Purdue (24-8) never looked comfortable as Baylor (28-1) grooved offensively. The Bears controlled the serve-pass game to counter a below-average effort from Yossiana Pressley. The Boilers were lost in set one then regrouped to take set two. Baylor though never fell off taking sets three and four; 25-12, 23-25, 25-15, 25-17.
In her final match as a Boiler, Blake Mohler hit .333 putting away eight kills to go with five blocks. Fellow senior Shavona Cuttino only played in the first set getting one block.
Purdue looked rough in set one. They couldn’t pass, three serves sailed long, setter Hayley Bush was not connecting with her setters so unsurprisingly it was lopsided. Baylor out-scored Purdue 14-3 to close the set. Baylor libero Tara Wulf had a 6-0 service run at 16-11 which included two aces that just buried Purdue. Baylor also closed the set out with two overpass kills off of Purdue’s serve receive. The Bears outhit Purdue .357-.037. Caitlyn Newton looked good from the start getting five of Purdue’s seven kills in the first set.
Jael Johnson started set two for Purdue instead of Cuttino. The lineup change paid dividends as Purdue took the set 25-23. In the early going it didn’t like it would make any difference as three Purdue errors spotted Baylor a 6-1 lead. Down 10-6, Purdue finally, their offense going. Four kills and block help the Boilers tie the set at 12. The Boilers finally went in front, 20-18, on a 4-0 run that included an ace and block on Pressley. Freshman Emma Ellis added two big out of system kills Purdue got close to set point. Back in the front row, Newton scored to get Purdue to set point, 24-21. Baylor saved two set points, the first Mariek van der Mark’s eight kill of the set then the Bears got a block on Newton. Shondell called timeout to regroup his team. Purdue got a good pass and Bush set Mohler on the slide and she successfully tooled the block to draw the match even at 1-1. Purdue hit .400 and got four blocks during the set.
The teams traded three-point spurts right away in set three but things took a turn. Newton had three consecutive hitting errors to spring Baylor to a 7-4 lead then Baylor got into a sideout rhythm. The Bears sidedout on Purdue’s last nine serves of the set. Purdue themselves couldn’t pass as Bush was running everywhere chasing down passes. The Boilers also failed to capitalize on free balls and were just sloppy in general. Baylor hit .440 and tallied five blocks.
At the midpoint of set four Purdue was still in it, down 14-13. A net violation on Mohler which took away a block and was upheld on replay killed the Boilers and gave Baylor all the momentum. From then on the Bears outscored Purdue 10-4. Forced out of system and with desperation setting in the Boilers fell apart committing five straight up hitting errors and another getting blocked.
For the Boilers, the issues kept compounding. Purdue’s serving which had been so strong was ineffective against the Bears. Baylor only gave up two aces and sidedout on nearly 75% of Purdue’s serves. Purdue could not pass either. Bush was running everywhere chasing down passes, but when she did get a good pass she wasn’t very clean and her choices of who to set were not good enough. A couple of times Johnson and Mohler got three kills in one trip across the net, but she hardly got them the ball other times. At the end of the match, she was sending too many to Newton. Not completely Bush’s fault but Grace Cleveland never got on track finishing with five kills and five errors.
Newton finished with 19 kills. Jael Johnson tallied eight kills, .385 hitting, and three blocks. Hayley Bush put up 41 assists. Moe Hornung racked up 15 digs.
While Yossiana Pressley still posted 15 kills she was held under her average and hit only .194. Mariek van der Mark had a career day with 16 kills and .464 hitting. Gia Milana hit .500 putting away 13 kills. Shelly Stafford was solid with nine kills hitting .421. Kara McGhee was the Bears’ leading blocker with six. Hannah Lockin posted 49 assists. Tara Wulf led with four aces and 14 digs.
Purdue was outhit .339-.180, out-blocked 10-9, and outdone at the service line 8-2 aces and 4-5 errors.
Purdue finishes the season 24-8.
Blake Mohler will go down in Purdue’s career and season top ten lists. Last season her .358 hitting efficiency was the 8th best season effort in program history. Her career hitting percentage, .337, is good enough for fourth. Block-wise her 491 total blocks put her sixth on the career list, she is third now in block assists with 421, and her 1.01 blocks per set average is ninth-best in program history.
Baylor will face Washington in the regional final tomorrow at 4:00 on ESPNU.