No. 13 Purdue played two tough matches this past weekend and came away with one win. On Friday night Purdue got down two sets to none before they won the last three to win the match. Saturday night Purdue couldn't make enough plays to beat No.10 Illinois and lost in four sets.
Northwestern scored the first point of the set and never gave up their lead en route to a 25-20 lead. Northwestern stretched to their advantage to as many as ten during the set. Purdue tried to make a comeback, but it was too little too late. Down 22-12, Purdue cut Northwestern's lead to 24-20 before the Cats finished the set off. Similar to the first set, Northwestern held off Purdue rallies to get the victory in the second set 25-20. Northwestern took the lead from Purdue early and got out to a 10-6 lead. The lead grew to six before Purdue cut it back down to three. Again Northwestern increased their lead, this time to 20-13, before Purdue cut it to three. The Wildcats though were able to finish the set off.
Backs against the wall Purdue showed their resolve to win a tough third set. Purdue was down 7-1 early before they started to claw back in the match. Down 13-9 the Boilers went on a 11-3 run. Down four Northwestern came right back and took a two point lead, 23-21. Not ready for the match to be over Purdue ran off four straight to win the set 25-21. The fourth set was just as close. Purdue went out to an early 7-3 lead. After Northwestern cut it to one the Boilers stretched their lead to to 15-11. Northwestern called a timeout and was able to get some momentum out of the break and eventually tied the set at 18. The teams tied later at 21, 21, and 23. Purdue got the first set point but Northwestern ran off two points to earn a match point. Purdue returned the favor and scored two before being denied again on set point. This time though the Boilers didn't let Northwestern score again as they converted two kills to win the set 28-26.
Purdue played with the lead the entire fifth set and warded off a Northwestern comeback in the 15-11 win. Three Northwestern errors helped spring the Boilers to 5-1 lead early. Northwestern cut the margin to two, but the Boilers scored four straight to temporarily keep them at bay. Down 11-5 the Wildcats scored four of the next five to make things interesting. Fortunately for Purdue, Northwestern wasn't able to get any closer the rest of the way.
KiKi Jones led a balanced Boilermakers attack with a career high 19 kills to go with five blocks and .390 hitting percentage. Sam Epenesa recorded 15 kills and Annie Drews had 13. Ashley Evans had a double-double with 13 kills and 16 digs. Amanda Neill had 23 digs in the match. Kate Workman had a career best 14. Val Nichol put up 55 assists. Lydia Dimke had four aces and 12 assists.
Northwestern and Purdue both hit .245 in the match. Purdue finished with five aces to NU's one, but the Boilers also missed eleven serves.
Purdue pushed Illinois but couldn't get past the Illini Saturday. Illinois overtook Purdue early in the first set and kept the advantage till the finish. Purdue found themselves down seven at one point and was able to cut the deficit to three, but they never got any closer the rest of the way. Purdue lost 25-20. Early in the second the score was tied at 6. From then Purdue worked to take the lead and finally did going up 14-13. The lead didn't last long though as Illinois regained the advantage at 17-16. A point later Purdue called a timeout was able to regroup and win the next four points. UI came right back and knotted things up at 21 and then 23. Purdue had the first set point opportunity and failed to convert. An Illini kill and Purdue error allowed Illinois to win the second 26-24.
Like the second, the third was a back and forth game. Purdue struck first and went out to a 8-3 run. Illinois used a 6-1 run to tie it at nine. Purdue managed to keep their lead before being overtaken at 14-13. After finding themselves down 18-17 Purdue ran off four straight to get the lead and get closer to a set point. Two Annie Drews' kills got Purdue to their first set point 24-22. Illinois denied Purdue on two set points during a three point run earning them their first set point. An Illinois error gave Purdue an extra life. Purdue used the extra life to earn two more set points, converting the second, winning 28-26.
Purdue dug themselves a big hole in the fourth and actually got out of it but weren't able to win the set and extend the match. A 5-3 lead for the Boilers quickly turned in a 9-5 deficit as Illinois scored six straight. Illinois' four point lead grew to nine, 21-12. Purdue came alive and ran off a 12-2 run to go up 24-23. The Boilers had seven kills, two blocks, and an ace during the run. Illinois stepped up though like they had other times earlier in the night and put down two kills and stuffed Purdue to win the set and match 26-24.
It was abysmal hitting night for the Boilers only managing a .056 hitting percentage. Sam Epenesa and Annie Drews both finished with 13 kills. Danielle Cuttino added 11 to go with 7 block assists. KiKi Jones also had seven; Drews had six block assists. Amanda Neill led the backline with 16 digs and Ashley Evans had 15. Val Nichol had 16 digs and 37 assists for her ninth double-double of the season.
Illinois out blocked Purdue 20-14.
After splitting their matches this weekend Purdue, 8-2, is now in a 3-way tie for second with Penn State and Illinois. Wisconsin is alone in first at 9-1.
Purdue remains at No. 13 in this week's rankings. Wisconsin leads the conference at No. 4. They're followed by No. 6 Penn State, No. 10 Illinois, No. 14 Nebraska, and No. 17 Ohio State. Minnesota received votes. An unbeaten fell this past week, Oklahoma swept Texas dealing the Longhorns their first loss. Stanford, Washington, and Florida State are the remaining undefeated teams.
This week Purdue will play two home matches that will televised on BTN. Wednesday at 7:30 Purdue will take on the Wisconsin Badgers. Saturday at 8:30 Purdue will square off against Minnesota.
Wisconsin is currently 18-2 and 9-1 in conference play. The Badgers are 5-2 against teams in the Top 25. Back in September they lost to Washington and they dropped their conference opener against then No. 3 Penn State. Last season the Badgers eliminated Purdue from NCAA Tournament in the Elite Eight before eventually losing to Penn State in the National Championship. Wisconsin is coached by Kelly Sheffield. Sheffield is a native of Muncie and first learned the game from Don Shondell. Lafayette native and former Purdue player Brittany Dildine is one of his assistants. She's been coaching with Sheffield for five years now following Sheffield from Dayton University to Wisconsin.
Badger Haleigh Nelson is 26th in the country with a .397 hitting percentage. Nelson is just one of a trio of Badger hitters who hit over .300. Nelson and Dominique Thompson are 7th and 11th in the conference with 1.2 and 1.09 blocks/set respectively. Ellen Chapman leads Wisconsin with 3.06 kills/set. Lauren Carlini, the presumed future setter for the National team is 13th in the nation with 11.40 assists/set. Libero Taylor Morey is 7th in the country with 5.52 digs/set
Wisconsin averages a .283 hitting percentage. Wisconsin is fifth in the country with 14.67 kills/set and they lead the conference with 16.63 digs/set.
Heading into this weekend Minnesota is 14-7 and 4-6 in conference play. The Gophers have suffered two three-game skids in conference play. Their victories have came against Ohio State, Maryland, Rutgers, and Iowa.
Santana Daly leads the Gophers with 3.9 kills/set and .4 aces/set which are both third best in the conference. Sarah Wilhite also posts 3+ kills a set. Twins Paige and Hannah Tapp post 1.4 and 1.26 blocks per set respectively. Paige is 8th in conference with a .353 hitting percentage.
Minnesota is the B1G's best blocking team with 2.89/set. The Gophers are 4th best in serving with 1.31 aces per set.
Purdue's is hitting .275 for the season and is 10th best in the country with 14.39 kills/set. KiKi Jones currently has the 5th best hitting percentage in the conference, .365 and is 10th in blocking, 1.11/set. Faye Adelaja is sitting in 9th in hitting percentage, .349. Annie Drews remains the conference kill leader with 4.06/set.