“We had a talk with our team just saying that if we just play how we play then we’ll be able to handle business tonight,” said Caitlyn Newton. The Boilers (23-7) did just that, took care of business. Purdue won the first round match 25-9, 25-22, 25-11. The Boilers hit .393 as a team and sidedout on nearly 80% of their opportunities. Defensively, Purdue held Wright State (24-6) to only .054 hitting and racked up 12 blocks.
Purdue came out on fire in set one from the service line and hitting. The Boilers hit .542 in the opening frame and had two aces. Blake Mohler remarked how important the fast start was, “Getting a good momentum, in the beginning, helps us keep it steady throughout the game, because sometimes we do have issues getting to a high start and letting it go, but I think tonight we did a really good job staying consistent.”
Setter Hayley Bush was hitting all right buttons dishing the rock around off great passes in set one as Purdue’s sideout game was perfect, 9-9. All five hitters had two or more kills in the opening frame. Purdue finished the set on a 9-1 run.
Purdue and Caitlyn Newton expected more fight from the Raiders in set two and that was what they got, “We definitely knew they were going to come out strong in the second set, especially being in the tournament. No team is going to just lay down.”
Wright State increased the service pressure and picked up their passing. Nyssa Baker also was key for the Raiders as they went up 11-9 after a 4-0 run. Baker, in the first half of the set, racked up five kills and a solo stuff. “Their middle, Baker, was really good in that game. We didn’t have much of an answer for her. Then we adjusted and we kind of focused really heavily on her, and that helped,” said Shondell. Purdue kept her in check the rest of the match but still had to battle to take the set.
The Boilers answered with a 4-0 run of their own taking advantage of two Raider errors and getting an ace. Purdue was only ever able to stretch their lead to four down the stretch. After Wright State saved two set points, Purdue used a timeout, then scored on the first ball to finally clinch the set.
Looking to close it out Purdue got back into their rhythm. Purdue bookended the set with 9-2 runs as they cruised. The Boiler’s length and physicality which had been a factor all night resulted in five blocks in the final set. Mohler said she knew it was affecting their shots, “You could tell it definitely was in their heads at the beginning of the match, because they were hitting a lot of shots off the court and trying to hit around us.”
As much as Wright State tried nothing could prepare them for the real thing said Head Coach Allie Matters, “I don’t think you can – in our gym back at home you can’t really simulate physicality. For us, we had all of our practice guys, come on in the gym, and we just had our guys hitting as hard as they could. My kids were trying to hit around the block. There was only so many things that we could simulate in our gym this week.”
Coach Matters and her two seniors, Hannah Colvin and Taylor Gibson all noted how special this season had been for the Raiders as they made their first NCAA Tournament and earned the school’s first at-large bid in any sport. “This is going to make me emotional, but it just warms my heart to be able to be sitting right here with her and Allie. I would have never thought I could do this or we could do this,” said Gibson.
Colvin added “It’s been really special. We always talked about leaving a legacy, and we couldn’t have asked for a better season to go out on.”
Matters who is in just her second year on the job took the Raiders from 14 conference wins over six seasons to a conference title this season, “I just think that it’s been such a whirlwind, and it’s just – to go out there and watch those kids compete, it’s just powerful. I love these kids so much.”
Newton led the Boilers with 14 kills on .324 hitting to go with three aces and five blocks. Shavona Cuttino and Grace Cleveland were both error-less hitting 4-0-10 and 8-0-15 respectively. Mohler had a match-high seven blocks, three solo. Hayley Bush finished with 33 assists. Moe Hornung led the defense with 15 digs.
Purdue will play Marquette (28-5) Saturday night at 7:00 ET on BTN+ for free.
The Golden Eagles swept Dayton to advance; 25-23, 25-19, 25-22. Big East Player of the Year Allie Barber paced Marquette with 17 kills on .378 hitting.