**Update** Ariel Turner has been named a unanimous Pre-Season All-Big Ten Selection. Turner and Penn State's Deja McClendon were the only unanimous selections. **8/16/2012 4:00pm EDT**
Tomorrow marks exactly 1 week until Purdue begins the Road to Louisville and the 2012 Volleyball Final Four. One of the key members to Purdue's recent success is from Ariel Turner, the outstanding volleyball player hailing from Colorado, Big Ten Player of the Year and 1st Team All-American. I can only think of one reason why Turner is so good: she hates Indiana. Let me explain.
I have a good friend in my major who is from the Denver area, and not a day goes by where she doesn't complain about Indiana in some way; whether it is about how flat it is, how boring it is, the weather (because according to her, it's always cloudy), or the fact that we have this one thing called humidity. Basically, she always mentions how Colorado is the wonderful state and makes it sound like the water is purified by leprechauns (implying they actually have water out there. Too soon?).
Since I've never met Ariel, I can only assume she may have some of the same attitudes towards Indiana and the Midwest. But unlike my friend who makes sure everyone hears her complaints, Ariel just takes it out on the volleyball court, giving no mercy to her opponents and the Big Ten, simply because she dreads being in Indiana and cannot be in Colorado (BTW, if you are reading this Ariel (or anyone else from Colorado), just know I'm being sarcastic. I have no idea how you guys really feel. But if you're my one friend from Colorado and you are reading this, take the hint and tone it down a bit).
Ariel Turner is coming off one of her best seasons in 2011, but for those who have seen her play since she came to Purdue in 2009, her 2011 performance was something we expected.
Ariel Turner (Senior)
Highlands Ranch, CO (Mountain Vista)
2012 Projection: Starter
When Turner came to Purdue, she ranked #17 in the country on PrepVolleyball.com's list of Senior Aces, along with Volleyball Magazine's Fab 50 players. Ariel had earned 1st team All-State, All-Colorado Team and First Team All-Continental League honors her junior and senior years of high school. During her senior year, she led her team to an undefeated league championship, District title and state qualification. Turner continued her excellent talent at Purdue her freshman year, starting in 14 matches, earning 287 kills, double digit kills in 19 matches, hitting 0.400 or better in 4 matches, named Big Ten Freshman of the Week twice, all while earning a spot on the Dean's List as an engineering major.
Basically, Ariel Turner can kill you with the ball and in thermodynamics.
Turner didn't stop there. In 2010, Ariel led the team with 3.73 kills per set (4th in the Big Ten), 28 double digit kills, leading the team in blocks and kills in 3 games, 6 double digit digs, and probably built a big machine as she also earned Academic All-Big Ten honors as well. However, the 2010 season was just a preview of what was to come in 2011.
If I were to list off all the stats about Turner during the 2011 season, we'd be here until the first game next week. So some of last year's highlights include 4.84 kills per set (6th best in the nation), 5.46 points per set (3rd best in the Nation), both of which led the Big Ten and Purdue, 17 double-doubles for kills and digs, 32 double digit kills, tallied her 1,000th kill and 500th dig in October, 0.400 hitting percentage or better twice, and totaled 586 kills out of 1682 hitting attempts. These stats earned her B1G Player of the Week 5 times, National Player of the Week, Academic All-Big Ten, 2nd Team Academic All-American, Big Ten Player of the Year, and First Team All-American.
James just texted this to me about 15 minutes ago: Turner is the Drew Brees of Purdue and Women's Volleyball, just with better grades.
2012 though will be a challenge for Ariel. Teams are going to be focusing their defense on Ariel just so they can survive and have a chance at beating Purdue. However, last year, Purdue relied too much Turner, as she would get all the out-of-sync sets and ultimately overused her arm, leading her to not playing as effectively towards the end of the season as well as shoulder surgery during the off season. Coach Shondell mentioned in my interview that this year, Turner will have to also develop her back court play and become a full rounded volleyball player. Granted, Cramer looks to be returning sooner than expected, but Shondell may still want her back court play to improve. As great as Turner is, I hope that all of the out-of-sync sets from Nichol and Davis will go to other players as well so Turner is not getting overused like last season.
Turner has the potential to not only repeat as Big Ten Player of the Year and All-American again, but also earn National Player of the Year, especially if she improves her back court play and becomes the well-rounded athlete that Coach Shondell has planned for her.