This past weekend #8 Purdue(8-1) played in the Holiday Inn University Plaza Invitational down in Bowling Green, Kentucky. Purdue started their weekend with a sweep of Austin Peay State University Friday afternoon. Friday night though they suffered their first defeat of the season; Purdue lost in five sets to host Western Kentucky. The Boilers were able to regroup on Saturday and take down Western Michigan in four sets.
Purdue started their weekend off right against the Lady Governors of Austin Peay. After trading barbs through the whole first set Purdue finished the set with the advantage 25-23. Middles Danielle Cuttino and KiKi Jones both had four kills to lead the Boilers in the set. Purdue jumped out to the advantage in the second set going up 14-4. Later on APSU drew with five, but kills from Sam Epenesa, Val Nichol, Azariah Stahl, and Annie Drews helped Purdue close the set 25-17. Like the second set Purdue raced out to a big lead early, 13-3. Austin Peay then drew within seven but two Kaisley Fisher kills helped Purdue stretch their lead to twelve. Purdue won 25-14.
Sam Epenesa led the Purdue offense with 13 kills to go with 8 digs. Annie Drews had 10 kills. Epenesa and Drews both hit over .400. Ashley Evans had 13 digs and Amanda Neill contributed 10. Val Nichol and Lydia Dimke split setting responsibilities they had 24 and 14 assists respectively.
Friday night Purdue couldn't overcome Western Kentucky's balance and consistency as the Hilltoppers won their fourth match of the five match series with Purdue. Only one Hilltopper had double digit kills but they had 14 less errors than the Boilers. Purdue started the first set slowly as five Purdue errors buoyed WKU to a 12-5 lead. Purdue then came roaring back to go up 16-14. Western Kentucky controlled the next stretch and went up 23-21, but a four point run by the Boilers awarded them with the first set point. The teams then took turns denying the other on set point til WKU clinched it at 29-27. Annie Drews had 11 kills in the first set. The second set developed slower than the first. The teams were tied at nine before Western Kentucky broke it open getting out to a 21-14 lead. Purdue cut the lead to three but didn't get closer down the stretch losing 25-20.
Purdue was able to reverse their fortune in the third set. After getting down early the Boilers went on a 12-2 run to go up 15-9. The Hilltoppers were able to cut the Purdue lead to one, but were never able to retake the Boilers. Purdue won 25-21. Eager to continue the match Purdue dispatched WKU quickly in the fourth set. Little separated the teams early, but a 14-5 run allowed Purdue to go up 21-9. The set ended on a WKU hitting error, 25-13.
Western Kentucky took the early lead from Purdue and never relinquished it winning 16-14 in the fifth set. After being down three Purdue drew within one, 8-7, but Boiler errors undid the run and WKU went up 12-8. Down 14-10 Purdue went on a four point run to force a Topper TO. Out of the timeout though Western Kentucky finished the match with a kill and block.
Annie Drews had a career night posting 33 kills which ties her for fourth most in program history. KiKi Jones added 12 and Faye Adelaja had 11. Amanda Neill had a match-high 27 digs. Ashley Evans pulled up 10. Val Nichol had a assist-dig double-double with 59 and 15.
Purdue ended their weekend in Kentucky with a match against Western Michigan. Purdue's offense put on a show in first set hitting .433. Purdue went up 10-2 after a 9-0 run. Later they went up 20-10 before finishing the set 25-14. Purdue surrendered their lead early in the second set and was never able to get it back as the Broncos held on to win 25-19. Down 16-15 Purdue couldn't hold as Western Michigan re-upped their lead to five and then six at the end. In the third Purdue was forced to ward off multiple Bronco comeback attempts. Up 19-17, the Boilers finished the match on a six point run 25-17. Drews and Jones had seven and five kills in the set. Ready for the match to be over Purdue dominated the Broncos in the last set. A 10-1 lead was stretched to as many as 13 as Purdue won 25-12.
Annie Drews finished with 23 kills. KiKi Jones had 13 kills, hitting .545. Sam Epenesa added 12 kills. Neill led the backrow with 17 digs. Ashley Evans tacked on 15. Val Nichol put up 55 assists. Drews and Nichol were on the All-Tournament team.
After two weekends away Purdue will play in West Lafayette this weekend hosting the Active Ankle Challenge. Friday morning they'll take on Saint Louis. The Billikens are 8-3. Friday night Purdue will face the winless Morehead State Eagles. Last season Morehead State made the NCAA tournament. Val Nichol's younger sister Bailey is a setter for the Eagles. The last match of the weekend will be between Purdue and Notre Dame. ND is 1-7. The game Saturday night at 8:00 P.M. will be played in Mackey Arena and aired on BTN. Lower bowl tickets are $5 and upper bowl tickets are $2.
After winning the Kennesaw State University Invite Purdue dropped a spot in the rankings going from #7 to #8. They switched spots in the rankings with Florida State who was also undefeated. Like last week they were joined in the Top 25 by six other B1G teams; #3 Penn State, #4 Wisconsin, #11 Nebraska, #12 Illinois, #19 Minnesota, and #23 Michigan State. Michigan and Northwestern also received votes.