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Boilers Suffer Sweeps to Start Big Ten Season

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Purdue started the Big Ten slate with the toughest road trip in conference play, at Wisconsin and at Minnesota back-to-back, and came back home with two losses.

The No. 17 Purdue (8-3, 0-2) offense which was so effective up to this point in the season had miserable efforts in both matches. There were plenty of contributing factors but back-to-back sub .150 efforts doomed the Boilers. Purdue fell 22-25, 27-29, 15-25 against No. 13 Wisconsin (6-4, 2-0) and 19-25, 21-25, 23-25 against No. 7 Minnesota (8-2, 2-0).

Wisconsin Recap

Purdue had its chances in sets one and two before collapsing in the final set. The Purdue offense could never get into a rhythm and their inability to score and untimely errors late led to the sweep. Purdue hit a dismal .101 over the three sets; Wisconsin averaged .262. Purdue created issues for the Badger serve receive but the Wisconsin passers stepped up at the crucial junctures

Set one was a back and forth affair. Purdue went on a 5-0 run after a Caitlyn Newton kill sent her to the service line. After a Badger hitting error, Newton served up two aces before Grace Cleveland struck with a kill. Wisconsin answered back with a 6-1 run to go up 21-19. Purdue was able to tie it back up after consecutive Badger hitting errors, but Purdue melted down. The Boilers repaid the favor committing a service error and two hitting errors to propel Wisconsin to the win in the opening set. Wisconsin won despite playing without their starting setter Sydney Hilley for most of the set as she suffered a nosebleed.

Purdue saved five set points but never had any of their own as their errors in crunch time fueled the Badger win. Purdue led 21-18 before Wisconsin ran off five straight, including two Purdue hitting errors, to go in front 23-21. Two points later Wisconsin got to a set point on a Dana Rettke kill that sent her to the service line. Purdue sided out and got an ace to draw the score even, 24-all but Purdue never took advantage of Rettke’s absence. Back-to-back, Boiler service errors handed Wisconsin two more set points. Blake Mohler answered the bell for Purdue getting two kills and Caitlyn Newton chipped in one to save set points, but Wisconsin was able to side out each time on the Boiler’s serve. Rettke eventually rotated back into the front row and clinched the set with back-to-back kills, 29-27. The Badgers hit .429 during the set.

Purdue got down early in set three and that was it for the Boilers. Wisconsin ran out to a 10-2 lead as Purdue miscues piled up. The Boilers never got it going on offense as they hit -0.086 in the final set.

Caitlyn Newton led Purdue with 13 kills but hit only .171. Newton also served up two aces. Blake Mohler who was back in the lineup for Purdue after having missed the Eastern Michigan match tallied nine kills while hitting .294 to go with three blocks. Hayley Bush finished with 33 assists. Moe Hornung was the leading defender with 12 digs.

Dana Rettke posted 12 kills, .476 hitting, an ace, and six blocks for the Badgers.

Wisconsin out-blocked Purdue 8-5.

Minnesota Recap

The Gophers were without their starting setter Saturday evening but it made little difference as Stephanie Samedy lit up the Boilers to the tune of 21 kills and .288 hitting, three aces, and 11 digs for good measure to get the double-double in the three-set match. Reserve, Bailey McMenimen kept the Gopher offense rolling putting up 45 assists while picking up 12 digs to earn herself a double-double. Minnesota had plenty of opportunities in transition as libero CC McGraw got up pretty much everything hit towards her as she racked up 24 digs.

Samedy had it going on early as she tallied nearly half her kills, 10, in the opening set. Purdue led 10-8 then Samedy went on a run to pull Minnesota in front. Samedy scored five of the next seven points as Minnesota went up 14-11. Purdue drew within one three times but each time the Gophers sided out. Later a stretch of three of four points ended in Boiler hitting errors as the Gopher lead grew to 21-16.

Minnesota looked to be on their way to blowing out the Boilers in set two, but Purdue made it close late. The Gophers hit nearly .500 through the first part of set as they went up 20-10. Desperate for a spark Shondell turned to his bench. Emma Ellis came on in relief of Maddy Chinn, Jael Johnson for Shavona Cuttino, and Maddie Schermerhorn for Caitlyn Newton in the back row. With the new lineup Purdue finally put some runs together, 4-0 run to cut the lead to 21-14, and 5-0 to draw within four, 23-19. The Boilers were finally able to put the ball away and they got help from Gopher miscues. In end the though the margin was too much as Minnesota won by four, 25-21.

After having closed set two strong, The Boilers matched the Gophers blow for blow up til the bitter end as Minnesota won 25-23; there were 12 ties and seven lead changes in the final stanza. Minnesota led 22-20 when Purdue mounted one last run. The Boilers followed up a kill with back-to-back blocks to pull in front 23-22. The Gophers sided out though to draw even. Samedy then dropped in a short serve for an ace to get Minnesota to match point. Without a setter on the floor as McCutcheon had subbed in Ellie Husemann for a bigger block Minnesota got an out of system kill in transition from their middle blocker to clinch the match, 25-23.

For the Gophers Regan Pittman posted 10 kills and .304 hitting. Alexis Hart also hit over .300 as she recorded nine kills and eight digs. Adanna Rollis finished with 12 digs as the Gopher defense finished with 74.

Grace Cleveland posted a double-double with 11 kills and 11 digs to go with three blocks for Purdue. Emma Ellis was one of only two Boiler hitters to hit over .250 as she got six kills in two sets of action. Hayley Bush put up 31 assists. Jena Otec led the Boiler defense with 20 digs.

Purdue was outhit .149-.250 they did have the blocking advantage though 7-4.

What Went Wrong

The obvious is the errors that killed them late in each of the close sets. The service errors against Wisconsin were brutal. Late in the set you have to put the ball in play and give your defense a chance to make a play. Rettke was out of the game so it wouldn’t have been a sure point even if the Badgers got a perfect pass.

Late hitting errors have been common this season as Purdue tightens up late in sets. Aggressive swings are great but the hitters have to recognize the situation and what they matchup is for that particular set. They don’t need to hit their best shot, just their best shot for that scenario. Purdue is a pretty good blocking team and their floor defense is good; just keep the ball in play and play defense.

The reigning Big Ten Setter of the Week definitely did not look the part this weekend. Everything, timing, location, and decision making, was just a little off for Bush which impacted the offense. Against Minnesota, Purdue had a favorable matchup on the left pin when the undersized McMenimen, 5’9, was in the front row, but never really took advantage of it.

Purdue’s passing also held them back at times, but the bigger issue was that no one was terminal in either match. Cleveland and Newton were both pedestrian which makes it very, very hard for Purdue to win.

What Went Right

The subs came in and did their jobs, not much otherwise went right for the Boilers.

Big Ten Standings

Standings Conf. Pct. Overall Pct. Streak Most recent Big Ten Games
Standings Conf. Pct. Overall Pct. Streak Most recent Big Ten Games
Nebraska 2-0 1.000 10-1 0.909 W3 W 3-2 @ ILL, W 3-0 @ NW
Penn State 2-0 1.000 9-2 0.818 W3 W 3-0 vs MSU, W 3-0 vs RUT
Minnesota 2-0 1.000 8-2 0.800 W7 W 3-0 vs IU, W 3-0 vs PUR
Michigan 2-0 1.000 9-3 0.750 W3 W 3-0 @ RUT, W 3-0 vs OSU
Wisconsin 2-0 1.000 6-4 0.600 W2 W 3-0 vs PUR, W 3-1 vs IU
Michigan State 1-1 0.500 10-2 0.833 W1 L 0-3 @ PSU, W 3-0 vs MARY
Ohio State 1-1 0.500 8-6 0.571 L1 W 3-1 @ MARY, L 0-3 @ MICH
Illinois 1-1 0.500 6-5 0.545 W1 L 2-3 vs NEB, W 3-0 vs IOWA
Iowa 1-1 0.500 7-6 0.538 L1 W 3-1 @ NW, L 0-3 @ ILL
Indiana 0-2 0.000 11-4 0.733 L2 L 0-3 @ MN, L 1-3 @ WIS
Purdue 0-2 0.000 8-3 0.727 L2 L 0-3 @ WIS, L 0-3 @ MN
Northwestern 0-2 0.000 9-5 0.643 L2 L 1-3 vs IOWA, L 0-3 vs NEB
Maryland 0-2 0.000 8-6 0.571 L2 L 1-3 vs OSU, L 0-3 @ MSU
Rutgers 0-2 0.000 6-7 0.462 L4 L 0-3 vs MICH, L 0-3 @ PSU
Current Standings as of 9-30-19

AVCA Rankings Week 5

  1. Baylor (54)
  2. Nebraska (7)
  3. Stanford (1)
  4. Pittsburgh (1)
  5. Penn State
  6. Texas
  7. Minnesota
  8. Washington
  9. BYU (1)
  10. Marquette

(first-place votes)

While not a unanimous number one, Baylor is the lone unbeaten team left and number one for the first time in program history. Stanford lost at home to Washington opening the door for Baylor’s ascent. Cal who was the only other unbeaten heading into conference play lost the Cardinal earlier in the week.

Ranked Big Ten Teams: #2 Nebraska, #5 Penn State, #7 Minnesota, #13 Wisconsin, #17 Purdue, #18 Illinois, RV Michigan

Purdue is back in action this weekend at home. Friday at 8:00 ET on BTN they’ll face Northwestern. Sunday Purdue will be on ESNPU at 3:00 ET as they take on No. 18 Illinois.