After a big run to the Elite 8 last season, the volleyball team will pick up where they left off last season ranked as the 8th best team in the country. Despite being in the Top 10, three other Big Ten teams rank above the Boilers:
#1 Penn State (defending national champs)
#6 Wisconsin (last year's runner-up)
#7 Nebraska (who Purdue swept last year)
Outside of the Top 10, 3 other Big Ten teams made the Top 25:
#16 Michigan State
(In addition, Michigan received 23 votes.)
For those who remember last year's tournament, all 8 teams mentioned above played in the tournament, and 7 of them made it to the Sweet 16 (Michigan lost in the 1st Round to LSU in 5 sets after blowing a 2-0 set lead), with Penn State, Wisconsin, Nebraska, and Purdue all advancing to at least the Elite 8.
The main question going into this season is can Purdue keep the momentum alive from last season? It will be a difficult transition to fill in the loss of Catherine Rebarchak, Rachel Davis, Carly Cramer, Katie Griffin and Hilliary Fox to graduation.
Val Nichol and Kiki Jones have done a great job over the last 3 years, but their senior leadership and skill will be extremely important given the high expectations coming into this season. Juniors likes Annie Drews, Sam Epenesa, and Amanda Neill will also be expected to carry this team if they want to survive the brutal Big Ten season and make a deep run in December. The sophomores have to look past any mistakes they made as a freshman and be ready to set into the limelight to help this team. The freshman class also comes in as one of the best in the country, so who can make an early impact and prove that they are worth the hype?
Ultimately, it comes down to playing as a collective unit to win the game. Purdue has a target on their back with their Top 10 ranking. They deserve their high ranking, but they need to prove it throughout this season and make another run in December.
Purdue will also face #14 San Diego August 29th at 7:30pm. I plan on getting tickets and coming down from Ann Arbor for that game. You should too if you're in town for the football game as it will be an exciting way to open up the regular season.