Before I begin, I want to send my thoughts and prayers to Drey Mingo for a quick and healthy recovery after she tore her ACL last night during a scrimmage at Indiana State yesterday. Our heart's sunk when Robbie tore his ACL the 2nd time, but when I found out when Drey tore her ACL, I felt even worse. I almost wanted to puke, especially after she has had to battle a deadly form of meningitis, recover and still be able to lead the Women's Basketball team to an impressive season. This happened after Purdue was predicted to finish 2nd in the Big Ten behind Penn State and was ranked 17th in the nation. I am sure Boiler Bandsman will have more on Drey and the team when he begins his updates, but in the meantime, all I have to say is don't doubt Vesper's team. They have been through adversity before and they can overcome to have another great season.
Every now and then, the volleyball team will happen to play the same team the football team is facing the same weekend in the same place. Last year, the Lady Boilers played in East Lansing the same night our football team collapsed in the 4th quarter in East Lansing (sorry to bring back bad memories, but someone was going to bring it up). Likewise, this year the Purdue Volleyball team played in Ann Arbor Friday night and East Lansing Saturday night to face the #22, but quickly collapsing, Michigan Wolverines and the rising Michigan St. Spartans respectively. Whether Hope and Shondell shared the same the same bus is beyond me (and highly unlikely), but in the end, only one coach was able to get out of the mitten winning, as the volleyball team beat Michigan and Michigan State, sweeping both teams in the same season for the first time since 2005.
I was hoping to travel up to Ann Arbor for the game this weekend, and my plan was to catch at least Friday night’s match up against Michigan and maybe make a quick side trip to East Lansing for the 2nd game after the football game. Unfortunately, none of that happened, and I missed a great match Friday night as Purdue pulled off the comeback to win 3-2 (20-25, 25-14, 20-25, 25-22, 18-16) and defeat its first ranked team on the road. Michigan may have taken control and won the first set with few difficulties, but this and the Maize and Blue crowd did not cause the Boilers to fold, as they came out and dominated the 2nd set 25-14 and outhit the Wolverines an impressive 0.412 to 0.051. The 3rd and 4th sets were relatively close throughout until Michigan and Purdue pulled out respective victories in each, sending the game into the tie-breaking 5th set.
Michigan got off to a hot start and led 13-10 before Shondell called a timeout to settle the team and the crowd down (remember, unlike the 1st-4th sets, first to 15 in the 5th with a margin of victory of at least 2 wins). It helped as Purdue was able to prevent Michigan from obtaining the match point before they had to take a timeout as they led 13-12. Michigan was set up for match point three times, but all led to Purdue points after they committed 3 errors in each. After Michigan was set up for match point as they led 16-15, Purdue got 3 blocks in a row to win the match from Kiki Jones, Ariel Turner (1st block) and Catherine Rebarchak and Tiffany Fisher (2nd and 3rd blocks) to pull off the victory in Ann Arbor, winning the 5th set 18-16.
Though Turner has a "typical" night with "only" 25 kills, up-and-coming freshman Val Nichol contributed 11 kills on the night, becoming a new threat for Purdue’s front court. It was great to pull off the victory, but now Michigan falls to 3-8 in Big Ten play after starting the season undefeated in non-conference play, and they will most likely be out of the rankings by Monday afternoon. It is a shame to see this happen to Michigan with the talents seniors they have like All-American Alex Hunt. However, they end the season with 4 home games, including senior night against rival Ohio State, so expect this team to finish strong getting at least a good spot in the NCAA Tournament, but at this point they may have lost home court advantage.
Saturday night, after the football game in Ann Arbor, our Lady Boilers traveled an hour northwestern to nearby East Lansing to face the rising Spartans. Though their record may not say much (17-7, B1G 6-6), their performance on the court has been impressive and a major improvement from previous seasons. With the exception of beating their in-state rivals, they lack quality wins, but they have played tough against the top teams in the Big Ten, such as Nebraska and at Illinois, and even in their loses, they have shown potential to be in the post-season tournament. MSU came out hot in the 1st set and did not look back, outhitting the Boilers 0.615 to 0.231 and did not commit a single attack error. Ouch.
However, just like the game in Ann Arbor, our Boilers kept fighting and were able to pull off the 3-1 victory in East Lansing after winning the 2nd, 3rd, and 4th sets 25-19, 25-18, and 25-22 respectively. Have I ever mentioned Ariel Turner is possibly one of the best players in the Big Ten and possibly the nation? She added 28 more kills to her record, with 53 kills over the whole weekend (3rd Big Ten player of the Week award coming up perhaps?). Val Nichol continues to lead the freshmen class with 12 kills of her own, totaling up to 23 kills for the weekend, which, IMHO, should earn her Big Ten Freshman of the Week award.
Just as I have called Rachel Davis Hart 2.0 (BTW, "only" 43 assists for Davis against MSU, no big deal), I feel that Val has earned her own "Turner 2.0" status with her impressive performance in the last couple of games, and will be feared along with Turner and Fisher for the remainder of the season (don’t forget we still have Rebarchak, Drewry, and Kiki). After this weekend, our Lady Boilers improved to 20-3 overall and 9-3 in Big Ten play, which may allow them to finally crack into the Top 10 (maybe unlikely as Penn State, Texas, and Washington, ranked ahead of Purdue, won their games this weekend (PSU beat #1 Nebraska Saturday night in Happy Valley)).
It is big weeks for Purdue Volleyball, as #3 Illinois comes into the Boiler Box Wednesday night as Purdue seeks revenge for their close 3-1 lose in Champaign the same night we lost to Notre Dame in football. The game will be aired live on BTN starting at 8pm, so I will start a Game Thread for this game and will open up my Twitter for updates (@juan_way_street) as I do not have a Smarty Phone and will not be able to participate. I am going out on a limb, and I am going to say that Purdue WILL UPSET #3 ILLINOIS! And I am going to be even more daring and say we win in 4 sets. I can see Purdue winning the 1st set, but then stumble in the 2nd set. Luckily, Shondell always seems to say the right things during halftime, and the Boilermakers will come out amped and win the 3rd and 4th sets, giving the Lady Boilers their first win over a Top Ten team this season.
Then Purdue will face Northwestern Saturday night to wrap up the week. Northwestern may not be at the level they have been in previous seasons, sitting at 4-8 in conference play and 13-10 overall. However, they are currently on a 3 game winning streak (probably 4 after they beat IU before travelling to Purdue), including a win over Minnesota. Northwestern always plays Purdue tough no matter what sport it is, and traditionally these two teams always go into 5 sets. I will not be at the Northwestern game as I will be out of town on a retreat next weekend, so boiler_ward will pick up the duties for the Northwestern recap, while I will still bring you the wrap up from the Illinois game and a preview of the Iowa and Nebraska games for the final 2 home games during the regular season.
It is going to be a great game Wednesday night, so if you can’t make it to West Lafayette, make sure to watch in on BTN and participate on the Open Thread.