Just so we're clear, that happened. After losing to Illinois and Northwestern last weekend, Purdue returned home and swept #6 Nebraska, which, I feel obligated to report, does not happen. Period. The last time Nebraska was swept by an opponent? Two years ago on that very same court against Purdue. Since that match 2 years ago, no opponent has swept Nebraska, and not to belabor the point, but most haven't been particularly close. So what Purdue did tonight is one of the more uncommon things you'll see in B1G volleyball. As for that 3rd set, well, I'm still not 100% convinced THAT actually happened.
Regarding the details of the match, the first set felt like your typical "better ranked team lets the underdog hang around for a little too long" scenario. Nebraska never led by a ton, but they felt firmly in control for almost all of the set. Toward the end of the set, however, Purdue made a push which would set the tone for the rest of the match. Val Nichol had the final two kills of the set and the blocking up front made all the difference in stealing the first set of the match.
The second set in some ways was the inverse of the first. Purdue held a fairly consistent one to two point lead for much of the set, but only toward the end managed to get something of a lead. Which turned out to be a very important cushion because Nebraska proceeded to make a run to pull within 2 points at 23-21 before Purdue was able to right the ship and finish out the set.
Finally about that third set. I didn't think it was possible to beat Nebraska by 9 in a set. Even after watching it happen, I'm still unconvinced that this kind of thing is really possible. Watching the set, at a certain point, the only response to the match that I could muster was laughter. Nebraska basically imploded and Purdue put the finishing touches on the sweep with a 25-16 blowout. To put this set in perspective, this set was a ridiculous blowout and Purdue hit .152 as a team in the set. Nebraska hit (and I'm not making this up) -.047 as a team in the third set. Yup.
Given the general awesomeness of a win like this, I'm only going to recap the "Good" section tonight. If you'd like to chime in, go for it in the comment boxes.
- Middle Blockers
Tonight was a particularly good night for Kiki Jones and Faye Adelaja. Kiki had 6 kills on 9 attempts to go along with 2 solo blocks and 3 block assists. Faye somehow managed to one-up that line by going a perfect 5 kills on 5 attempts alongside 6 block assists.
- Catherine Rebarchak
Cat had 9 kills on 16 attempts which was good for a .375 hitting percentage when all was said and done. And as important as her offense was, I was particularly impressed by her defense. The 6 block assists she's credited with are indicative of that, but the effort was much more noticeable than I can remember in some time. I still contend that when Cat is on, Purdue is a whole different animal.
- Frontline Defense
This deserves its own category because it was more than just the middle blockers and it was more than just Cat, though all of those players deserve credit. What really was different tonight was all the players in the front moving together from side to side in the way that great teams do. Whether it was Cat, Annie, Katie Griffin, Sam Epinesa or Val, all of the outside hitters were where they were supposed to be and with the excellent middle blockers also in place, you could see the Nebraska hitters struggle to adjust to the forest of arms in front of them. Even more than the blocks, the rotations made a huge difference and probably are a testament to Coach Shondell's motivating skills after the team's 4 game losing streak.