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Purdue Volleyball Drops First Conference Match

Purdue (17-3, 7-1) dropped their first conference match of the season at the hands of Penn State.

No. 14 Purdue Volleyball had a long weekend that saw them face off against No. 7 Penn State and No. 22 Ohio State. On Friday night Purdue dropped a close five set match to Penn State. Saturday night though, Purdue was on the winning end of a five set match.

Purdue pushed Penn State put couldn't pull out the victory. The back and forth match featured back and forth sets. Purdue was down early in set, 5-1, but they were able to get into the match and go up 8-7 on an Annie Drews ace. Drews then powered the offense to a 14-10 lead. Penn State was able to answer with a 8-3 run and take the lead back. From then the teams traded barbs. Penn State got to set point first 24-23. Danielle Cuttino converted a kill to extend the match, but the Nittany Lions answered with a kill and ace to end the set 26-24. In the second it was Purdue who got the early lead, 5-2. Penn State responded by scoring six straight. Down 8-5 Purdue got themselves back in the set and got a two point lead at 15-13. Not to be outdone Penn State battled back and went up 21-19. Purdue had the last run though as Sam Epenesa and Drews combined for five kills to help Purdue get to win 25-23. In the first two sets there were a combined 26 ties and 11 lead changes.

After the break Purdue came out guns blazing, and they needed it to hold off Penn State in the third. Purdue outhit Penn State .438-.250. Even though Purdue led the set from start to finish it was not an easy win. It was a game of runs and thankfully Purdue's runs were just longer than Penn State's. After Purdue got up 9-4 with the help of four Drews kills Penn State cut the margin to two at 12-10. Purdue went up 17-11 and Penn State came right back bringing the score to 18-17. The rest of the way out PSU didn't get closer than two as Purdue won 25-22. Purdue relinquished the lead early in the fourth and they never were able to get it back. After Purdue lost their 3-1 lead they stayed close with Penn State never getting down by more than three. The Boilers tied the score three times but never overtook the Lions. Down 23-20 Drews and Epenesa drew Purdue within one. Penn State then got to set point which they were denied on their first chance but they converted their second opportunity to force the fifth set, 25-23.

Sadly for Purdue all their best hitting had been used up in the earlier sets. Purdue registered three kills to Penn State's 10 in the final set. Penn State got the early lead and ran with it. A 4-1 advantage turned into 8-4, then 10-7. The Lions closed the set on a 5-2 run to get the win 15-9.

The two teams were close statistically in most categories. Purdue outhit Penn State .242-.216; both teams held the other below their season averages. The two teams had 65 kills each. What separated Penn State from Purdue though was serving. Penn State is traditionally tough serving team and they did just that against the Boilers. Setter Micha Hancock had six of the team's eleven aces. Purdue only had two. The teams had the same number of service errors, nine.

Penn State had three hitters record double-digit kills. Nia Grant hit .429 for the Lions.

Purdue was led by Annie Drews and Sam Epenesa who had 23 and 17 kills respectively. Danielle Cuttino hit .545 tallied seven kills and contributed on eight blocks. Amanda Neill had a match-high 19 digs. Ashley Evans added 13. Val Nichol had a double-double with 53 assists and 11 digs.

Another night, another five set match, this time Purdue came out on top. A balanced, efficient offense allowed Purdue to send the Buckeyes home with a loss. Purdue won the first set 25-19. The Boilers took the early lead from Ohio State to go up 6-5. The Buckeyes answered with a five point run which propelled them to a 14-9 lead. Purdue cut the margin to one, 16-15 with the help of three OSU errors. OSU scored two of the next three but their lead disappeared as Purdue came alive at the net. Purdue ended the set on a 9-1 run that featured four Boiler blocks. With the momentum from the first set Purdue quickly got up 10-4 in the second. Purdue stretched their lead to eight at 14-6. Purdue carried the advantage til 19-11. Ohio State tried to make a comeback attempt but they were only able to cut the margin to four. Purdue ended the set on a four point run, 25-17. Five different Boilers had two or more kills in the set.

The third set was much closer. Purdue and OSU split the first 12 points before the Buckeyes got a two point advantage. Purdue took the lead from them soon after and went up 14-11. After Ohio State tied it 15 Purdue went up 19-15. OSU then went on a 10-4 run to close the set 25-23. Gaining confidence after picking up the third set, Ohio State controlled the fourth. OSU won 25-17 out hitting Purdue .536-.357 committing only one hitting error. The Buckeyes got up 6-1 and never looked back. Purdue was able to cut the seven point margin to three, 18-15, but Ohio State ended the threat with a 7-2 run to finish off the set.

In the final set Purdue's offense was too powerful to contain as they won 15-9. Purdue hit .643 with only one error in 14 attempts. The teams traded points to get out to a 5-all tie. Purdue then went on a 5-0 run. Purdue kept a minimum five point advantage the rest of the way.

Sam Epenesa, Ashley Evans, Faye Adelaja, and Annie Drews all hit over .300. Adelaja and Evans hit north of .600 and each had nine kills. Drews had 21 and Epenesa put down 12. Adelaja, Epenesa, and Cuttino all contributed on five blocks. Amanda Neill had 11 digs. Val Nichol put up 53 assists and served up 2 aces.

Next weekend Purdue travel to the state of Illinois for two matches. Friday night they'll take on Northwestern and on Saturday they'll face Illinois. The match against the Illini will be aired on BTN.

Northwestern is 13-6 overall and 3-5 in conference play. Northwestern has not beaten a ranked team this season. They played San Diego and lost in three earlier this season; Purdue swept San Diego when they were in town this season. The Wildcats won three of their first four conferences matches but are currently on a four game skid. They did go four games with Ohio State, but this Saturday they gave Iowa their first conference win, losing in five sets. Middle blocker Katie Dutchman is third in conference in hitting percentage, .399. She averages 2.4 kills/set and .93 blocks/set. Their other middle Maddie Slater hits .338 and posts .97 blocks/set. Freshman outside Symone Abbott leads the Cats with 3.41 kills/set. Wildcat libero Caroline Niedospial is second in the conference pulling up 4.72 digs/set.

Illinois is 14-5 overall and 6-2 in conference play. In conference play they've lost to Wisconsin and Ohio State. They've already taken down Penn State and Nebraska this season. So far this season the Illini are 4-2 against teams in the top 25. They went out to Stanford early in the season and pushed the No. 2 Cardinal to five before losing. They also lost to current No. 17 UCLA on the trip out west.

Illinois is the fourth best hitting team in the conference (.266) and third best blocking team (2.7/set). The Illini are solid all around, many of the starters rank among the best in the conference in different categories. Jocelynn Birks is third in the B1G with 4.13 kills/set. Liz McMahon is 10th with 3.26/set. Birks also averages .30 aces/set which is good enough for 5th in the conference. Katie Stadick leads the conference with 1.4 blocks/set. Anna Dorn is fifth with 1.21/set; Dorn hits .341. Libero Brandi Donnelly is fourth in the conference with 4.44 digs/set.

Purdue (7-1) remains at the top of the Big Ten albeit in a tie with Wisconsin. Penn State and Illinois are tied for second at 6-2.

Annie Drew is remains the Big Ten kill leader with 4.21/set. KiKi Jones (.392) and Faye Adelaja (.359) are fourth and eighth respectively in hitting percentage. Jones is also 10th with 1.08 blocks/set

Despite losing to Penn State Purdue moved up a spot to No.13 in the latest rankings. Wisconsin is still the highest ranked team in the B1G at No. 5. They're followed by No. 7 Penn State, No. 10 Illinois, No. 14 Nebraska, No. 20 Ohio State, and No. 25 Minnesota. Michigan received votes this week.