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Purdue Volleyball Regional Round-Up

Purdue saved five match points in the fifth set as they came back and beat BYU in the Sweet Sixteen. The Boilers will face regional host No. 3 Pitt Saturday afternoon at 4:00 on ESPNU with a spot in the Final Four on the line.

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Purdue (26-6, 15-5) was on the winning end of a streaky back and forth match as the Boilers rallied from down 14-10 in the fifth set to win and return to the Elite Eight.


The Boilers started fast in set one then dropped back to back sets; 25-12, 16-25, 21-25. Down a set Purdue dominated set four, 25-13, to force a pivotal fifth set. Backs against the wall Purdue showed their resolve winning 18-16.

BYU got the fast start in set five, a 5-1 lead, but Purdue never wavered. Down 14-10 and forced out of system, Grace Cleveland sent over an awkward free ball that the Cougars mishandled and let drop after first contact. The match should have been over, a kill on a free ball is nearly automatic. That mistake would come back to haunt the Cougars.

With new life, Jena Otec went back to the service line and dropped in back-to-back aces. After a hitting error that tied the set, 14-all, BYU finally sided out. Purdue got a quick kill to stay alive then got another gift from BYU as their middle caught the top of the net on her follow-through giving the Boilers match point. BYU sided out with a quick kill to deny Purdue, 16-all. The Boilers handled the ensuing serve as Caitlyn Newton slammed one home to get the Boilers another match point. The Cougars were in system and set the slide but Raven Colvin and Emma Ellis were there to block it right back and clinch the match, 18-16.

The Boilers were ready in set one taking it right to BYU. Purdue ran out to a 7-2 lead, getting an early block and forcing two other Cougar hitting errors. The Boilers extended their lead, 19-8, with a 6-0 run on Newton’s serve as Purdue got another block and the BYU errors kept piling up. The Boilers hit .379 and tallied four blocks in the first set as they held BYU to -0.179.

BYU flipped the script in set two as Purdue’s passing broke down. The Boilers appeared to be in control early in set two, 8-5, but they fell apart when Kenzie Koerber went back to serve for the Cougars. Koerber only had one ace over a 10-0 run but Purdue could not run their offense. It didn’t get any easier for the Boilers as the next two servers for BYU picked up three aces as the Cougars cruised to the set win.

Purdue’s passing improved in set three but they were still doomed by a couple of poor rotations. BYU grew a 7-6 lead with a 5-0 run as Purdue surrendered another ace and two hitting errors. Purdue got into a sideout rhythm and drew within one, 17-16, but got stuck in the same rotation as a mini 3-0 run gave BYU some breathing room.

Down a set Purdue got to work quickly, running out to a 6-0 run on Moe Hornung’s serve. The Boilers got a solo stuff and five kills as they converted in transition. Purdue passing stepped up and only failed on two sideout opportunities.

Purdue had the advantage in hitting, blocking, and serving; .275-.151, 15-10, 9-8.

Caitlyn Newton had a match-high 20 kills. Grace Cleveland posted 14 kills while hitting .379. The duo both had two aces, seven digs and three blocks each. Raven Colvin was clutch for the Boilers racking up a career-high 11 kills hitting .444 to go with eight blocks. Shondell went with Jael Johnson over Taylor Trammell and it paid dividends offensively as Johnson hit .588 getting 10 kills with no errors. Hayley Bush put up 54 assists and racked up six blocks. Jena Otec led with 18 digs and three aces. Moe Hornung pulled up 13.

Pitt Preview

The Panthers (29-3, 15-3) advanced with a sweep over Kansas; 25-19, 25-21, 25-18.

Purdue owns the head-to-head series with Pitt 11-0 with the last win coming in 2013. The two teams played a number of common opponents with matching results against each team, both beat Washington State, Tennessee, Penn State, Kansas, and BYU and lost to Louisville. Pitt dropped two to Louisville and their only other loss came against Georgia Tech.

Like Purdue, the Panthers (29-3, 15-3) are trying to get the monkey off their back and breakthrough to the Final Four. Pitt has emerged as a top program in the ACC under coach Dan Fisher who is in his eighth season in Pittsburgh. Fisher has led them to three ACC Championships but they’ve suffered some tough postseason losses. Last season the Panthers were up two sets on Washington in the regional final before falling in five. In 2019, the Final Four was in Pittsburgh and the Panthers got the No. 6 seed but they didn’t even make it past the first weekend as they were upset by Cincinnati in round two in five sets.

Another similarity between the teams is their experience. Pitt’s lineup is nearly all juniors, seniors, and graduates filling nearly every spot in their lineup. In the last month though they have gone with freshman Rachel Fairbanks to hit and set in their 6-2 offense (six hitters, two setters; always using a back row setter. Purdue runs a 5-1; five hitters, one setter. Same setter for all six rotations). Pitt boasts a powerful offense but they get blocked a lot which bodes well for Purdue.

The Boilers need to find some consistency set to set. We all love blowout sets but there can’t be major letdowns from one set to the next. Offensively, the Boilers, except for Newton, played very clean, fingers crossed it goes that way again.

Key Players and Stats - Purdue

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

Sr. 5’10 S 2 Hayley Bush*- 10.22 A/S, 2.48 D/S

Gr. 6’1 OH 4 Caitlyn Newton*- 3.93 K/S, 0.31 SA/S

Fr. 6’1 MB 7 Raven Colvin~- .348, 1.23 B/S (44)

Sr. 5’7 DS 10 Marissa Hornung- 2.76 D/S

So. 6’2 MB 17 Taylor Trammell- .349, 1.35 B/S (13)

Sr. 6’2 MB 18 Jael Johnson- 1.27 B/S (31)

Gr. 5’10 DS 19 Jena Otec!- 4.57 D/S

Sr. 6’3 OH 20 Grace Cleveland*- 3.15 K/S, .293, 1.13 B/S

Team Averages

Team Kills/Set Hitting % Assists/Set Service Aces/Set Digs/Set Blocks/Set
Team Kills/Set Hitting % Assists/Set Service Aces/Set Digs/Set Blocks/Set
Purdue 13.07 .254 11.82 1.13 15.37 2.99 (3)
Opponents 12.48 .170 11.44 1.0 14.66 1.59

*All-Big Ten First Team

! All-Big Ten Second Team

~All-Freshman Big Ten Team

Key Players and Stats - Pitt

Jr. 5’8 S 1 Lexis Akeo- 5.09 A/S

Jr. 5’10 L 4 Ashley Browske- 3.03 D/S

Gr. 5’11 RS/MB 5 Chinaza Ndee@- 3.05 K/S, .279

Sr. 5’8 OH 13 Leketor Member-Meneh@- 3.13 K/S, .278, 2.38 D/S

Sr. 6’2 MB 21 Serena Gray@- 2.06 K/S, .400 (18), 0.33 SA/S, 1.07 B/S

Gr. 6’0 OH 23 Kayla Lund@- 3.14 K/S, .259, 2.25 D/S

@ All-ACC First Team

Team Averages

Team Kills/Set Hitting % Assists/Set Service Aces/Set Digs/Set Blocks/Set
Team Kills/Set Hitting % Assists/Set Service Aces/Set Digs/Set Blocks/Set
Pitt 14.17 (11) .284 (12) 13.2 (7) 1.43 13.29 2.42
Opponents 11.16 .187 10.32 0.88 11.03 2.56

Elite Eight Matchups

In order of play

No. 3 Pitt vs No. 6 Purdue

No. 1 Louisville vs No. 8 Georgia Tech

No. 4 Wisconsin vs No. 12 Minnesota

No. 2 Texas vs No. 10 Nebraska

The ACC and Big Ten are both guaranteed to get a team in the Final Four as the Elite Eight features two intra-conference clashes and one throwback to Nebraska’s days in the Big 12. Louisville swept Georgia Tech in both matches this season. The Badgers swept Minnesota the first time then had to go five in their second matchup.

Pitt, Louisville, Georgia Tech, Wisconsin, and Nebraska all got sweeps in the Elite Eight. Minnesota had to go five to get by No. 5 seed Baylor. Texas looked to be in trouble last round when they got down two sets to none to No. 15 Washington before getting in gear.