Purdue went on the road to #10 Minnesota and didn't have quite enough to come away with a win, but Coach Shondell has a message to anyone who will listen: Don't Panic.
Here are the basics: Minnesota is a very good team. Purdue is almost a very good team. Purdue is going to take some time to become a very good team. Dave Shondell is not going to let anyone say that Purdue is a team falling apart.
I'd be lying if I said this game didn't go as an outside observer would have expected it to. Minnesota is a top ten team and they were playing at home. For 3 of the sets, it looked for all the world like Purdue was just a less complete team playing against a top ten team. Then for one set, you saw why Purdue is a team bridled with the burden of potential and why fans expect so much from them. There IS talent there that's plain to see. It's everywhere at every position. What's missing however is the consistency and pure chemistry that the best teams have. That isn't something that just happens overnight, it needs to be grown into. This looks like a team that needs to learn how to win. Tonight just isn't a night that's going to help in the win column.
Minnesota took the first two sets convincingly by scores of 25-21 and 25-18. Purdue struck back with a much needed 25-16 win and even led the 4th set 16-13 at one point, but Minnesota just dominated from that point to win 25-17. For the match, Minnesota hit .205 and Purdue hit .175, but to be fair, both those numbers are misleading. In the third set, Purdue hit .345 and Minnesota hit .023. Purdue in sets 1, 2, and 4? .111, .086, and .171. Ouch. (Minnesota on the other hand was .216, .371, and .250 in those sets, which explains the scores of those sets pretty well)
The good news, for what it's worth, is that Ariel Turner had a ridiculous game. She crushed it with 22 kills to go with 11 digs and chipped in 4 blocks, just because. To say that she was high-usage this game might not quite do credit to the phrase. Purdue had 126 attacks, and of those 126, 61 came from Turner. To her credit she hit a respectable .246, but that's an insane number of attempts and I'll just state the obvious and say that that needs to go down for us to establish that chemistry I mentioned before.
Unfortunately, while Ariel had 22, no one else had more than Annie Drew's 8. And after her, the next best tally was Val Nichol with a mere 4. If you're looking for one stat to blame this game on, the lack of supporting cast for Turner is a pretty good place to start.
So where do we go from here? The only place we can go of course, forward. There's really not much of a point to saying that the sky is falling or that the team should start trying to make some crazy changes. This team isn't ready quite yet. No shame in that, the key for Purdue right now is to make sure that they make the NCAA tournament and keep working on getting consistent performances from everyone each night. We can't have games where the back line is digging everything, but the front line is constantly getting blocked. And on the flip side, it doesn't do us much good for the front line to be hot if the back line can't buy a dig. The key is to get the diverse talents on this Purdue team to mesh into one coherent unit with a player for every situation. It's not as though we're dealing with a character issue like a lack of effort or a team unwilling to be coached, in fact the opposite is true. There's lots of effort and Coach Shondell isn't going to let the team fall apart. They just need to put it all together.