No. 12 Purdue (19-7, 9-5) had to go with a different lineup Saturday night against the Hawkeyes (13-12, 5-9) and the result was not good. Annie Drews did not play because of an injury. In order to generate some more offense Val Nichol hit in addition to setting. Lydia Dimke was the other setter for the Boilers.
Purdue was up 7-6 early in the first set but the score would read 16-7 before they scored again. Iowa's kept a sizable advantage down the stretch as they won the first set 25-16. In the second set Purdue was up 22-20 but they let the lead slip away and Iowa won. The Boilers found themselves down 6-1 early but were able to rally and tie the score at 9. Purdue didn't get the lead though till they went on a 7-1 run after being down 17-13. Danielle Cuttino had four kills and one block in the run. Four points later Purdue still had a two-point advantage, 22-20. Iowa though fought right back and ended the set on a 5-1 run to win 25-23.
Despite Iowa's resiliency Purdue was able to win the third set. The Boilers turned an early 6-2 advantage into a 12-6 advantage with the help of two kills each from Nichol and KiKi Jones. The Purdue lead stretched to seven which the Hawkeyes cut to three on two occasions. A 5-2 run pushed the lead back to six, 23-17. Purdue got to set point on an Iowa hitting error but they were denied four times before Cuttino clinched it with a kill, 25-23.
Purdue had a little momentum early in the fourth set but it wasn't enough to carry them through the set. A 3-1 Purdue lead turned into a 6-all tie and then a 9-6 deficit. The Boilers cut the lead to one but that was all the closer they would get as Iowa went on an 8-2 run. Purdue cut the lead to five but the Hawkeyes quickly widened the gap to eight, 24-16. The Boilers held Iowa off and three match points but a hitting error ended any chance of a comeback win. Iowa won 25-19.
Val Nichol posted a triple-double with 13 kills, 20 assists, and 10 digs. Lydia Dimke posted a double-double with 12 digs and 30 assists. Azariah Stahl tied for the kills lead with Nichol, posting 13. Danielle Cuttino added 10 and KiKi Jones put down 9. Cuttino contributed on seven blocks. Purdue hit .181 in the match.
Lauren Brobst led the Iowa offense with 22 kills on the night. Iowa only had six blocks during the match but three different Hawkeyes had double digit digs. The Hawkeye win was their first over a ranked opponent since October 6, 2012.
With the loss to Iowa Purdue is now tied for fifth in the conference with Ohio State. Wisconsin remains in first at 13-1. They're trailed by Penn State, Illinois and Nebraska who each have one more loss than the preceding team.
Purdue fell to No. 16 in this week's rankings. Wisconsin remains at No. 4. No. 6 Penn State is the next Big Ten team, then No. 11 Nebraska, No. 12 Illinois, and No. 17 Ohio State.
This coming week Purdue hosts Maryland (9-16, 2-12) on Wednesday night and Northwestern (15-10, 5-9) on Saturday night.
Earlier in the season Purdue beat Maryland in four sets in College Park. Since the last time these two teams have played the Terrapins have gone 2-8; both victories came in five set matches with Rutgers. Maryland did manage to win a set against Ohio State in Columbus before falling to the Buckeyes. Ashleigh Crutcher continues to pace the Terrapin offense with 3.64 kills. Crutcher led the Terrapins with 15 kills in the four set lost to the Boilers in October. Hailey Murray is Maryland's biggest presence at the net averaging 1.03 blocks a game; she had two solo blocks and six block assists in the first match-up. Typically Maryland is outhit by opponents .145-.228.
When Purdue travelled to Evanston they came home with a five set win over the Wildcats. NU has since gone 2-3. Just this past week they won a five set match over No. 9 Illinois on Wednesday night. When they travelled to Champaign on Saturday however they lost in four sets. The previous contest between Northwestern and Purdue was close. Both teams hit .245. Kayla Morin had 22 kills for the Wildcats. Symone Abbott and Katie Dutchman added 14 and 12 respectively. Abbott is ninth in conference with a 3.31 kills/set. Dutchman and Savannah Paffen combined for over half of NU's 14 blocks. Dutchman hits .378. Libero Caroline Niedospial pulled up 34 digs.
It is unclear how long Annie Drews will be out. Her absence changes a lot of things for the Boilers. Without Drews on the floor Purdue has no go-to hitter. Someone else needs to step up in Drews' absence and if nothing else when Drews get back another hitter can take the pressure off Annie and make teams work harder to play defense. Switching up the lineup to have Val Nichol hit helps but it's not enough. Purdue needs Sam Epenesa and Azariah Stahl to become consistent contributors.
Purdue lacks a signature win this season. So far their most impressive win has come over current No. 17 Ohio State. Three of Purdue's losses have been against teams outside the Top 25. Additionally Purdue is only 2-4 against the Top 25. The Boilers can help their tournament resume if they win out. Knocking off Wisconsin would be a great way to end the regular season and give the team momentum heading into the tournament. The way Purdue has been playing though it seems unlikely. Wisconsin is on a roll and unless Purdue gets Drews back and someone steps up Purdue isn't tough enough to pull off the upset in Madison.