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Purdue Volleyball: 2019 NCAA Tournament Preview

A look at the whole field and the opening rounds as the #16 Boilers open play at home.


Purdue was the beneficiary of one of a handful of the committee’s dubious decisions (see one-loss Pitt seeded 6th and RPI 50 Illinois making the field among others misses) and so they got the 16 seed and get to host this weekend.


The Purdue sub-regional will get underway Friday at 4:30 ET as Marquette will face Dayton. The Purdue-Wright State match will follow at 7:00 ET. Saturday at 7:00 the winners will face each other with a spot in the Sweet Sixteen on the line. The matches will be available for free on BTN+.

Game 1: Dayton vs Marquette

Game 2: Wright State vs. #16 Purdue

Game 3: Second Round

Tournament Preview

Seeded Teams (Record, RPI, AVCA Rank)

  1. Baylor (25-1, 1, 1)
  2. Texas (21-3, 2, 4)
  3. Stanford (24-4, 3, 3)
  4. Wisconsin (22-6, 5, 5)
  5. Nebraska (25-4, 8, 6)
  6. Pittsburgh (29-1, 4, 2)
  7. Minnesota (23-5, 10, 7)
  8. Washington (24-6, 9, 9)
  9. Kentucky (23-6, 6, 11)
  10. Florida (25-4, 7, 12)
  11. Penn State (24-5, 16, 8)
  12. Hawaii (24-3, 11, 18)
  13. Texas A&M (21-7, 12, 25)
  14. BYU (25-4, 17, 13)
  15. Western Kentucky (31-1, 15, 19)
  16. Purdue (22-7, 21, 14)

The Big Ten had the most teams in the field with seven; #4 Wisconsin, #5 Nebraska, #7 Minnesota, #11 Penn State, #16 Purdue, Michigan, and Illinois. The Pac-12 and SEC put six teams each into the tournament.

Most Vulnerable Seeded Teams

#3 Stanford

BYU, who likely awaits them in the Sweet Sixteen, has had the Cardinal’s number the last few seasons beating them last season and this season. Kathryn Plummer is back and has shaken off the rust after missing all of October. Even so, the Cardinal supporting cast is not quite as formidable as last season.

#6 Pittsburgh

Getting to the hometown Final Four will be hard for the Panthers. A potential rematch with Penn State, their lone loss of the season, awaits them in the Sweet Sixteen.

#9 Kentucky

The Wildcats have been up and down this season. They’ll have to get past Michigan in the second round. The Wolverines have made nice runs over the last few seasons and could make the second weekend again this year.

#13 Texas A&M

The Aggies, to me are not a top 15 team. Yes, they’ve beat Kentucky, and Mizzou and Louisville who all are top 25 teams, but the Wildcats have been very underwhelming and inconsistent this year; in general the SEC seems overrated by the committee. Rice, who beat Texas awaits A&M in the second round.

Must Watch Athletes

  1. Yossiana Pressley- Jr. 6’0 OH Baylor - The image of Yossi flying high above the net went viral after the Bear’s five set win over Texas. She averages 5.52 kills per set and can single-handedly win matches for the Bears. Just ask Texas and Wisconsin, this year and last, as her 30+ kill efforts have carried the Bears to major wins.
  2. Jordan Thompson- Sr. 6’4 RS/OH Cincinnati - Averages an insane 6.43!!! kills per set, best in the country, while hitting .348. Thompson is an international caliber-talent; she spent the summer with U.S. National Team helping them win the Volley Nations League and qualify for the Tokyo Olympics
  3. Brionne Butler- So 6’4 MB Texas- Another high flyer, Butler can touch 11 feet. She’s one of the best blockers in the country averaging 1.63 per set.
  4. Dana Rettke- Jr. 6’8 MB Wisconsin- Rettke is a very agile 6’8 making her presence known offensively and defensively. She’s been top 10 in the Big Ten in kills, aces, and blocks per set and hitting percentage this season.
  5. Sophia Cerino- Western Kentucky- Cerino’s vicious top-spin serve is highly effective and relatively low-error. Cerino leads the country with 0.75 aces per set and her ace to error ratio is nearly 4:3!!!
  6. Mary Lake- Sr. 5’7 L BYU - Lake is a fearless defender, sacrificing her body over and over to make a play.

Final Four Picks

1 Baylor vs 4 Wisconsin

6 Pittsburgh vs 2 Texas


This is Purdue’s 21st NCAA Tournament appearance and first time hosting since 2011. Three times Purdue (22-7, 14-6 5th) has made the Regional Finals, the program’s best finish, last in 2013. Purdue went 3-5 against the RPI top 25, 2-2 versus 26-50, 5-0 versus 51-100 and 12-0 versus 101+. Against the AVCA top 25 Purdue went 5-6 and their strength of schedule was 28th. Purdue has a tough path to the Final Four as #1 Baylor awaits them in the Sweet Sixteen.

Purdue finished the regular season on a six-game win streak picking up an important season sweep over Michigan. Key in Purdue’s run has been their serving and the play of Caitlyn Newton. Newton herself has elevated her serving posting 0.74 aces per set over the six matches. She also was clutch in the Michigan match saving a handful of match points for the Boilers. So long as Newton and the Boilers can keep up the service pressure and win the serve-pass battle they should advance.

Key Players

class, height, position, # name, stats (statistical rank nationally)
Positions: MB- middle blocker, OH- outside hitter, RS- right side hitter, DS- defensive specialist, L- libero, S- setter
Stats: K/S- kills/set, B/S- blocks/set, D/S- digs/set. .000- hitting percentage, A/S- assists/set SA/S- service aces/set

So. 5’10 S 2 Hayley Bush- 10.68 A/S (41), 2.11 D/S

Jr. 6’1 OH 4 Caitlyn Newton!- 3.78 K/S, 0.37 SA/S

Sr. 6’2 MB 9 Shavona Cuttino- .295, 1.24 B/S (45)

So. 5’7 DS 10 Marissa Hornung- 3.85 D/S

Sr. 6’2 M 17 Blake Mohler*- 2.2 K/S, .333, 1.21 B/S

Jr. 5’10 DS 19 Jena Otec- 3.6 D/S, 0.43 SA/S (34)

So. 6’3 OH 20 Grace Cleveland*- 3.3 K/S, .268, 1.07 B/S, 0.36 SA/S

* First Team All-Big Ten

! Second Team All-Big Ten

Wright State

Making their inaugural appearance in the NCAA Tournament and as an at-large bid, no less. Wright State (24-5, 13-3) was the Horizon League regular season champion. The Raiders fell in the Horizon League Tournament semifinals to Northern Kentucky who went on to win the tournament. Wright State was 41 in the RPI rankings and 168 in strength of schedule. The Raiders didn’t play anyone in the RPI top 25, they were 4-2 against 26-50, 3-3 versus 51-100 and 17-0 against 101+ opponents. Wright State and Purdue did have two opponents in common, Notre Dame and Ball State; The Raiders beat both in five sets.

Led by the Horizon League Coach of the Year Allie Matters, WSU rewrote the record books this season. Key in their rise has been their defense led by the Horizon League Defensive Player of Year, libero Jenna Story. Story is tops in the country with over six digs per set leading a defense that holds opponents to .143 hitting percentage, fifth in the country. The Raiders will have their work cut out for them against the Purdue hitters. One positive for Wright State is that they’re a decent serving team. If they can get Purdue out system and frustrate the outside hitters they can maybe take a set or two.

Key Players

So. 5’7 L 1 Jenna Story@- 6.35 D/S (2), 0.27 SA/S

So. 5’11 S 2 Lainey Stephenson@- 9.81 A/S, 3.31 D/S

Sr. 5’11 OH 5 Taylor Gibson- 2.61 K/S

Jr. 6’0 MB 7 Nyssa Baker@- 2.09 K/S, .340, 1.31 B/S (29)

Jr. 6’1 RS 11 Celia Powers@- 2.7 K/S, 2.79 D/S, 0.94 B/S

Jr. 6’0 MB/RS 14 Teddie Sauer#- 2.79 K/S, .279, 0.81 B/S, 0.42 SA/S (46)

Fr. 5’10 OH 15 Megan Alders$- 2.17 K/S

@ First Team All-Horizon League

# Honorable Mention All-Horizon League

$ All-Freshman Horizon League Team

Indiana connections: Ruskaup- Carroll, Fort Wayne; Baker- Snider, Fort Wayne; Sauer- Concordia Lutheran, Fort Wayne


Joining their neighbors Wright State in the field the Flyers (22-8, 13-1) got an automatic bid after winning the Atlantic-10 Tournament. In the process, they avenged their lone loss in conference play and second-place regular season finish beating VCU in four sets in the Big East tournament championship. The automatic bid earned the Flyers their 14th NCAA Tournament appearance where they will look to make it to the Sweet Sixteen for the first time. Dayton was 42 in RPI after going 0-5 against top 25 teams. They were 2-1 against 26-50, 3-2 versus 51-100 and 17-0 versus 101+ foes as they played the 55th toughest schedule. The Flyers were 1-2 versus AVCA top 25 teams. Dayton leads the series with Purdue 4-3 and the Flyers took the last meeting in 2009 in five sets in Holloway. This season Dayton played three teams in common with Purdue Louisville, Michigan, and Ohio State beating only Michigan; Purdue beat all three schools.

Unlike some other mid-majors, Dayton has size. Jamie Peterson, 6’4, outside hitter leads the Flyers and was named the A-10 Player of the Year. Aside from Peterson though, Dayton can struggle to produce, although their other hitters are efficient. If anyone of them catches fire they might be able to take down Marquette. Also earning A-10 accolades was 6’5, middle blocker Amelia Moore who was the conference’s Rookie of the Year.

Key Players

So. 5’6 L 2 Maura Collins- 4.36 D/S, 0.32 SA/S

So. 6’0 S 4 Josie Vondran- 4.7 A/S

Rs. Fr. 6’5 MB 6 Amelia Moore?- .300, 1.06 B/S

Jr. 5’10 S 7 Bridget Doherty- 4.35 A/S

So. 6’4 OH 10 Jamie Peterson+- 4.6 K/S (17), .256, 2.42 D/S, 0.79 B/S, 0.4 SA/S

Jr. 6’4 MB 16 Olivia Dubay- .291, 1.15 B/S

+ First Team All-Atlantic 10

? Second Team All-Atlantic 10 and All-Rookie Team


Heading into the selection show many thought Purdue would be heading to Milwaukee, alas it is the Golden Eagles (27-5, 16-2) making the road trip. Marquette finished second in the Big East in the regular season and tournament as they fell to St. John’s in the final in four sets. Marquette closed the regular season 13th in the latest RPI standings 16th in the latest AVCA poll. The Golden Eagles were 3-3 versus RPI top 25 teams, 2-1 versus 26-50, 8-1 versus 50-100 and 12-0 versus 100+; they were 2-3 against AVCA top 25 teams. Both Purdue and Marquette played Wisconsin and Illinois with the Golden Eagles beating Wisconsin and both schools falling to Illinois. Purdue has only faced Marquette twice winning both; the last matchup was a five-set win back in 2002 at Kansas. This will be Marquette’s ninth consecutive NCAA Tournament appearance; their best finish was last season when they advanced to the Sweet Sixteen.

Similar to Dayton, Marquette has a big, go-to hitter and complimentary hitters around her. Allie Barber was the Big East Player of the Year posting over 4.5 kills per set. Marquette was dealt a setback when they lost junior Kaitlyn Lines to a knee injury back in October. Lines was key in their wins over Wisconsin and BYU. A glaring weakness for the Golden Eagles are their middle blockers. The team averages only 1.6 per set blocks per set and none of their middles are particularly efficient or terminal. The taller Dayton squad could make them pay offensively and key in blocking-wise on the pin hitters.

Key Players

Fr. 6’2 OH 2 Hannah Vanden Berg&- 2.04 K/S, .266

Jr. 5’7 S 4 Sarah Rose- 4.98 A/S

Sr. 5’9 S 5 Lauren Speckman- 6.8 A/S, 2.38 D/S

Jr. 5’7 L 7 Martha Konovodoff%- 4.34 D/S

Jr. 6’1 OH 8 Hope Werch%- 2.83 K/S, .307, 2.69 D/S 0.50 SA/S (12)

Sr. 6’5 OH 10 Allie Barber%- 4.67 K/S (15), .307

% All-Big East First Team

& All-Big East Freshman Team

Indiana connection: Gwyn Jones- Floyd Central, Greenville

Big Ten Post-Season Honors

Big Ten accolades were announced today with Wisconsin and Penn State taking home some of the top honors. Wisconsin’s Dana Rettke was the conference Player of the Year. Teammate Sydney Hilley was named the Big Ten Setter of the Year. Penn State’s Kendall White took home the Defensive Player of the Year honor. Madi Kubik, of Nebraska, was voted Freshman of the Year. The coaches and media had different picks for Coach of the Year; Penn State’s Russ Rose was his peers pick while the media tabbed Wisconsin’s Kelly Sheffield.

Rettke, Hilley, and White were among nine unanimous first-team selections as was Purdue’s Grace Cleveland; the others are Paige Jones, Michigan; Regan Pittman, Minnesota; Lauren Stivrins, Nebraska; and Kaitlyn Hord and Jonni Parker, Penn State.

Sophomore, outside hitter Grace Cleveland posted terrific numbers this season as she had a bigger role, playing in the back row giving Purdue more options offensively. Cleveland averaged 3.3 kills per set, 13th best in the conference, while hitting .268 this season. Cleveland also scored from the service line averaging 0.36 service aces per set good for 8th best in the conference. Defensively she put up middle blocker-like numbers with 1.07 blocks per set, 13th best in the league.

Senior, middle blocker Blake Mohler was named to the First Team for the second year in a row joining Cleveland on the First Team. Mohler hit .333 this season, 10th best in the league, while putting away 2.2 kills per set. She was seventh best in the league blocking with 1.21 per set.

Junior Caitlyn Newton made the Second Team. Newton led the Boilers this season with 3.78 kills per set, 4th best in the Big Ten. Newton has been phenomenal from the service line of late posting 0.46 aces in conference play which led the league and 0.37 aces per set overall, 6th best. Rounding out her game Newton has averaged 1.5 digs per set and 0.63 blocks per set.

Sophomore, middle blocker Jael Johnson was Purdue’s Sportsmanship Honoree.