Our #11 Purdue Volleyball team had yet another win-lose weekend, being defeated by 4-peat defending champions #9 Penn State 1-3 Friday night and beating #24 Ohio State Saturday night 3-1. Both games were sold out as Purdue students and fans packed the IAF for these Top 25 showdowns. I’m always looking towards the positive side for all of the games so far, as I think our Volleyball team is one of the hardest working teams at Purdue. But after the loss to Penn State Friday night, I had an extremely bitter taste in my mouth, which I still had even after beating Ohio State the next evening, and inspired the title for this article. Since Carly Crammer has been out with a stress fracture since September 15th, Blair Bashen has had to fill in as libero and main defensive specialist. Bashen has experience, as she was libero during the 2009 season when Crammer was just a freshman, and she has filled in when Cramer has been having an off night. Blair has improved her game throughout the season, but the problem is that when she is having an off night, she hurts the teams and seems to lag behind everyone else. When Bashen plays good, she is great, but when she is having an off night, it shows.
Normally, I would forgive a player for a few bad games if they were a freshman, sophomore, or even if they were a junior. However, Bashen is a redshirt senior, yet sometimes plays like a freshman. Bashen has had her troubles controlling digs and committing errors, as we have seen against Northwestern, Michigan, Penn State, and Ohio State. Somehow, whenever she went for the ball, I felt like 65%-70% of the time she was running into her own teammates. Often, just getting a simple dig led to the ball nearly flying out of the court, preventing Purdue to set up for the kill, or even lose a point. Blair, if you are reading this, I still think you are a good player. However, you need to become more consistent. With Cramer still not playing, you will probably be our libero for the rest of the season. Our team depends on you and you are the anchor the team’s success if they want to return to the Elite 8 and make it to the school’s first ever Final Four. I know you can perform well, I have seen you play better in the past. We need you to perform better, and frankly, as a redshirt senior, you should not be making this many mistakes.
Against Penn State Friday night, it seemed like the whole team was having troubles against the Lion Attack. I know Penn State does not have the same talent as they have had the last 4 years, and I don’t think they will win their 5th straight title this year. But after the game Friday night, I can see why they have been so dominate. They probably have some of the tallest players in the Big Ten, towering over our own hitters, and were somehow always able to get 3 blockers no matter where we hit the damn ball. How we were able to get the ball over their brick wall still amazes me. Penn State hits the ball harder than any other team in the Big Ten; even I was scared for my own life in the 2nd row of the Block Party. This led to many errors on the Purdue side as Bashen and most of the team had troubles with their digs. The first set was a wild one, as Purdue took a 5-6 point lead towards the end of the set, but Penn State had a rally to tie the game. This pushed the set into a wild long 1st set, as both teams traded match point opportunities. Though Purdue seemed like it was going to win the set a few times, a few horrible calls from the refs cost Purdue the opportunity, and Penn State won the 1st set 32-30. As much as we want to blame the refs, Purdue should have not slowed down and allowed a talented Penn State team to tie the game. I thought the 1st set would demoralize our team, but we came out in the 2nd set and dominated winning 25-16.
I thought by winning the 2nd set, Purdue overcame a tough 1st set and was now in control of the game. Clearly I forgot we were playing the defending champs, and Penn State is a tough team to beat. Penn State came out of the intermission into the 3rd set and never looked back, quickly taking Purdue and the sold-out crowd out of the game. Purdue only came within one point of the Lions towards the beginning of the set, but never got any closer as Penn State was just dominate and won the set 25-19. Our Lady Boilers played tough in the 4th set, getting an 11-8 lead, but Penn State still had the momentum from the 3rd set and used it to win the 4th set 25-19 and the match 3-1. In all honesty, our football team played better against Penn State compared to our volleyball team (a rarity), but there were some silver linings. Ariel Turner had a typical night with 19 kills and 14 digs, continuing to build up her All-American resume, but she had supporting actresses with Tiffany Fisher racking up 11 kills while freshman Val Nichol had 9, giving Purdue a spark off the bench. Rachel Davis continues to be Hart 2.0 with 37 assists, 3 kills and 11 digs. This game frustrated me, as we had a pumped up home crowd, momentum after the 2nd set despite the 1st set, yet we were still dominated in the end and possibly had our worse performance so far this year. Though Purdue may be great, they still aren't at the level to compete for a National Title right now. I hope we improve over the next couple of weeks.
Purdue looked to bounce back Saturday night against #24 Ohio State to get the bad taste out of our mouths from the night before. Purdue dominated the 1st set winning 25-16; however, it seemed to be déjà vu in the 2nd set, as Ohio State opened up an 8-3 lead and never looked backed to win 25-18. Purdue seemed to be committing the same errors as it did the night before, Bashen seemed lost, and Purdue was never able to get a rally going. Purdue seemed to fix their troubles after halftime and dominated the 3rd and 4th 25-16 and 25-20 respectively, win the match and improve to 16-3 overall and 5-3 in Big Ten play. Turner, T. Fish, and Nichol continued their dominance by combining for 36 of Purdue’s 51 kills, helping dominate the Buckeyes in the attack percentage 0.278 to 0.181. I will see Purdue play Ohio State again in November as I plan on travelling for the rematch in Columbus the night before the football game against OMHR Iowa. So far, Purdue is 2-3 against ranked opponents (W vs Michigan and OSU, L against Illinois, Nebraska, and Penn State). Purdue tends to start off Big Ten play slowly, but finish off hot like they did last year. The only problem is that the last 2-3 weeks of the regular season are all on the road this year, so it is important for Purdue to starting getting more wins against the Top 25 to build their resume for a favorable seed and home-court advantage in the NCAA Tournament in December.
Up next for our Purdue Volleyball team, it is hate week as IU comes to the Boiler Box Wednesday night and #14 Minnesota Saturday night after Purdue’s homecoming game. Saying that IU sucks at volleyball this year is an understatement, as they have yet to win a single game in Big Ten play and their closest match was a 3-2 lose at OMHR (knowing how they love their banners, they may have hung one up for winning 2 sets). Purdue and IU will battle for the Monon Spike, volleyball’s version of the Old Oaken Bucket, which probably has spent less time in Bloomington than the Bucket. Purdue has won 11 of the last 15 matches and currently has 25 P links to 12 I links. This should be an easy 3-0 win for the annual blackout (though every game should be a black out, period) to add yet another P to the Spike. This is will be a good exhibition game before facing the Gophers Saturday night. Minnesota is 4-4 in B1G play, with all their losses coming to ranked teams. Minnesota will test the Boilermakers, but I think we can pull off this win in 4 sets before going back on the road the next week. If you are going to be in town for the Purdue/Illinois Football game, I suggest sticking around God's Country until the match at 7pm that night to watch an excellent match-up.