I know that women's volleyball is supposed to be the female equivalent sport to men's football, but there is no way it will match the revenue and attention the football team gets. I have memory of promotions on the scoreboard of women's volleyball, but the last time I actually attended a volleyball match of any kind was in middle school. I blame it on my whiteness. It is a sport full of jumping and as a 31 year old white male, I am cursed with a severe case of white man's disease. I don't even have half the vertical of the ladies on Purdue's team.
Still, this blog is about all things Boilermaker, and that includes the ladies (which, as I call my female Twitter followers, are my groupies). It was the ladies that gave Purdue its most recent National Championship this spring with the women's golf team, and the volleyball team brought home the school's most recent upset of a top 5 team.
This is the first ever volleyball article at this site, but it is well deserved after Friday's historic result. Purdue topped #4 Penn State three sets to two, 21-25, 18-25, 25-16, 25-18, 15-11. Normally a comeback from down two sets is pretty impressive, but this was against Penn State. The Nittany Lions are the gold standard when it comes to women's volleyball. They came into this season not only as the three-time defending NCAA champion, but on an amazing 102 match winning streak.
Let's put that into perspective. UCLA under the beloved John Wooden only won 88 games in a row. They were approaching the University of Miami (FL)'s tennis team's all-time winning streak until losing to Stanford earlier in the year. They had a 98-2 Big Ten record over the previous five Big Ten seasons, and before this season they had gone an astounding 210-7 in individual sets during the 2008 and 2009 seasons. Like Wooden's teams during the late 60s/early 70s, everyone else was playing for second place. Of the 25 possible Big Ten Championships, Penn State has won 13.
Needless to say, they are very, very good.
Friday night our ladies came through though. Purdue had not defeated Penn State in volleyball since December 4th, 1987. I was eight years old then, no player on Purdue's roster had been born yet, and Penn State wasn't even in the Big Ten then. We had lost 43 straight matches to the Nittany Lions before Friday night, and we had never defeated a top 5 team before then.
Redshirt freshmen Catherine Rebarchak and Katie Griffin led the way with 13 kills apiece, while junior Tiffany Fisher added 12. Sophomore Ariel Turner chipped in nine kills to go with a career-high 19 digs and two aces, while Hart added seven kills and eight digs. Purdue outhit PSU .218 to .155 and outblocked the Nittany Lions 13-10.
As mentioned above, Purdue dropped the first two sets before storming back to take the last three and the victory. The win was tarnished a little bit with the Niittany Lions losing to Indiana this weekend as well, but it was still newsworthy enough to get a mention on ESPN. Purdue may also crack the top 25 this week, as Sunday's win over Ohio State moved them to 13-4 overall and 4-2 in Big Ten play. That means they are in the hunt for the program's first Big Ten title since 1985, which was also the first year of Big Ten Volleyball.
For those interested, the match will be aired tomorrow afternoon at 2pm on the Big Ten Network