Only 1 word could describe the first 2 sets in tonight's game: intense.
The first 2 sets felt like separate individual games that I thought would never end, as Purdue won both of them 25-23. Luckily, Purdue sealed UNI's fate early in the third set to help avoid such an close match-up. For me, I was doing ball boy duties throughout the game with Mortar Board, along with Boiler Paulie (Paul Branham), and let's just say I may never do that again.
I learned the hard way to never let the ball hit Purdue Pete during warm ups, because he will just throw the ball at your chest really hard in revenge. Second, I goofed big time at the beginning when I forgot that I was suppose to give the ball to the UNI player after they got the first point of the match. It was an embarrassing moment that I'm sure my friends will never live down. Had UNI won that set, I was afraid my friends would have blamed me as bad luck, seeing I got off to a bad start that rubbed off on Purdue. But alas, it did not happen and I avoided the shame, but rather just embarrassment.
Both Purdue and UNI were good teams tonight, and I could tell during pregame when both of them were digging the ball quite well and not making us ball workers do much work at that time. Just as expected, the first set was close the entire time. UNI jumped out to a 12-9 then a 17-13 lead, and did not give up the lead...until the very end. Purdue slowly crept back up, but it seemed like whatever Purdue did, UNI seemed to have an answer, until the end. Purdue was down 23-21 and it looked like Northern Iowa would pull off the win in set one, but Purdue wouldn't take it and won the next 4 points to win the set 25-23. The Boiler Box was jumping after that late comeback to win it, and UNI seemed to be falling apart already.
Former player Emily Ehlers helped with BTN.com's coverage tonight. Not sure why everything is in slow motion.
Great to see the Block Party filled up over 30 minutes before the game started. Great crowd tonight in the Boiler Box.
The 2nd set started out much like the first set, going back and forth between the two teams. After tying the game at 6 a piece, Northern Iowa started to take control, jumping out to a 15-9 lead. I could only think to myself, "Imagine how loud this place will get if Purdue makes a comeback!" Coach Shondell must have read my mind as Carly Cramer came up to serve now down 15-10. She would help lead Purdue to the next 6 points and a 16-15 lead with the Boiler Box rocking again. (Also, Carly Cramer was the only person to say 'Thank you' each time I threw her the ball so she could serve. Such a classy woman.) From there, the game went back and forth again, with neither team leading by more than 2 points. Purdue went into set point after a mundane attack error by Lehman of UNI, and then Purdue won the set on a kill from Val Nichol to win another close set 25-23.
I was thinking in my head that in the 3rd set, someone had to be tired and not perform as well. I was right, and luckily that team was UNI, as they were sweating all over the floor and putting my other fellow Mortar Boarders to work. UNI kept it close...for the first 6 points and had it tied at 3 each, but they just could not keep up with the Purdue attack and limit their errors, as Purdue jumped out to an 11-4 lead and never looked back. Though UNI had their own little runs at the end that put me to work, it wasn't enough as Purdue won the 3rd set easily 25-18 and began their Road to Louisville with an impressive win over a ranked team.
Some notable stats include...not Ariel Turner? Though the Colorado Bomber had 9 kills tonight, Val Nichol led the team with 11 kills, utilizing her Outside Hitter position. Unlike most games last season where Turner and Fisher led the way, tonight's stats were rather spread out, as Catherine Rebarchak earned 9 kills, and Rachel Davis posted 5 kills with a hitting percentage of 0.714 and 28 assists. It was great to see two other players on the court performing well tonight: Anna Drewry and Carly Cramer. Coach Shondell wasn't lying when he said "Boom is back", as she hit some nasty balls. How she only had 4 kills with 11 attacks (1 error) is beyond me. Carly Cramer also posted 12 digs in her first game since being injured more times than Robbie Hummel last season. My friend told me that Carly has only 2 modes, 0% or 100%, there is no in between for her. If she is going to do something, she is going to do it with all her power and might, something Purdue will need this year.
On the UNI side, Amy Braun led all players with 12 kills, and Megan Lehman followed with 9 kills. Candice Burke posted 12 of the team's 35 digs, but it wasn't enough as the Panthers posted 22 errors to Purdue's 15, giving them a hitting percentage of 0.193, while Purdue posted a percentage of 0.245. Though the stats show a close game (and it was in the first 2 sets), ultimately Purdue was able to move away from those stats and pull off the victory, showing the nation that Purdue is a serious team this year and won't collapse under pressure.
Up next for the Lady Boilers is George Washington at 12pm and
Big East ACC member Pittsburgh at 7:30pm. I won't be at either games due to a retreat I am helping with and being on duty at Hilltop for the night game, so James will take care of the game summary. I think Purdue should sweep both of them, but I can see Purdue losing 1 set to Pittsburgh and winning 3-1.