 spot to 18, which really means some teams fell below them (Cal Poly, San Diego, Utah) and not quite as many passed them (but Michigan and Washington State did). Seventh in the conference, 18th overall, sounds about right - they stayed the same in the Big Tenteen because Michigan State dropped 30 spots after losing 1-3 at Tennessee.
All games are on WSHY 104.3 FM; you can also listen to all matches for free online and follow stats for home matches online here. (Pretty much all away matches use a different provider; for example, the Crimson-White tournament September 14-15 at Alabama will likely mean we hit their site to get stats.) BTN Plus is not free.