Unless you have been under a rock the last 24-48 hours, we all know what happened on the football field last night. While Purdue was trying to catch up to the ND team, our own Purdue Volleyball team was battling against the #1 Illinois Illini in Champaign. Our Lady Boilers put up a tough fight against the Illini in a very hostile environment, but it simply wasn’t enough as Illinois won 3-1 (26-24, 25-20, 23-25, 25-23) to remain the only unbeaten team in D-1 volleyball. I had a feeling we would not come out of Huff Hall victorious, but I am proud that our volleyball team still put up a great fight, keeping each sets close, and exposing Illinois’ weak spots. Unlike our football team, our Boilers can come out of this loss with their heads held high knowing that they still are a great team and still deserve to be the Big Ten and NCAA Championship discussion. With the 2 games at Northwestern and at Illinois this week, both games came down to errors committed, and Purdue was on both the good and bad end this week.
On Wednesday night, Purdue traveled to Northwestern to face the Cardiac Cats. We had a pretty successful Open Thread going on here as the game was on BTN. Northwestern actually outhit us that night, but NW committed 42 total errors (35 attack, 7 service) to Purdue’s 27 (21 attack, 6 service), allowing Purdue to pull off the 3-1 win (23-25, 25-18, 25-19, 25-20). The BTN commentators couldn’t believe how many errors were being committed on both sides of the net; I couldn’t believe it myself, especially after coming off an impressive win over #18 Michigan the weekend before. Bashen was having troubles at libero controlling her digs, but overall, the team was sloppy on its first Big Ten road game. Many times Purdue would get a big lead but then let Northwestern climb back, which ultimately cost us the 1st set. I said in the Open Thread that this is where I miss Carly Cramer, our main libero. She not only can get great digs, but somehow she gets them to stay in the field of play so the team can set up for a killer attack (no pun intended). Luckily for Purdue, Northwestern was having a worse night with its errors as it severely destroyed any comebacks they had to pull off the win. Turner continued her dominance with 20 kills out of 55 attacks, but luckily she had some help from Tiffany Fisher and Katie Griffin who combined for 16 kills out of 32 total attacks. The defense was spread out amongst Davis, Turner and Bashen as they combined for 43 of Purdue’s 62 digs. But as I said, many of these digs were not great as multiple errors were committed ultimately led to poor attacks. Despite the victory, I was worried about our team and how they would do against Illinois in a hostile Huff Hall. Luckily, our team corrected those errors, but defeating the #1 team at their place is no easy task.
As I said above, our volleyball team put up a great fight against the Illini. I had a friend who gave away his Purdue/ND ticket just to travel to Champaign (I would have done the same, but didn’t since this was my first and probably last night game in Ross-Ade as a student). He said Huff Hall was standing room only and could tell the team greatly improved from the last game against NW. Despite outhitting the Illini 0.191 to 0.168, Purdue committed 31 total errors to Illinois’ 28. Though the attack errors were almost even (24 and 25 respectively), it came down to service errors as Purdue committed 7 while Illinois only had 3. Also, remember how I said there was bad officiating against Michigan that ultimately helped us win the 2nd set against the Wolverines last week? Well, karma sucks, and Illinois got a few calls to go their way in the 4th set, preventing Purdue to push for a 5th set. Turner, Fisher and Rebarchak continued to strike fear into their opponents by combining for 47 out of Purdue’s 58 total kills (123 out of 173 total attacks). Bashen improved her performance greatly by getting 29 digs, controlling them and allowing the team to set up for great attacks. The first loss is always the hardest, but I think our Lady Boilers came out with a lot of positive progress that they can build on as they approach the road to the Final Four. Let’s not forget that Illinois still has to travel to Purdue in November for an anticipated rematch that will be on BTN. It will be an exciting match up and I am definitely looking forward to it.
The schedule does not get any easier, as Purdue travels to Lincoln for its first ever Big Ten match again the Cornhuskers Friday night. Just like Huff Hall, the Coliseum is a very tough place to play. If you think Nebraska football selling out all of its games since the Stone Age is impressive, you will be even more impressed that Nebraska has had 150+ consecutive sell outs for volleyball matches to date; a hard task to come by outside football and basketball, especially in women’s athletics. Earlier this year, defending 4-peat champs Penn State lost in Lincoln 2-3 in Nebraska’s first Big Ten volleyball matchup. I am expecting a similar outcome like the Illinois match against the Cornhuskers Friday night, as they are just as talented as Purdue and Illinois and will have a great home environment to support them, so I see us sadly getting another lose in 4-5 sets. Then Purdue faces OUR MOST HATED RIVALS Saturday night against the Hawkeyes of Iowa. Their team may have more wins than last year (7), but despite their 10-3 start, they have started Big Ten play 0-4 and have only won 1 set in Big Ten play (against OSU). I expect at least a 3-1 win, but I think we can pull off the road sweep of OMHR.