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Purdue Volleyball Kicks Off Big Ten Play this Weekend

The Boilers head north to start conference play on the road at Wisconsin and Minnesota.

No. 15 Purdue (8-1) comes into conference play with only one blemish on their record. The stranglehold on the top spots in the Big Ten has loosened a little this season and the Boilers could find themselves in the top four by seasons end.

It all starts for the Boilers, Friday evening at 8:00 ET on BTN+ when they face the No. 13 Wisconsin Badgers. Saturday night Purdue will be on BTN at 8:00 ET to face No. 7 Minnesota.

Weekend Preview

Serve-pass is always important but it will be especially key against Wisconsin. If Purdue can serve aggressively the Badgers will struggle. Their pin hitters are fairly high-error and the less they can stay in system and feed Dana Rettke the better. It will certainly help also against the Gophers but that match may come down to defense. Shondell can’t be slow to pull the trigger and sub if Grace Cleveland is being abused in the back row. As long as the block, fifth-best in the country with 3.04 per set, performs as it has and gets good touches Purdue will have a chance against both these teams.

Blake Mohler missed Purdue’s last match and was in a boot her status for this weekend is unclear.

Key Players

class, height, position, # name, stats (statistical rank nationally, in the conference)
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- 10.83 A/S (31, 4) , 2.0 D/S

Jr. 6’1 OH 4 Caitlyn Newton- 3.94 K/S (6), .269

Sr. 6’2 MB 9 Shavona Cuttino- .348, 1.32 B/S (6)

So. 5’7 DS 10 Marissa Hornung- 2.97 D/S

Sr. 6’2 M 17 Blake Mohler- 2.24 K/S, .336 (14), 1.66 B/S (12, 1)

Jr. 5’10 DS 19 Jena Otec- 4.6 D/S (3), 0.49 SA/S (3)

So. 6’3 OH 20 Grace Cleveland- 3.51 K/S (12), .295, 1.06 B/S (15)

Wisconsin

Purdue may be facing the Badgers at the least opportune time. Wisconsin (4-4) is desperate for their first home win this season after having lost at home to now No. 10 Marquette, now-No. 2 Baylor and now-No. 8 Washington who they also lost to on the road. It’s not because Dana Rettke who spent the summer with the National Teams isn’t trying to carry the team on her back. Rettke is on a tear, ranking in the conference’s top 15 for every major stat for a middle blocker and even service aces. The rest of the Wisconsin roster has to figure it out if the Badgers are going to reach their lofty goals.

Key Players

Jr. 6’0 S 2 Sidney Hilley- 11.46 A/S (7, 2), 2.25 D/S

Fr. 5’11 S/DS 11 Izzy Ashburn- 2.11 D/S, 0.61 SA/S (13, 1)

Jr. 6’8 MB 16 Dana Rettke- 4.11 K/S (3), .445 (10, 4), 1.21 B/S (10), 0.36 SA/S (12)

Sr. 5’11 L 17 Tiffany Clark- 3.39 D/S (13), 0.29 SA/S

Jr. 6’3 OH 21 Grace Loberg- 3.0 K/S

Jr. 6’1 OH 23 Molly Haggerty- 3.5 K/S (13)

Several Indiana ties on the Badger roster. Reserve Julia Wohlert is from Indy and attended Decatur Central. Head Coach Kelly Sheffield is a branch off the Shondell tree and Assistant Coach Brittany Dildine played for the Boilers.

Minnesota

Three matches in the Gophers looked pathetic. They couldn’t serve, they couldn’t block, and they couldn’t close out sets. Since then they’ve beat No. 1 Stanford and No. 10 Oregon. The Gopher middle blockers came to life and Minnesota put the ball in play. Transfer setter Kylie Miller also settled in with her hitters and the Gophers are back to beating teams with their balance. The Gophers are beatable but an upset will only happen if Purdue can win the serve-pass battle.

Key Players

Fr. 5’9 DS 6 Rachel Kilkelly- 2.96 D/S

So. 5’9 L 7 CC McGraw- 4.16 D/S (5), 0.32 SA/S

Jr.. 6’2 RS 10 Stephanie Samedy- 4.48 K/S (28, 2), .259, 3.4 D/S (12), 1.04 B/S

Sr. 6’0 MB 12 Taylor Morgan- 2.16 K/S, .348 (11), 0.84 B/S

Sr. 5’11 S 15 Kylie Miller- 12.08 A/S (1, 1), 2.72 D/S, 0.36 SA/S (13)

Sr. 6’0 OH 19 Alexis Hart- 3.32 K/S, .291

So. 6’0 OH 20 Adanna Rollins- 2.44 K/S, 3.4 D/S (11)

Jr. 6’5 MB 21 Regan Pittman- 2.28 K/S, .310, 1.4 B/S (36, 3)

Conference Title Race

At this point, it seems like it will be between Nebraska and the Gophers. The Huskers play the softest league schedule which gives them a huge advantage. Nebraska faces only Wisconsin twice. Otherwise, they only face Minnesota and Penn State once; the Gophers in Minneapolis and Nittany Lions in Lincoln. Not to mention 10 of their 20 games are against teams in the bottom half of the preseason coaches’ poll. That said they are a very good, well-coached team. They’re the best defensive team in the league and serve tough which for them has always added up to success. Unless their offense craters, I don’t see them losing very many matches. Minnesota would have to win their lone head-to-head matchup and not slip up otherwise if they’re going to win back-to-back Big Ten Championships.

Until Wisconsin works out its problems, Nebraska, Penn State, and Minnesota are on a tier of their own. That said I’m not completely sold on Penn State. They split a series with Pittsburgh and their only other loss was to Stanford but I don’t think their offense is dynamic enough to win the Big Ten. Jonni Parker is great and so are their middles, but they get measly production from their two outside hitters. It’s hard to win if you can’t score from the left pin.

Wisconsin, Wisconsin, Wisconsin, what is going on? This year and next are supposed to be your years. You have an international caliber middle blocker, a great setter, and great libero and you have yet to win at home this season. That doesn’t add up. Wisconsin’s passing and supporting cast are holding them back. The Badger pin hitters are error-prone and for as tough as the Badgers serve, third-best in the Big ten 1.61 aces per set, their passing offsets any advantage as they surrender 1.18 aces per set. The season is not lost for the Badgers but if their struggles extend into league play they’ll quickly be out of the conference race. Don’t count them out though in the National Championship conversation if they do turn things around down the stretch.

Next in line are Purdue and Illinois. Purdue has two big pin hitters and a fierce middle blocker leading them. They dropped a match to Notre Dame but otherwise have beaten then-No. 16 Kentucky. If Purdue can stay focused they could break into the top four. They’re always good for upset and nearly as reliable is an inexplicable loss to someone below them in the standings. If Purdue avoids the bad loss and splits with the Gophers or Huskers they could push Illinois down the standings.

Illinois had a four-match losing streak that ended with a win over then-No. 7 Marquette, but three of the four teams they lost to weren’t even ranked. The Illini are realizing how important Jordyn Poulter was to their offense.

AVCA Rankings

  1. Stanford (28)
  2. Baylor (27)
  3. Nebraska (6)
  4. Pittsburgh (1)
  5. Penn State
  6. Texas
  7. Minnesota
  8. Washington
  9. BYU (2)
  10. Marquette

(first-place votes)

Stanford is back at one even after going 1-1. They beat the Huskers in Lincoln and the lost to BYU at home. Upstart Baylor is one of only two remaining undefeated teams, them and No. 21 Cal. Wisconsin has fallen to thirteen as they have yet to win at home, 0-3, and are 4-4 on the season with all four losses coming against teams in the top 10.

Ranked Big Ten teams: #3 Nebraska, #5 Penn State, #7 Minnesota, #13 Wisconsin, #15 Purdue, #20 Illinois, RV Michigan, and RV Indiana.

Big Ten Standings

Six teams got conference play started Wednesday night.

Big Ten Standings

Standings Conf. Pct. Overall Pct. Most recent Big Ten Games
Standings Conf. Pct. Overall Pct. Most recent Big Ten Games
Penn State 1-0 1.000 8-2 0.800 W 3-0 vs MSU
Michigan 1-0 1.000 8-3 0.727 W 3-0 @ Rutgers
Ohio State 1-0 1.000 8-5 0.615 W 3-1 @ Maryland
Nebraska 0-0 0.000 8-1 0.889
Purdue 0-0 0.000 8-1 0.889
Indiana 0-0 0.000 11-2 0.846
Northwestern 0-0 0.000 9-3 0.750
Minnesota 0-0 0.000 6-2 0.750
Illinois 0-0 0.000 5-4 0.556
Iowa 0-0 0.000 6-5 0.545
Wisconsin 0-0 0.000 4-4 0.500
Michigan State 0-1 0.000 9-2 0.818 L 0-3 @ Penn State
Maryland 0-1 0.000 8-5 0.615 L 1-3 vs OSU
Rutgers 0-1 0.000 6-6 0.500 L 0-3 vs Michigan
Current Big Ten Standings as of 9-26