Not 1, Not 2, Not 3, Not 4...in fact it took Purdue 5 sets to defeat #25 Michigan State in East Lansing in one of the harder fought games Purdue has played in quite some time. This is just another one of those matches where you can see that Purdue has all the talent in the world, but something about this team still hasn't clicked. Defensive rotations aren't always crisp, offensive sets seem to struggle to cope with blocks, BUT (and this is a rather large "but") we just got a road win against a ranked team in the B1G and those are hard to come by.
A recap of the match first, and then a little bit of analysis, because there are some pretty fun numbers from this one.
The first set started out pretty even with the teams keeping it close up to a 19-18 MSU lead. Then things pretty well fell apart, and Purdue didn't score another point in the set. When you hit .036 in a set with 8 errors, that's a pretty sure recipe to lose. Set number 2 started out with Purdue trying to get the middle blockers a bit more involved in the hitting, with Kiki Jones getting a couple of quick points early on. Purdue got a 15-14 lead and ripped off 5 in a row to get it to 20-14. Of those 5 points, 4 were by Ariel Turner with 2 aces and 2 kills. Purdue finished the set off with solid defending to stop an MSU run and ended it with a Val Nichol kill.
The third set was strewn with errors by Purdue, so while they played better than earlier, they still let MSU have too many free points. The game was tied for much of the time, with neither team seemingly wanting to win all that badly. Quick aside to bring you one of the more entertaining things I heard on the night; Around the 22nd point, Purdue ran a play for Annie Drews, who went up for the kill, when the defender completely forgot Annie was left-handed and went up to block her right. Now if I ever teach anyone anything, it's that an unguarded Annie Drews is pretty much the equivalent of a free point, and this time was no exception. Anyway, back on topic, the two teams continued battling back and forth with the score being tied up at 22, 23, and 24 in short order before MSU went on a run to end it at 26-24.
Set number 4 was another game that was tight right up to the end, except this time it was Purdue who got lucky and got the set. MSU jumped out to a quick 3-1 lead, and then promptly followed up with service error, a common theme for them on the night. Purdue fought to get an 19-14 lead, but MSU won 5 in a row to tie it up, and again followed up with a service error. Purdue got a strong defensive contribution from Val Nichol down the stretch here as she was involved in two key blocks right before Purdue went up 24-20. MSU blocked a turner attempt to pull it to 24-21 and you'll never guess what happened next. Another service error. Purdue wins the set 25-21 and ties the Match up at 2 sets apiece.
The decisive 5th sets was, well, it was pretty ugly. Purdue got on the board first, but the game was tied back up at 4-4. Purdue pulled away a little big going up 11-7 and then 13-9. Purdue managed to get to set point at 14-12, but MSU earned a kill to get the lead to one, and then tied it up at 14-14. MSU hit the next ball out of bounds to give Purdue the one point lead and match point attempt #3, but Purdue couldn't capitalize on the error and the match was tied back up at 15. If you read the last paragraph, you could probably take a guess at what happens next. MSU with ANOTHER service error, and this time they weren't able to tie the game up again, instead following up with a fairly hideous sequence that ended with MSU not even getting the ball back over the net, so Purdue walks away with the win.
Ariel Turner had a throwback night. 23 kills, 17 digs 2 aces and 70 (not a typo, SEVENTY) attempts on offense. That's pretty much the definition of high usage, and by the middle of the middle of the 4th set, she was actively calling for the ball.
Val Nichol is gonna want to shake this one off and move forward. She had a couple of very timely hits, and was involved in some very important blocks, but she only had 5 kills against 6 errors in 31 attempts. If you're counting at home, that's a -.032 hitting percentage, and she didn't see any time at setter last night. At some point MSU started targeting her on defense as well, but that's less a reflection on her and more a reflection of...
...the fact that Annie Drews and Anna Drewry are a terrifying combination on the front line and it's a combination that seems to be working. Both of them stand around 6'4" and move very well for their size, so it's hardly a surprise that MSU had no interest in hitting against them. In addition to her defensive presence, Annie Drews was easily the most efficient offensive player for Purdue. She recorded 12 kills against 2 errors in 19 attempts. That's a .526 percentage in a match where Purdue as a whole hit .190.
Speaking of hitting percentages, in that 5th set to win the game, MSU hit a measly .094. Purdue? An even more measly .087. Yet Purdue came away with the win. Gotta love it.
And finally, the best stat of them all, so if you read this far God bless you, you are pretty much my hero and as such will be rewarded with this: via Juan, last night was the 9th straight 5 set match that Purdue has won. The last time Purdue lost a 5 set match was October 23rd 2010 when Purdue fell to Michigan in West Lafayette.