#2 Val Nichol going for the kill in Ann Arbor - Juan Crespo
Purdue travels to Ann Arbor and steals a win from Michigan, earning their 4th consecutive win.
Once a Boilermaker, always a Boilermaker. And that was true for me tonight as my alma mater took on my new institution. It was great being able to watch Purdue Volleyball again, see Purdue WIN, and interact with the Block Party again. On top of it all, it feels good to write about Purdue Volleyball again just one more time.
The first set started off back and forth, but soon Purdue took over. Though they never led by more than 4 in the 1st set, they never let Michigan capture the lead and won it slightly comfortably 25-20. It was hard to follow the first set because the Block Party was in limbo of what it could do. Where they originally sat, they weren't allowed to stand up as it was "distracting" and didn't allow fans to enjoy the game. Despite the fact that Michigan has general admission seating and no one was sitting in the 2 rows behind the party. Plus, the people who were behind the Block Party were Purdue fans. Ultimately, we moved into Michigan's non-existent student section (probably because of the hockey game that night), and we could finally settle in. Though they didn't want us there, I'm a Michigan student so I could have easily flashed my M-Card if it became a big issue.
Either way, the Michigan fans didn't like us moving into the student section, but they didn't want us to stand because we were a distracting. Whatever, because this is Michigan for God's sake.
Michigan started off the 2nd Set hot and never looked back. It was bad on the Purdue end, as it seemed like there was no way to stop Michigan, maybe even for the rest of the night. Really not many positives from this set other than Purdue scored 13 to avoid a shut out. The 3rd set started the same way, as Michigan jumped out to a 16-9 lead. It looked ugly, and I thought that it was going to be a bad night. However, if there is one thing we have learned under Shondell, it is that you do not count out the Boilers until the game is over.
Kiki Jones and Sam Epenesa started off the rally with back to back blocks, followed by a solo block from Val Nichol. The Boilers were on fire with the triple blocks and Michigan was starting to lose it. Purdue eventually tied it at 16 each with some more blocks, Michigan errors, and a Purdue kill too. Michigan eventually responded to fight off Purdue, but it was not enough. Purdue regained the lead twice, and then never gave it up again for the rest of the game, as Purdue won the 3rd set 25-22. Purdue carried that momentum into the 4th set, never trailing or tying Michigan throughout the set, and won it comfortably 25-20.
Overall, Purdue slightly outhit Michigan 27.7% to 22.4%, but Purdue was able to force Michigan errors where it counted, especially in the 3rd set, and they were able to steal the win in Ann Arbor. Nichol, Epenesa, and Rebarchak led the Boilers with 13 kills each. Michigan did show why they made it to the Final Four last year, with 4 hitters earning double digit kills and Molly Toon leading all players with 16 kills.
What I like about this Purdue team is that they are more diverse than previous teams. Before, it was "When it doubt, Ariel Turner", but now that she has graduated, the other players had to step up to fill in her departure. One person couldn't do it, so Shondell called on multiple players to step up. This will benefit Purdue in the long run as Turner would often get worn out towards the end of the season. It is also a good mix of veteran and underclass players, but there are still mistakes being made that an all veteran team would not make. Luckily, Purdue is becoming hot and will be a dangerous team in December.
As for Michigan, they are still a dangerous team and should not be taken lightly. They didn't lose many players from last year's Final Four team, and they did not make noise until the tournament started (sounds like the basketball team?), so I expect them to play well towards the end of the year. Luckily for Purdue, this was the only match against Michigan this year, unless they somehow meet in the NCAA Tournament (which is possible, considering the West Lafayette Regional alone had 3 Big Ten teams).
I like what I saw with Purdue, and they should have a good season. Hopefully, I will get to see them again over Thanksgiving. Until next time, you stay classy, West Lafayette.