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Purdue Volleyball: Mortarboard Premier Weekend Wrap-up

Purdue finished the tournament 3-0 to start the 2015 season.

Purdue Volleyball finished the weekend at a perfect 3-0 in matches and 9-0 in sets to wrap up the Mortar Board Premier in West Lafayette.  The team earned 3-0 sweeps over lesser but still competitive opponents VCU, Austin Peay, and Ohio.

For stats and match info, follow these links to the official athletic department articles about the matches: VCU Austin Peay Ohio.  Continue reading for some reactions and opinions you won't get anywhere else.

With setter Lydia Dimke out with a concussion, the starting setter choice was easy as Ashley Evans earned all tournament honors after setting the team to a perfect weekend in the record column.  Faye Adelaja and Danielle Cuttino started each match in the middle, and tournament MVP Azariah Stahl and Sam Epenesa started each match at outside hitter.  Annie Drews earned all tournament honors at opposite, and in addition to libero Amanda Niell, Kate Workman, Brooke Peters, and Carissa Damler all saw time in the back row.  Kaisley Fisher played well as a substitute against Austin Peay and freshman Alexa Smith was nearly perfect in hitting statistics coming off the bench against Austin Peay and Ohio.

This was definitely a warm-up tournament for the Boilers, but seeing them overpower their opponents with their size and athleticism was promising this weekend.  I was at the VCU match and was able to see how the first few weeks of practice culminated against another NCAA opponent.

VCU was a quick, athletic team, but was vastly outmatched in height.  Their starting setter was 5'6" and was matched up as a blocker on 6'0" high-jumping Azariah Stahl, for example.  Purdue was rarely stopped when the ball was in system, simply hitting over an inferior block most of the time.  The Boilers put on a lot of pressure from the service line, notching 10 aces on the night.  The defense looked good with well-positioned blocks and scrappy defensive plays.  Statistically, things were as they should have been given Purdue's size and experience.

However, the sets were all pretty close in score and certainly weren't free of mistakes.  Purdue struggled in serve-receive at certain points, leading to service runs by VCU.  This was most obvious when VCU picked on the two-man serve receive in certain rotations, or when they served the front row outside hitter who had to pass the ball before attacking.  Offensively, the shot selections of the pin hitters weren't diverse enough, but it didn't affect the outcome because of the size and athleticism difference.  Against Big Ten opponents, it will be critical for Purdue hitters to see when the block is leaving the line open and be able to score with that shot.

The battle at outside hitter between three players for two spots is being won by Stahl and Smith so far, so especially as Smith's shoulder gets more healthy, senior Sam Epenesa will have to turn it up in the practice gym.  Adelaja and Cuttino were very comfortable in the middle this weekend.  Evans ran an efficient offense and connected with the hitters well, but will have to make more defensive plays against better competition.

Injury wise, Dimke has a concussion and is day-to-day for practices.  Defensive Specialist Linnea Rohrsen has a broken hand and is likely out a month or two.

The Boilers are back in action this weekend at a tournament in St. Louis, where they'll play nationally ranked BYU in addition to Arkansas-Pine Bluff and St. Louis University.

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