Thanks to James yesterday covering for me while I celebrated my 21st Birthday/recovered from my night out at Harry's. (Kids, if you go to Harry's on your 21st, just say no to the Birthday Shot.) Anyways, back to volleyball. There are only 2 more days until the Boiler Box will be rocking again with Purdue students and fans ready to stand behind the #9 Boilermakers. Though there were many keys to their success last season, certainly the addition of 2 dynamic freshmen helped Purdue reach the #5 seed in the 2011 NCAA Tournament. One of those dynamic players is none other than Val Nichol.
Val Nichol (Sophomore)
Normal, IL (University)
2012 Projection: Starter
Fun fact: Val's full name is "Valerie Nicole Nichol". That must be an interesting name to explain.
When Val came into Purdue in 2011, she was ranked #20 on PrepVolleyball.com's list of Senior Aces and Volleyball Magazine's Fab 50 selection. She led her team senior year with 383 assists and 244 kills as she played both setter and outside hitter positions. Though those 2 titles carried over to West Lafayette, with the presence of Rachel Davis as setter, Val's role limited to just being an Outside Hitter in 2011, but that did not limit her freshman year. In 2011, Val tallied 192 kills with 2.11 kills per set (3rd most on the team), 6 double digit kills, hit 0.500 or better three times and 0.400 or better 7 times. Though she didn't earn the same recognition that Kierra Jones did sophomore year, she still was selected to participate in the Team USA A2 Volleyball team this past summer, where she played setter most of the time.
As Coach Shondell told me in my interview with him, he planned on switching from a 5-1 formation to a 6-2 offense that uses 2 setters. Basically, this is almost like the 2 quarterback offense equivalent for volleyball, but it is usually the more diverse teams that tend to use it. The 6-2 offense was used during the spring games, where Val and Rachel split their rotations evenly, giving Rachel a chance to come off the front row. Though it does limit the team due to the amount of substitutions, a team could easily throw the opponents off guard by being flexible going from the 6-1 to the 5-2 at any moment. Granted, Coach Shondell was talking about this when Cramer still seemed to be a no-go for the first game, but with word that she is recovering faster than planned, the 6-2 offense may not be used as it helps fill in the back court. I would still like to see Purdue try it out at least once or twice during the non-conference games to see how it goes.
Certainly, this will be a challenge for Val and the rest of the team, who have been in the 5-1 offense and since Val played only OH last season. However, it's not a change out of the blue, as the team did use it this spring, and Val had the chance to reuse her setting skills this summer. If all works according to plan, I would expect Val to be an All-Big Ten selection at the end of the season, and if everything goes much better than expected, she should earn some national recognition at the end of the year.