My volleyball update is a bit later than usual. I just got back Sunday afternoon after being on staff for the Boiler Awakening #3 retreat with St. Tom's, and let's just say, it was pretty "BA" (see what I did there?). Now that I am all caught up with my other things at Purdue (including an exam this evening), I can now bring you another wonderful volleyball update! Last year, November became a vital stretch for Purdue Volleyball after a rough start to conference play. Purdue finished the month 6-2 with wins over Top 25 teams Northwestern and Illinois, landing Purdue home court advantage and setting up their Elite 8 run and defeating the #1 Florida Gators. This year, November is just as important, but will be tougher as the final 4 games are all on the road (Ohio State, Penn State, Indiana, and Wisconsin). Our #10 Purdue Volleyball started off their final stretch with a 3-1 win over #7 Illinois and 3-0 sweep over Northwestern Saturday night, earning Purdue a 22-3 record, 11-3 in conference play (tying Purdue with Illinois and Penn State for 2nd place in the Big Ten).
Saturday night may be the last time we see this face play in the Boiler Box in a Purdue uniform.
So far this season, Purdue had not only failed to defeat a Top 10 team, but defeat any team ranked higher than they were. That came to an end Wednesday night as Purdue topped then #5 Illinois Fighting Illini 3-1 (21-25, 25-22, 26-24, 25-21), avenging the October 1st lose in Champaign and giving Purdue its 3rd win over a Top 5 team in program history. I was bold with my last post, saying Purdue would not only pull off the victory over #5 Illinois, but do it in 4 sets, so I was glad to see I was right. I know many of you also witnessed this game as it was on BTN and there was a successful open thread on here as well. I have to say, this game was way too close for comfort. Illinois is still a great team and I think there is a great chance they will make it to the Final Four this year, and we could even face them a 3rd time deep in the NCAA Tournament.
The first set was certainly winnable for the Boilermakers, but 6 service errors, including 3 from senior Tiffany Fisher, killed any momentum and allowed the Illini to win the first set 25-21. It was disappointing to see that errors were still a problem for our team, especially from our talented group of seniors. There are just 2 simple rules in volleyball, 1) get the ball over the net in 3 hits, and 2) get it between the lines. I always find service errors inexcusable, you are the only one in control of the ball, no one is blocking it, and you set it at your own pace. It is like making free throws in basketball: you should be making them 100% with no one attempting to even block your shot/set. Shondell must have gotten this through to the team as they only committed 5 more service errors the rest of the night, helping Purdue win the next 3 sets, but not without any close calls.
In the 3rd set, Purdue gave up a 16-9 lead, allowing the Illini to regain the lead and obtain match point at 24-22. However, Purdue's "never say never" attitude came out once again, and Catherine Rebarchak led the way with a kill, setting up an Illini attack error, Purdue service ace, and a kill from Ariel Turner (of course) to lead Purdue to a gut-wrenching 26-24 victory. Illinois only had a lead twice in the 4th set, both at the beginning by only 1 point. Though they remained close with Purdue, the Illini simply could not keep up with Ariel Turner the Boilermakers at Purdue won the set 25-21.
Ariel Turner had another amazing night and was 2 blocks away from the triple-double (21 kills, 19 digs, and 8 blocks). Luckily, she had the help from her teammates as senior Tiffany Fisher had 12 kills, and seniors Emily Ehlers and Blair Bashen obtained 22 digs and 19 digs respectively. Blair, though making a few errors from time to time, has greatly improved her game since taking over as libero at the end of September. I haven't heard any news lately, but I think that Carly Cramer will redshirt this season and give us 2 more years of her great defensive skills.
As I said at the beginning of my post, I was gone this weekend on the Boiler Awakening #3 retreat, causing me to miss the Northwestern game Saturday night, and my first home game that I have missed all season. However, as boiler_ward informed me, the 3-0 sweep (25-17, 25-15, 25-14) over the Mildcats was quite...mild. Purdue outhit Northwestern 0.295 to 0.077, posting 42 kills to 33 kills. Since NW was never a true threat to Purdue (unlike games in the past), this allowed Shondell to rest Turner (with ONLY 14 kills), and allowed freshman Kiki Jones and redshirt sophomore Katie Griffin to step in. Kiki tallied 7 kills and 5 blocks, and along with her performance against Illinois, was named Co-Defensive and Freshman Player of the Week in the Big Ten.
Up next for Purdue, OMHR Iowa comes to town Thursday night. Iowa has only won one Big Ten game this season (against IU), and unless Shondell's squad overlooks them in preparation for the big game against Nebraska, I highly doubt OMHR will come out of West Lafayette with their 2nd B1G win. Then on Saturday night at 7pm after the Ohio State/Purdue football game, Purdue will host #2 Nebraska for the last regular season home game of the season, and last home game (potentially) for seniors Blair Bashen, Tiffany Fisher, and Emily Ehlers. The game is already sold out, but there are still tickets available for the game against OMHR. Assuming Purdue can finish the season strong, there is a good chance that Purdue will again host the 1st and 2nd rounds of the NCAA Tournament.
Purdue will be looking for revenge against Nebraska after losing in Lincoln a month ago. The Block Party and home crowd will pump up and stand behind our Lady Boilers as they pull off the impressive 3-1 victory over the #2 Nebraska Cornhuskers (yes, I am being bold again). It's time to finish the season strong again and ride this momentum into the Final Four in San Antonio this year.