Fresh off a solid end to a solid season in the NCAA Tournament, Purdue Volleyball has been decimated by graduation and trasfers.
Freshman outside hitter Alexa Smith, the former high school player of the year, has transferred to University of Colorado and is eligible to play immediately. Sophomore setter/outside hitter Lydia Dimke has transferred to Creighton University and is also eligible to play right away. Both players left Purdue in December and have enrolled in their respective schools and are taking classes now.
Smith's transfer is surprising, but not completely unheard of. She didn't see tons of court time her freshman year, some of which could be attributed to a shoulder coming off surgery that may not have been 100% healthy, and the playing time she did see was mostly as a defensive specialist. A star high school player surely wants to be a key player right away, plus Smith is from Colorado, so the transfer wasn't an unreasonable choice. Her transfer and Sam Epenesa's graduation leave a huge hole on the outside, which I'll cover the filling of later.
Dimke's transfer is very, very surprising. She came to Purdue a semester early, when she should've been a high school senior, and has put in two full years of hard work for the program. She didn't play a ton her freshman year, which was expected, but at the beginning of this season, it was between her and Ashley Evans for the starting setter role. Evans earned the job, and it wasn't until midway through the season that Dimke saw any match time at hitting positions. She certainly wasn't a consistent starter, but she would've likely been the best hitter on the floor at either outside hitter or opposite next year. Her transfer to Creighton, who just graduated two setters, implies that she wanted to set more than she wanted to hit, and she wouldn't have taken the starting setter spot from Ashley Evans at Purdue. Her loss is another very tough one, especially with opposite Annie Drews's graduation.
The one acquisition Purdue has from transfer is Sherridan Atkinson, a 6'5" redshirt freshman outside hitter from Long Beach State. She redshirted her first year, and saw limited court time this season. She's taking classes at Purdue now and is eligible to play in the spring matches and right away in the fall. Following the confusing trend of women's volleyball journalism, Atkinson is listed as an outside hitter despite primarily playing opposite. Her height alone will help fill the hole left by Annie Drews, but I know nothing about her as a player past her size. She'll be a key piece to watch in the practice gym this spring.
The three transfers leave Purdue with only 10 players on the roster this spring, with three more to be added in the fall. There's only one true outside hitter on the roster, Azariah Stahl, with no incoming freshmen, so either Sherridan Atkinson, Blake Mohler, or all-conference middle blocker Danielle Cuttino will have to make a position switch to fill the other spot. Here's a position breakdown for the fall, with asterisks denoting players who can (or will have to) play multiple positions:
Setters: Ashley Evans (redshirt junior), Lexi Dorn (freshman)
Outside Hitters: Azariah Stahl (junior), *Blake Mohler (redshirt freshman), *Sherridan Atkinson (redshirt sophomore), *Danielle Cuttino (junior)
Opposites: *Blake Mohler (redshirt freshman), *Sherridan Atkinson (redshirt sophomore)
Middle Blockers: Faye Adelaja (redshirt senior), *Danielle Cuttino (junior), Shavona Cuttino (redshirt freshman), *Blake Mohler (redshirt freshman)
Defensive Specialists: Linnea Rohrsen (junior), Carissa Damler (redshirt sophomore), Brooke Peters (sophomore), Natalie Haben (freshman), Olivia Van Zelst (freshman)
The veteran presence of Ashley Evans, Faye Adelaja, Azariah Stahl, and whichever defensive specialist ends up at the libero spot will be critical as there will be a lot of position shuffling. Danielle Cuttino will surely be on the floor somewhere, but if she switches to outside hitter, another middle blocker will have to step up to fill the void. The thin roster of only 13 players has a lot of question marks for the fall season, and Hammer and Rails will have close eyes throughout the spring season.