I'm going to be honest, I have no idea what to think about this volleyball team. They came in to this season as a potential favorite to advance to the Final Four and possibly win the Big Ten. But now, I'll be happy to see this team just make it into the Sweet 16 and at least finish in the Top 5 of the Big Ten. All 3 of Purdue's losses to date have been sweeps against teams now ranked in the Top 20 (#2 Washington, #4 Nebraska, #17 Louisville), and Purdue's best win so far was against #21 Illinois last weekend, who just lost in 5 sets against Ohio State in Champaign, as Northern Iowa has stopped receiving votes in the Coaches Poll.
By this time last year, Purdue had at least earned a big win over Michigan and played tough on the road against Illinois. But something is different this year. The team hasn't been able to play well this season compared to previous seasons, and tonight's game showed that very well.
Tonight, Nebraska exposed the problems Purdue has had throughout the year, especially in the 2nd set. Nebraska came into this game wanting revenge after they were embarrassed last year in West Lafayette, and boy did they get their revenge. From the start, Nebraska put up a big wall and shut down Purdue's main attack, preventing them from getting big kills. Purdue stayed close with Nebraska in the first set, and could have won it. But when Nebraska won the set, you could feel all the energy in a sold out IAF go out the door. Nebraska took that momentum in the 2nd set and ran away with it. Whenever Purdue tried to attack, it just wouldn't fall as Purdue committed 6 attacking errors, 4 service errors and hit 0.143 percent, compared to 0.538 for Nebraska.
Just like the first set, Purdue played NU tough in the 3rd and had its chances to win it, but just couldn't finish the job. The scary moment of the game was when libero and DS Carly Cramer went to the floor for the dig along with Ariel Turner, Turner ended up accidentally kicking Carly in the face, forcing the game to stop for what felt like ages. After this long stop in play, probably because BTN started its Rotel and Velteeta commercials while Shondell tried to figure out the libero situation, Cramer only sat out one play before returning to a standing ovation. It just shows you how strong she is, as Cramer has been through a lot in the last year. But even her return wasn't enough, as Nebraska finished the sweep with Purdue making an attack error.
Only 2 Purdue players had a great game today: Catherine Rebarchak and Carly Cramer. I think it's obvious why I picked Carly, considering how determined she is and is always able to make the great plays, even after getting knocked down. The second is Rebarchak, she was the only consistent player tonight (outside Cramer) and earned 14 kills. Her play kept Purdue in the game, especially in the 1st and 3rd sets. It's a shame that her last hit tonight was the attack error that sealed the sweep for Nebraska, as it was only her 2nd error on the night. Rebarchak has been playing great lately, I hope she keeps it up.
As for the rest of the team, oy vey, I don't know what's going on. Ariel Turner had another double-double (14 kills, 11 digs), but almost had a triple-double with 7 attacking errors and 2 service errors, both in the first set. The back court just wasn't able to communicate well, and the blocking core just could not stop the Cornhusker attack.
Nebraska has a great team though, I can't take that away from them, and the Big Ten is going to come down to them and Penn State. The thing is about Purdue is that they cannot compete with these tougher opponents like they did last year. I'm not sure what is going on, but it needs to be fixed ASAP. They are only 5 games into Big Ten Conference play and there are many more games to go. Purdue needs to fix their problems and be ready for the rest of the season and be at least able to compete with the bigger teams of the Big Ten like they did in 2010 and 2011.