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Purdue Volleyball: NCAA Volleyball Tournament Preview

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The NCAA Women’s Volleyball Tournament opens play today. #7 Purdue earned a first round bye and awaits the winner of UCF and High Point. Conference and AVCA Region honors have been announced and the Boilers set program records for most honorees.

Purdue Athletics

The first round of the 2020 NCAA Women’s Volleyball Tournament gets underway at noon. High Point and UCF will play at 3:30. Purdue will face the winner on Thursday also at 3:30 on ESPN3.

After the selection show the NCAA stayed on their hot streak of sub standard resources for women’s sports as early reports of broadcasts without commentators, a lack of locker rooms, and inferior flooring and subfloor caused outrage among coaches and fans.

The NCAA has said to have fixed all these issues or non-issues as they claim in the above statements.

The Field

Full Bracket here

The top seed in this year’s tournament is Wisconsin (13-0), the runners-up from 2019 only dropped three sets this season however they only played 13 matches. Between their own Covid pauses and other teams in the Big Ten the Badgers played a light schedule. They missed Nebraska and Penn State, Ohio State was not on their schedule they faced a Grace Cleveland-less Boiler squad in week one and only got one match in against Minnesota who was without their starting setter. That’s not to say Wisconsin is overrated more that they have not been tested this season. The veteran squad though is ready for redemption.

Wisconsin is joined in their quadrant by the surprise team of the season #9 Ohio State, #8 Florida, and #16 BYU.

The Kentucky Wildcats (19-1) earned the #2 seed in this year’s tournament. Helmed by Muncie native Craig Skinner, Kentucky won its fourth consecutive SEC title this season. The Wildcats have experience and a high powered offense. Alli Stumler and the Skinner sister duo (not related to the head coach), Avery and Madi lead Kentucky. The lone blemish on their record is a five-set loss to Florida.

As the seven seed Purdue also plays in this quadrant as do #10 Oregon and #15 Washington State.

Big Ten Player of Year Stephanie Samedy has led a young, oft-banged up Gopher (15-2) squad to the number three seed. Minnesota split their series with Nebraska and dropped their lone match with Wisconsin; Purdue pushed the Gophers to five sets in both matches but Minnesota managed to escape. The Gophers made the Final Four in 2019 after an injury riddled season and will look for Samedy and fellow senior Regan Pittman to lead them back.

Minnesota will be challenged by #6 Washington, #11 Louisville, and #14 Utah.

The final top seed went to Texas (23-1). The Longhorns were undefeated in the Big 12 in the fall and played non-conference matches in Oklahoma and Texas this spring which included four wins over Baylor; the Rice Owls knocked off the Longhorns. Always super talented the question is whether Texas can deliver results. Texas is looking to rebound from their Sweet Sixteen loss at home in 2019.

The other seeded teams in their quadrant are #5 Nebraska, #12 Baylor, and #13 Penn State.

Match Preview

Since the NCAA contracted the tournament field to 48 teams this year the top 16 seeds earned first round byes instead of hosting since the whole tournament is being played in Omaha. Purdue will face the winner of Central Florida and High Point.

Purdue has standouts at every position and their defense this season has been one of the best in the country along the net and in the back court. For Purdue, in their first match they just need to pass well and the rest will take care of itself. High Point is undersized and UCF is fairly one dimensional.

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

Jr. 5’10 S 2 Hayley Bush*- 10.62 A/S (33), 2.82 D/S

Sr. 6’1 OH 4 Caitlyn Newton*- 3.85 K/S, 2.01 D/S, 0.45 SA/S (46)

Jr. 5’7 DS 10 Marissa Hornung- 2.77 D/S

Fr. 6’2 MB 17 Taylor Trammell~- .397, 1.59 B/S (5)

Jr. 6’2 MB 18 Jael Johnson- 2.26 K/S, .375 (38), 1.16 B/S

Sr. 5’10 DS 19 Jena Otec*- 4.59 D/S, 0.27 SA/S

Jr. 6’3 OH 20 Grace Cleveland*- 3.26 K/S, .299, 1.42 B/S (17)

*All-Big Ten First Team

~All-Freshman Big Ten Team

Purdue Team Stats

Team Stats Kills/Set Hitting % Assists/Set Aces/Set Digs/Set Blocks/Set
Team Stats Kills/Set Hitting % Assists/Set Aces/Set Digs/Set Blocks/Set
Purdue 13.18 .249 12.22 1.28 15.99 2.97 (4)
Opponents 13 .183 12.08 0.86 15.42 1.76

High Point

High Point(16-0) ran the table in the Big South this season. Led by their stalwart libero, Abby Bottomley, the Panthers are making their fourth NCAA Tournament appearance in the last five years and fifth overall. Back in 2017 High Point took a set off the Boilers in the NCAA Tournament. Should the Panthers advance it would be their first NCAA Tournament win.

Key Players

So. 6’2 OH 4 Madison Smith@- 3.13 K/S, 2.0 D/S

So. 5’11 S 7 Maria Miggins$- 6.29 A/S

Jr. 6’0 MB 11 Gabrielle Idlebird#- .390 (31), 1.08 B/S

So. 6’1 MB 13 Kaley Rammelsberg@- 2.45 K/S, .460 (3)

Jr. 5’7 S 15 Mackenzi Thornburg$- 4.90 A/S, 0.27 SA/S

So. 6’1 OH 17 Annie Sullivan@- 3.0 K/S, .290

Sr. 5’6 DS 19 Abby Bottomley@!- 5.14 D/S (31), 0.53 SA/S (30)

@ First-Team All Conference

# Second-Team All Conference

$ Honorable Mention All Conference

! Big South Player of the Year

Head Coach Ryan Meek was the Big South Coach of the Year

High Point Team Stats

Team Stats Kills/Set Hitting % Assists/Set Aces/Set Digs/Set Blocks/Set
Team Stats Kills/Set Hitting % Assists/Set Aces/Set Digs/Set Blocks/Set
High Point 13.8 .287 (13) 12.86 1.8 16.27 2.04
Opponents 9.35 .101 (6) 8.61 0.92 14.39 1.71

UCF

The Knights (16-1, 8-0) earned a third straight American Athletic Conference title this season as they earned their 11th NCAA Tournament appearance, third in a row. Last time in the tournament they took out FSU before losing to Florida. UCF’s only loss came against Florida State this season. The Knights are led by the American Player of the Year McKenna Melville. Similar to the Boilers UCF is a great blocking team.

Key Players

So. 5’8 L 4 Arianna Arjomand- 3.34 D/S, 0.29 SA/S

So. 5’9 S 6 Dresden Pass- 4.9 A/S, 2.15 D/S, 0.27 SA/S

Sr. 6’2 MB 7 Nerissa Moravec=- .410, 1.38 B/S (21)

Jr. 6’1 OH 20 McKenna Melville&+- 4.58 K/S (11), .278, 2.88 D/S, 0.27 SA/S

Jr. 6’2 MB 21 Kathryn Wesolich- 1.1 B/S, 0.38 SA/S

Sr. 6’0 RS 32 Anne-Marie Watson+- 2.3 K/S, 1.02 B/S

& American Athletic Conference Player of the Year

+ First-Team All Conference

= Second-Team All Conference

UCF Team Stats

Team Stats Kills/Set Hitting % Assists/Set Aces/Set Digs/Set Blocks/Set
Team Stats Kills/Set Hitting % Assists/Set Aces/Set Digs/Set Blocks/Set
UCF 13.72 .264 12.67 1.95 (11) 14.78 2.85 (7)
Opponents 11.42 .159 10.77 1.03 14.68 1.64

Season Recap

Purdue posted one of its best conference records this season, 14-6, which earned them fifth in the league. Purdue started their season 2-4 having to face #1 Wisconsin and then #6 Minnesota in the early weeks. Purdue rounded in to form though over the course of the season. They split their series with Penn State and swept the upstart Buckeyes. Purdue stumbled in the last match of the regular season dropping a five setter against Illinois.

Final Big Ten Standings

Spring 2021 Standings

Team Record
Team Record
Wisconsin 13-0
Minnesota 15-2
Nebraska 14-2
Ohio State 15-3
Purdue 14-6
Penn State 9-5
Northwestern 4-6
Illinois 7-11
Michigan 4-9
Rutgers 6-14
Iowa 4-16
Maryland 4-16
Michigan State 3-12
Indiana 3-15

Big Ten Honors

Four Boilers earned First Team Honors from the league this season, most in program history. Senior, libero, Jena Otec led the way bringing home Purdue’s first Defensive Player of the Year Honor. Hayley Bush, Grace Cleveland and Caitlyn Newton joined her on the First Team. Taylor Trammell made the All-Freshman Team and Marissa Hornung was the Purdue’s Sportsmanship Award honoree.

AVCA All-Region Honors

The aforementioned five Boilers above earned All-Region honors also setting a program record. Bush, Cleveland, Newton and Otec were first team selections, the prerequisite honor to be an AVCA All-American. Trammell earned an honorable mention nod.