Look, I'm not gonna say I told you so.....but, well, you can figure the rest out yourself. As fans we're all guilty of occasionally greatly exaggerating the demise of our favorite teams, especially when we know they're capable of so much more than they've shown. Tonight is the perfect example of why a little patience can go a long way as they swept Michigan 25:23, 25:19, 25:17 and there were times when the games didn't even feel as close as the final score showed. (That's not a dig at Juan, I promise. I've been right there with him when it comes to writing of various Purdue teams, including occasionally this one)
I think the best way to describe why tonight went so well is that the defense showed up and everything else fell into place with perfect precision. To put this in perspective, Michigan hit .144 for the entire game. They had exactly 1 player who hit over .200, Lexi Erwin with 16 kills at .286. Her 16 kills were double their next highest total: Molly Toon who had 8 kills, but hit a pretty darn awful .133.
On Purdue's side, it wasn't so much that they had a ton of blocks on the defensive side. Michigan was actually a fair bit better in that department. However Purdue was digging everything in sight. With extra emphasis added to the word everything. What had been, in my opinion, a concern in previous game was an awe-inspiring strength tonight. Tonight it was like everything that Purdue touched was pure (old) gold. There was many a rally that Purdue won because they just refused to let the ball ever touch the ground. The key stat for the entire match though is this: Digs. Michigan: 33 Purdue: 54. And if you watched the game, your eyes supported this number completely. Carly Cramer had almost half of those digs with a team leading 24, but everyone chipped in tonight, as 4 other players had over 6 apiece.
Of course, defense is all well and good, but you still have to score 25 points to win a set. It's not like Purdue was any less dominant on this side of the net anyway. As a team, Purdue hit a robust-borderlining-ridiculous .346. The main reason for this was Kiki Jones having a breakout type game with 11 kills to go with a nice shiny .529 hitting percentage. No less impressive was Annie Drews putting up another 8 kills while still hitting an insane .636. Neither of these players was Purdue's best offensive player tonight though. In the least shocking news I will ever write, that award goes to none other than Ariel Turner. Unlike the two players I just mentioned, Ariel had 18 kills. She also had 43 attacks and STILL managed to hit .302 which is incredible for that many attacks.
This was pretty much exactly the game Purdue needed to get some momentum going into the second half of the B1G season. Enough things went right that it's clear the team is on the right track to getting things put together in time for the NCAA tournament, but it certainly wasn't a perfect game, so I have no doubt coach Shondell will find ways to continue improving this team. The one thing that I think we're going to see more from this point forward is Val Nichol more often at Outside Hitter. She brings much needed blocking at outside hitter and while she didn't hit particularly well in this game, she has the talent to hit a variety of angles as well as a very nice roll-shot/change-up that she showed her freshman year when defenders over-commit.