Tiger Classic Preview

After sweeping the Mortar Board Premier for the 2nd straight year, the #7 Purdue Volleyball team heads down to Baton Rouge, LA Houston, TX for the LSU Tiger Classic to face #12 Washington, Rice, and LSU. The games are being hosted by LSU and were originally scheduled to be played on LSU's campus in Baton Rouge, LA, hometown of freshman Faye Adelaja. However, due to Tropical Depression Tropical Storm Hurricane Tropical Storm Issac's meteorological troll, the games have been moved to Rice University in Houston (and so come back the memories of Carson Wiggs' blocked kicked last year) (and yes, I'm keeping an eye on Issac to see if it will impact the game on Saturday, brief weather update to come tomorrow). At first, Coach Shondell wasn't sure if Purdue would be able to make it down to Baton Rouge at such short notice, but the team was able to change its travel plans with little hassle, and the Boilermakers will get to begin playing tomorrow afternoon against #12 Washington.

Friday afternoon at 1pm EDT, Purdue will face its toughest opponent of the Classic when it faces #12 Washington. This game would be a perfect example of a typical Sweet 16/Elite 8 match up where neither team is hosting. There will be fans from both sides, but not enough to really make a home court advantage (unless some members of the Block Party are there). Though Purdue, assuming it goes into the NCAA, will be hosting tournament games up through the Elite 8 this year, it will be a great experience for players who will be playing in the following years as it gives them a taste for what they will experience in future tournaments. Washington is coming off its own tournament sweep of the Northwest Challenge at home, sweeping Boise State, Gonzaga and Portland in 3 sets each. These victories aren't that impressive, but with Illinois chocking to a 1-2 start and Pepperdine losing a game this weekend, Washington moved up from #14 to #12 after the first weekend.

Washington entered the NCAA Tournament unseeded after going 15-7 in the Pac-12, finishing 4th in the conference, including an early sweep of eventual National Champion UCLA. However, just like Northern Iowa, Washington fell in the 2nd round after losing in 5 sets to #13 seed and host Minnesota. Washington returns 4 seniors and 3 juniors from last year's squad, as well as a stunning sophomore in Krista Vansant. Vansant won Pac-12 and AVCA Pacific Region Freshman honors, All-Pac-12 Freshman Team and Honorable Mention for the All-Pac-12 Team. She was the only Husky to play in all 108 sets the entire season, earning 398 kills (3.69 kills per set), 9th in the Pac-12 and 1st among freshmen. Vansant hit over 0.400 in 7 matches, 0.500 in 5 matches, and even 0.600 or better in 2 matches. Basically, Krista Vansant is the Ariel Turner of Washington, and I expect her to get double digit kills against Purdue tomorrow afternoon, as she was named MVP of Washington's tournament last weekend with 4.11 kills per set and a 0.363 attack percentage.

Purdue has a 5-4 record against Washington, but Washington has won the last 2 meetings, as the last time the two teams meant was in 2005 when the Huskies swept the Boilermakers 3-0. The only people on the team who were present back in 2005 is the coaching staff, so it's not like the rest of the team is out for revenge like with Northern Iowa. Washington is an experienced team that is coming off a hot weekend sweep, but so is Purdue, and they know what it takes to beat a tough team and not fold in close matches. However, neither team will have a home court advantage, so it really will be a mostly even battle. I expect a great match up Friday, and I think Purdue will pull off the close victory.

Purdue 3, Washington 2 (almost all close sets) (Also, the Washington Athletics Webpage has a creepy banner

Purdue's opponent Friday evening at 6 pm are the Rice Owls in their new home court advantage, and frankly, Rice will need any advantage it could get as they are the weakest team in this Tiger Classic. Rice is coming into this weekend 2-2, after going 1-2 in their own invitational, sweeping Air Force, losing to Arkansas State and being swept by BYU. Rice bounced back from their loses with a 3-1 victory over UTSA Tuesday in San Antonio, but they still are not that strong. Last season, Rice finished 18-13 with a 13-7 C-USA record, no significant wins, and did not make it into in the NCAA Tournament. Rice can give Purdue some trouble, especially from Senior Nancy Cole, who is averaging 3.43 kills per set and a hitting percentage of 0.327. Cole is coming off an impressive season, earning AVCA All-America Honorable Mention honors and All-Conference USA First Team Honors. Cole will give Purdue's back court trouble tomorrow night, but it's nothing out of the ordinary for Purdue. Purdue should be able to handle Rice, and I won't be surprised if the freshmen get experience as well. Also, I wouldn't be surprised if Danny Hope gives the team a mobile pep talk to have them get revenge for the football loss last season.

Purdue 3, Rice 0

LSU came into the season receiving votes in the pre-season AVCA Coaches Poll, but after starting the season 1-2, being swept by #2 Texas and #19 San Diego in the Longhorn Classic, but swept Cal Poly in the last game, they didn't receive a single vote this week. The SEC is a moderate conference with a few ranked teams, but LSU managed to lose to all ranked teams it faced and failed to make it into the NCAA Tournament after finishing 19-11 and 12-8 in the SEC. LSU has the potential to be a good team, but just as this weekend showed, they still cannot get over the hump, at least not yet. LSU only have 4 returning seniors and 3 juniors, so they are mostly a young team, and most of their returns are back court players. Purdue's attack may be challenged by LSU's experienced back court, but if last week was any indication, Purdue should have little trouble with LSU. If the games were still in Baton Rouge, LSU would have a nice home court advantage. There will still a majority of LSU fans in Houston, but nothing like back on their home campus. Purdue will not roll over them like Rice, but Purdue should be victorious at the end of the day.

Purdue 3, LSU 1


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