VB Wins Stacey Clark Classic, Moves to 8-0
There are plenty of good reasons to follow Purdue volleyball, but last weekend, two of them definitely stood out: one was that volleyball is indoors, rather than outside in gross wet weather, and the other is that non-conference play usually means Boiler wins. Xavier was a tougher out than expected, and the Purdue-Louisville match was easily the best of the season, but in both cases, the Good Gals won; their 3-0 mark in the tournament moved them to 8-0 on the season and #13 in Massey.
Garrett Joiner came out without a knee brace prior to warmups one day, testing her knee, but the brace returned for warmups (she didn’t play this weekend). No other injuries to report.
The usual lineup played the entire way against Xavier. Johnson, Terwilliger, Van Zelst and Williams made brief appearances against Lipscomb, with Johnson hitting .500 with a kill and half a block, and Terwilliger also played briefly against Louisville, recording a return error.
#16 Purdue 3, #215 Xavier 1 (25-17, 26-28, 25-13, 25-16)
Set one started off like I thought it might, with the Boilers going up 3-1 and then using a 5-0 run to lead 9-4. At that point, I thought they would pull away with ease … and after a Laura Grossman kill, the Good Gals added four more to lead 13-5. But Xavier dug in their heels, and Purdue couldn’t get more room than that - a 4-1 run to make it 18-9 was answered with a 1-4 run for 19-13. Eventually the Musketeers would draw within 20-15, but the Boilers traded points through 22-17 and a Xavier timeout, and then they scored the last three points of the set to get a comfortable 25-17 win that was a bit closer than expected.
Set two was … not that. Xavier ran off six in a row, including consecutive aces by Madi Kutruff, to turn a 2-0 Purdue lead into a 2-6 deficit. For most of the set, that looked to be a hole that might be too big to climb out of, and indeed the Boilers would not take the lead back until a 5-0 run at 17-20 put them up 22-20. Audrey Adams drew the visitors within a point at 22-21, but Marissa Hornung got her first kill as a Boiler to restore the two-point lead. After Xavier’s final timeout, Adams struck again, but Sherridan Atkinson responded to give Purdue set point at 24-22. A Grossman kill and a Blake Mohler attack error tied it at 24, burning Purdue’s final timeout. Grace Cleveland blocked Moriah Hopkins for 25-24, but Hopkins returned the favor against Caitlyn Newton for 25-25. Atkinson made it 26-25 for Purdue’s fourth set point; a Grossman kill tied it at 26, and following a Shavona Cuttino attack error that was challenged and confirmed, Norah Painter put a McKena Estes set away for a 26-28 win, sending the Boilers to the locker room tied at 1 instead of up 2-0.
The Boilers normally come out strong after a second-set loss; this time, it took a little bit to warm up, as a 3-1 lead turned into a 4-5 deficit. Back-to-back Mohler kills keyed a 6-1 run for 10-6, and Xavier wouldn’t score on their serve again. A 7-0 run at 17-12 all but put the set away, with Julianna Reisinger serving a pair of aces, and after an Atkinson attack error gave the Musketeers one more chance, Cuttino got point 25 and gave the Good Gals a 2-1 lead.
Purdue got off to a good start in set four, leading 4-1, but Xavier stayed close, eventually tying at 9-9 after a run of three consecutive Purdue attack errors. The Boilers responded with four straight, opening up a 13-9 lead they wouldn’t relinquish, as once again the visitors could not score on their serve from that point forward. A 7-1 run closed out the match, with a Cleveland kill providing the final point.
Purdue controlled every aspect of the box score except digs (59-55): they outhit Xavier .313 to .164 with 65 kills to 44, served 6 aces for -2/-.006 to Xavier’s 3/-3, and posted better numbers in blocks (12-5) and assists (59-41) as well.
Three Boilers registered double-figure kills, with Atkinson (20 at .327) leading all players by quite a bit and Cleveland (12 at .333) and Newton (11 at .250) joining her, while Bush (5 at .556) and Cuttino (8 at .429) topped the .400 mark. Hayley Bush had 54 assists and 8 digs; Brooke Peters led all players with 22 (no other Boiler had 10 or more). Marissa Hornung (2/+2/.091) and Julianna Reisinger (2/even) had four of Purdue’s six aces, with Peters (1/even) and Jena Otec (1/-2/-.111) getting the others. The Good Gals had five solo blocks, two each from Newton and Cleveland and one from Mohler, with Newton’s 3.5 total good for top honors.
Xavier’s attack was led by senior OH Laura Grossman, who had 11 kills at .226. Assists were split between senior McKena Estes (19), a Brebeuf alumna, and sophomore Nadia Dieudonne (17). Junior DS Madi Kutruff (2/even), a Martinsville native, and Estes (1/+1) had the Musketeers’ aces, with redshirt senior libero Meredith Klare (18) and Grossman (14) leading the way in digs. Redshirt sophomore MB Audrey Adams (a Cathedral grad) and sophomore RS Moriah Hopkins each had a solo block, with Adams adding two assists for a team-high 2.0.
#16 Purdue 3, #73 Lipscomb 0 (25-23, 25-18, 25-12)
Once again, the Boilers were met with a spirited challenge out of the gate, but the Good Gals didn’t have their usual second-set struggles and were able to run the Bison out of the building by set three.
Ratings-wise, Lipscomb should have been a tougher test than Xavier was, and given the Boilers’ early struggles, the first set seemed right in line with that thinking. Lipscomb jumped out to a quick 2-4 lead before a 3-0 run righted the Purdue ship; even so, it wasn’t until 8-9 that the hosts caught fire, using a 6-0 run around a Lipscomb timeout to grab a 14-9 lead. The Bison used their other timeout at 18-13, and the Boilers led by 5 as late as 22-17, but Lipscomb ran off three straight to force a Purdue timeout; at 24-21, an Atkinson service error and a Lauren Anderson/Ca’Layci Coffey block of Mohler cut the lead to one, but Cleveland put away a Bush set to save the Good Gals from a painful collapse, and set one was in the books, 25-23.
The first half of set two seemed like a rerun of any number of recent Boiler home matches, as Lipscomb led 0-3, 7-9 and 10-12 before a 4-0 Boiler run put the Good Gals in front 14-12. The Bison tied it at 15-15, but a 5-1 Purdue run made the lead 20-16, and a 3-1 run after a Bison timeout gave the Boilers a safe 23-17 margin; they would finish it on an Atkinson kill and a Cuttino/Cleveland block of Anderson. While the final score was 25-18, it seemed closer than that, and at that point on Saturday evening, with the football loss still hanging over us, the third set was sure to be a struggle.
It wasn’t. Yes, the Bison led 2-4, but a 3-0 run took the lead back, and after a Megan Kuper kill knotted it at 5, the Boilers ran off eight in a row around a Lipscomb timeout and later a challenge confirmed in Purdue’s favor; at 13-5, the Good Gals were just getting started. A 3-0 run after an Otec service error burned the last Bison timeout and made it 16-6, bringing Johnson in for Cuttino; Kuper got Lipscomb’s 7th point, but another 4-0 run made it 20-7, and at this point the visitors were clearly demoralized. Shondell brought in more of the subs, with Van Zelst coming in to serve, then Terwilliger, and finally getting Williams in for Mohler. (The Purdue bench also got a yellow card on match point #1; they never tell us why.) Kuper staved off the first match point with another kill, but Otec responded with her first Boiler kill, and after a pointless Lipscomb challenge (literally, as it turned out), the call stood, Otec kept her kill, and the Good Gals took a 25-12 set that wasn’t even that close.
This box score is a little hard to understand at first: the Bison actually had more kills (39-37), even though Purdue outhit them .329 to .208, and more assists (37-34). Digs went to Purdue 38-31, and blocks 4.0 to 2.0, so where did all those points come from? The service line. Lipscomb was -15: no aces, 15 errors. Purdue doesn’t track service errors, so I’ve no idea how close that was to an opponent record, but I would guess it’s pretty far up there. Combine that with Purdue’s 5/+1/.014 performance and you get more than half a set’s worth of points at the line.
With the low kill total, it’s no surprise that Atkinson was the only one in double figures, and even she just barely made it (10 at .304), with Bush (4 at .667) and Mohler (4 at .600) the only Boilers with 5+ attempts to hit .400 or better. Bush had 30 assists and added 4 digs and an ace (+1/.100), with Otec (2/+1/.071), Atkinson (1/even), and Peters (1/+1/.083) adding the other aces. Peters (11) and Otec (10) were the only ones to manage double-digit kills.
For the visitors, sophomore OH Megan Kuper had a stellar match, leading all players with 14 kills and hitting .520 on 25 attacks. Junior setter Morgan Elmore had a match-high 33 assists, while senior MB Ca’Layci Coffey had two assists for a team-high 1.0 total blocks. Sophomore libero Ashley Maher had a match-high 12 digs as the only Bison in double figures, and as mentioned above, no Lipscomb player served an ace.
#16 Purdue 3, #39 Louisville 2 (25-23, 17-25, 28-26, 13-25, 15-10)
For the first time this season, the Boilers were outplayed in a match; still, they managed to stay just close enough in the odd sets that they never trailed in the match, and they took control in the fifth set when it mattered most. All in all, it was the perfect way to end a long homestand, and hopefully it set the Boilers up for a solid weekend in Alabama.
The Boilers started slowly in the first set, falling behind 3-7, and didn’t make up the ground until a 3-0 run to make it 13-13. At 14-16, they ran off six straight around a Louisville timeout to lead 20-16, but the Cardinals responded with a 1-4 run around a Purdue timeout to make it 21-20. Atkinson put the Boilers up two, only to see Melanie McHenry respond with a kill for 22-21; Atkinson made it 23-21, but Megan Sloan answered for 23-22. A Molly Sauer service error put the Boilers on set point, but a Mohler attack error gave Louisville another chance; Mohler was on target this time, and Purdue was up 1-0.
Set two started off a bit like the first, only slightly better for the Good Gals: 2-2, 4-4, 6-6 and 8-8 ties. The first sign of danger was an 0-4 Louisville run; after a Purdue timeout, it became an 0-6 run and burned the other timeout. The Boilers finally regained serve and ran off six of their own to tie at 15, but the visitors scored four more, and after trading service errors, a McHenry/Emily Scott block of Mohler made it 16-21. Another service error gave the Boilers a shot to continue a rally, but a Newton attack error gave it right back, and three points later, the match was tied 1-1. Fortunately, the Boilers had won both sets every time they’d been to this point so far this season …
Set three was the first one to start with a Purdue advantage as the Boilers went up 2-0 and 4-1. They led by three up through 8-5, but an 0-4 run put the Cardinals back in front, only to see a service error tie the set. A 4-0 Purdue run that included a successful Shondell challenge made it 14-11; Louisville called timeout and got the serve back on an Atkinson service error. Trading points through 16-13, the visitors ran off five around a Purdue timeout to lead 16-18, threatening to put the Boilers behind in a match for the first time this season. A 6-1 run canceled that advantage, burned Louisville’s last timeout, and gave Purdue a 22-19 cushion, but three straight points tied it at 22 and used Purdue’s final timeout. Atkinson and Cleveland put Purdue on set point, but Scott and Amanda Green responded with kills of their own, and a Cleveland attack error gave Louisville their first set point, 24-25. Cleveland tied it with a kill; an Atkinson attack error put Louisville ahead 25-26, but they would not score again, as kills from Cleveland and Bush put Purdue at set point one more time. A fired-up Mohler encouraged her teammates to win the set right here, and they did exactly that as her solo block of Wilma Rivera made it 28-26 Boilers. Three sets in, with two close Purdue wins and one big Louisville win … could the Good Gals do it again?
Not in set four. The Boilers started off down 0-5, and at 2-6, Louisville challenged an attack-error call and won it, sparking an 0-4 run to make it 2-10, a run that only stopped when Shondell subbed in Otec for Cleveland, a move that put Otec in at OH and led to her first front-row kill on a set from Bush, making it 3-10 Louisville. Purdue would climb within five at 7-12 and 8-13, but the Cardinals were definitely the better side in this set, pulling away each time. Their lead hit double digits at 10-20 and ended up at 12-24 before a Natalie Palastro service error gave Purdue a final chance, but McHenry got the next point, and after a 13-25 debacle, Louisville was ready for set five; the home crowd definitely needed the I Believe chant to get back into the match.
As it turned out, the Cardinals might have needed something themselves. A Scott solo block of Cleveland gave them the first point, but kills by Cuttino and Cleveland put Purdue in front, and three straight Louisville attack errors made it 5-1 Boilers. Louisville closed to 6-4, but blocks by Mohler/Bush and Mohler/Newton around another attack error opened up a 9-4 lead and got Louisville’s first timeout. Trading points through 10-6, the Boilers looked to pull away after kills by Newton and Atkinson, but McHenry made it 12-7 and joined Scott to block Newton for 12-8; a Newton attack error was challenged unsuccessfully by Purdue, and for a minute 12-9 looked like a one-point lead, but a Rivera service error gave Purdue the serve after Louisville challenged that the serve was an ace and did not get the reversal. Cuttino put the Boilers on match point; McHenry extended the match to 14-10, but Cleveland put it away, and at 15-10, the Good Gals finally earned their victory lap.
Most numbers tilted Louisville’s way, reflecting the excellent job their back line did of tracking down many Purdue attacks; the Boilers had a rough attack outing, hitting just .152 with 50 kills to Louisville’s 63 at .199. The Cardinals led in assists (59-47) and digs (77-61), and while Purdue controlled the net defensively with 15 blocks (6 solo) to 8 (1 solo) for the visitors, the service line was nobody’s friend, with the teams combining for 24 service errors and -11 overall. Purdue’s -.062 , 11 service errors and -6 net were all season lows.
Atkinson was the team’s leader with 14 kills, but she needed 53 attacks to get them and hut just .132. Newton (9 at .040) and Cleveland (8 at .070) had similar struggles, but the non-pin attackers did significantly better, as Bush (4 at .800), Mohler (8 at .300) and Cuttino (6 at .357) all topped .300. Bush had 38 assists, 7 digs and 2.0 total blocks for a well-rounded day; Peters led all Boilers with 25 digs as Hornung added 10 of her own. Mohler had 3 of Purdue’s 6 solo blocks and 6.0 total to lead all players. Atkinson was the only Boiler with multiple aces, but still ended up at -1/-.045; Hornung was the only plus Boiler with +1/.071, while Reisinger (-1/-.063) and Otec (-1/-.067) rounded out the group.
For Louisville, junior OH Melanie McHenry from Speedway led a trio of Cardinals in digs, leading all players with 17 kills but hitting just .196. Zionsville’s junior OH Megan Sloan had 14 at .321, with senior MB Jasmine Bennett getting 10 at .261. Senior setter Wilma Rivers had a match-high 46 kills, while senior libero Molly Sauer also hit double digits with 10 and added a match-high 3 aces (+1), with Rivera (2/even), freshman DS Mia Stander (2/+1), and freshman OH Claire Chaussee (1/-2) recording the other Louisville aces. Freshman MB Emily Scott had the only Louisville solo block and led the team with 3.0 total; while Sauer had another match high with 30 digs and McHenry added 18 digs.
Could have been a lot worse - it was good to see the Boilers tested, albeit by another good, young team like themselves (you’ll note the number of freshmen leading Louisville). Nothing quite prepares you for close matches against actual opponents, and seeing the Boilers struggle twice and right themselves each time was good, especially at this point in the season.
While the attack didn’t look great against Louisville, having Hornung and Otec continue to hit from the back (and, on one occasion, putting Otec in to return serve and hit up front) should open up lanes for other attackers as well. We’ll likely see in a couple of weeks if that’s starting to work; in the meantime, all the young players are going to get another week of live play, this time away from home, and that should be the kind of test they’ll need to get ready for Big Tenteen action in two weeks.
#3 Penn State was swept at Stanford, which would be understandable for most any other team but surprising for that one. #4 Nebraska survived a five-set thriller at Creighton, while #6 Illinois will host the Bluejays, Northern Iowa and Lipscomb in a quest to go 11-0 prior to visiting Holloway next week. #9 Wisconsin lost in four sets at Baylor, while #10 Michigan swept a good Colorado State team in Ann Arbor. #15 Minnesota dropped four-set matches to Oregon and Stanford in Palo Alto (that was one heck of a weekend), while the Boilers vaulted past the Gophers to #13. #24 Michigan State has now won nine straight after an opening loss at Tennessee, and #26 Ohio State sits just outside the top 25 after knocking off Towson and Missouri at Towson. Even Rutgers had an impressive performance, taking down Navy in four sets at home.
Road trip! Purdue heads south to Tuscaloosa for the Crimson-White tournament. Massey still says the Boilers should beat Alabama 3-1 and sweep the other teams, but we’ll see; they’ve somewhat missed their projections the last couple of weeks. I wouldn’t be surprised to see the Tide push them to five sets and maybe Southern Miss take one from them.
Friday, 1 PM: vs #114 Southern Miss (no TV)
Friday, 8 PM: at #23 Alabama (TV: SEC+)
Saturday, noon: vs #183 South Alabama (no TV)
Listen for free online or on WSHY 104.3 FM; note that SEC+ is part of the ESPN conglomerate, so chances are you have it even if you think you don’t. The Alabama Sidearm stat tracker is the one you need to use to follow along this weekend.
Photos courtesy of Purdue Athletics, taken by Charles Jischke