VB Hosts Badgers, Wraps Up Spring Season
Spring has sprung
The grass has riz
I wonder where
My volleyball is
Purdue wrapped up its spring season Saturday against Wisconsin, having played Butler in Indianapolis (sadly during NCAA opening week, so I didn’t go) and Illinois in a home-and-home. Unlike football, volleyball actually plays all-out during its spring season; like football, nothing counts and different variations may come into play (for example, the Boilers and Badgers played four sets even though UW took the first three; just as one might in a rec-league match, they agreed to play another, and I suspect that was set up beforehand - the fourth set, that is, not the sweep).
Also unlike football, there are no early enrollees, at least not in this match. They’ll get here in the fall, but in the meantime, here are some bullets:
Purdue has 13 returning players, which sounds like a lot until you realize Wisconsin made a regional final last year and graduated just one player, MB Tionna Williams; among their 14 returnees are three All-Americans (two-time first-teamer MB Dana Rettke, second-team S Sydney Hilley, and third-team OH Madison Duello)
S Joy Chen was in a walking boot and did not suit up, MB Jael Johnson had a heavily-taped right thumb and played sparingly, so Shondell basically had 11 players available
Starters for all four sets were Mohler and Cuttino at MB, Bush at S (no backup with Chen out), Newton and Cleveland at OH, Otec at DS and Hornung at libero, although Otec and Hornung swapped for the fourth set
Joiner is 100% and rotated in at OH; Reisinger and Van Zelst rotated in at DS, with Terwilliger playing some DS in the final set
The north bleachers were up against the wall and the west stands had been removed; a handful of people sat on the east side in lieu of the Block Party and Boiler Box Band, but I’d say 700-800 people were in the south bleachers, not bad for offseason
The support folks weren’t there either, and only two refs were available, so Purdue staff called the lines and there was very much a casual-league ambiance, with players rolling the ball under the net after a point (or grabbing another from the carts), and long shots rolling into empty space and just staying there; score was kept but no stats
Newton, Cleveland and Mohler were the best attackers; Reisinger served multiple aces against a solid return team; Otec looked a little rusty in her first libero action since high school, but did fine in her DS role; Bush had a solid solo block and was good pretty much everywhere
Purdue wrapped up its 2018 class in, uh, January, landing 5’1” L/DS Ava Torrance from Avon and 5’9” OH Maddie Schermerhorn from West Noble. Torrance was a three-year teammate of Jael Johnson and just missed playing with Brooke Peters; Avon fell just short in its quest to capture back-to-back 4A titles, losing to Yorktown in the finals. Schermerhorn leaves West Noble as the school’s all-time leading in kills and digs (that sounds familiar, doesn’t it?) and was All-State as a senior and AAU Junior Nationals All-American between last year and this year.
If no one leaves, Purdue would have 19 players on their roster! Carrying seven non-scholarship players is really helpful from a depth perspective, but also might be a sign of how Purdue is maybe taking steps to the next level - top programs tend to have more players willing to pay their own way just to be part of an elite program, and that kind of depth for practice and competition basically reinforces their strength. In addition, should all these players stick around, the Boilers may be set for a couple of seasons, as they’ll have 13 first- or second-year players in 2019, with just two players set to leave after that season. Granted, one may well be an All-American and the other has played at an all-conference level, but the Good Gals have had strong depth at MB the entire time I’ve had season tickets, and I wouldn’t expect that to change after Mohler and Cuttino graduate.
Photos courtesy of me - if they’re good, it’s the phone, and if they’re not, it’s the operator