Here's the super short recap: Purdue barely lost to a very good team. The rest of the story is obviously a bit more complex. First of all, since losing on the road to this same Minnesota team, Purdue still hasn't lost a match in less than 5 sets. This in no way makes up for the fact that Purdue lost this one, but I find it interesting. Regarding this match, Purdue played quite well to take the first set 25-17 and then promptly dropped the next two 25-18 and 25-23 before rebounding to take the 4th set 25-21. In the 5th set, Purdue showed some resiliency to get it back within 3 after a poor start gave Minnesota a lead that turned out to be too much for Purdue to overcome.
From a player perspective, this game had a couple of very good performances and a couple of much poorer ones. In the very good department, Val Nichol had herself quite a game. 20 kills on a .436 percentage to go along with 30 assists is pretty amazing. For some perspective, Purdue had 64 assisted shots, Val had a hand in 50 of them despite playing two positions. The other player who had an excellent match was Faye Adelaja who contributed 10 kills of her own on 15 shots. Alas, that's really where the "good" ends.
The flip side of those performances is split between Annie Drews, Cat Rebarchack, Kiki Jones, and Sam Epinesa. To be fair, both Sam and Cat played well in stretches. Sam started hot, with 9 kills after 2 sets on .333 shooting, but by the end of the night, her percentage was down to .150 and she had only added 4 more kills. The opposite is true for Cat. After 2 sets she was hitting .059, but she played well enough to pull it up to .189 by the end. Annie, unfortunately didn't really have any particular part of the match that went her way. She's still an immensely talented player, but she finished with 6 kills and 6 errors on 20 attempts for a .000 hitting percentage and that won't cut it against the best teams in the B1G. Kiki had her moments, but on the whole it was a rough night as she finished with 6 kills on .111 shooting.
There were two other things that really stood out unfortunately. The first was Purdue's propensity to hit right into Minnesota's blocks. There's a reason Minnesota had 30 combined blocks (including partials of course, so the math's a little fuzzier, but still). The other thing that stood out was basically the opposite effect for Purdue's frontline. Time after time Purdue wasn't rotating enough blockers over to contest Minnesota's attacks, instead leaving a single defender out to dry who Minnesota just hit around more often than not. This was especially disappointing because over the past few weeks Purdue had done an excellent job of making those exact rotations and it had paid massive dividends. Hopefully it was just a one time fluke.
On the bright side, even on a night when Purdue didn't play its best game they were able to take the #10 team in the country to 5 sets. And a lot of the issues they have are fixable, so you know Coach Shondell will be on it. Next up is another big match against #14 Wisconsin so Purdue will get a quick shot at redemption. As per the usual, anything you think I missed you can go to town on in the comment boxes (if you have an opinion on the back line, go for it).