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#15 Purdue Opened Conference Play With Two Wins

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Purdue(12-2) opened conference play at home coming away with wins over Michigan and Michigan State.

The Purdue Volleyball team used extra sets to take down Michigan and Michigan State as they opened conference play. Purdue went to five sets with the Wolverines and four with the Spartans.

Friday night against Michigan Purdue got off to a slow start and never were able to threaten. After a 5-5 tie Michigan went up 9-4. From there they had a minimum three point advantage til the finish, 25-18. Annie Drews had seven kills in the set. Purdue turned up the intensity in the second set to win 25-17. Early ties prevented Purdue from separating themselves from Michigan, but later they were able to go up 20-8 after winning 15 of 18 points. Purdue had a little trouble closing the set though and were denied three times on set point before Drews finished it off.

Purdue hit .486 in the third set in an error-less hitting performance. Purdue went up 7-4 before  Michigan tied it and overtook them to go up 13-12. The Boilers then went on a 8-1 run. After getting down 20-14 Michigan answered with their own 6-2 run. But a block, UM missed serve, and Drews kill allowed Purdue to close the match 25-21. Drews had eight kills in the set. Michigan controlled the beginning of fourth set not surrendering their lead til midway through. Down 14-12 Purdue went on a five point run. Michigan responded with their own 5-1 run to go up 19-18. This time Michigan held on to their lead through the end.  A Purdue service error gave UM their first set point which the converted to win 25-22.

Purdue saved some of their best for last. Purdue secured the early advantage by dominating at the net. Annie Drews had three blocks in a row and Danielle Cuttino added another as Purdue went up 6-0. The Wolverines did make a comeback attempt cutting Purdue's lead to two, 9-7 but they couldn't sustain their threat. Purdue closed the match on a 6-2 run featuring another stuff this time from Sam Epenesa. Purdue won the match on a Michigan service error 15-9.

Annie Drews had 23 kills in the match; she hit .439. Sam Epenesa had a double-double with 10 kills and 10 digs. Ashley Evans, KiKi Jones, and Danielle Cuttino all had nine kills. Amanda Neill led with 12 digs. Evans added 10. Val Nichol had a double-double with 48 assists and 10 digs. The team finished with 12 blocks. Cuttino contributed on five.

The win Friday night was the program's 800th. The program is in its 40th season (800-540-1).

Despite not playing their best ball Purdue was able to defeat Michigan State. A slew of MSU errors allowed Purdue to go up 10-6 early in set one. Michigan State was able to settle down though eventually took the lead from Purdue, 16-14. Purdue was able to answer with 8-1 run. Ashley Evans had two kills and two blocks during the run. MSU didn't go away though cutting Purdue's lead to two, 23-21. Two Drews' kills ended the match 25-22. Solid back row play and a balanced offensive attack buoyed Purdue to a win in the second set. Purdue took the early lead from MSU to go up 8-6. After the set was tied at 10 Purdue went on to a 16-12 advantage. State regrouped after and cut the margin to one, 19-18. Ashley Evans answered with three kills to give Purdue a three point lead. MSU denied Purdue twice before Azariah Stahl put one down for the 25-22 win. Five different Boilers had three kills in the set.

An extended third set featured 17 ties, 12 lead changes, and 4 set points. After an 8-all tie MSU went up 12-10. The teams then traded 5-1 runs as Michigan went up 18-16. Purdue upped the ante and went on a 6-1 run only to see Michigan State tie it again at 22. A Cuttino block gave Purdue its first set point, 24-23 but they were denied. Next MSU had a set point but Drews was able to put one down. A Michigan State hitting error gave Purdue its second set point at 26-25 but MSU went on to win the next three points to win the set 28-26. The Spartans outhit the Boilers .325-.245. MSU carried their momentum from the third set into the fourth going up 8-4. Purdue tied it up three times before getting the lead 12-11. MSU tied it again at 14 but five kills between Jones and Drews helped Purdue go up 20-17. MSU wasn't done though after a timeout they went on a 6-2 run to bring the score to 23-22. Unfortunately for MSU they used up the last of the luck as Purdue won 25-23 as State finished the match with three consecutive hitting errors.

Drews led with 20 kills. KiKi Jones added 12 to go with 4 block assists and 9 digs. Ashley Evans had a double-double with 12 kills and 12 digs. Danielle Cuttino had 10 kills while hitting .444 to go with four block assists.  Amanda Neill had 15 digs. Kate Workman served up 2 aces to go with 13 digs. Val Nichol turned in a well-rounded performance with 48 assists, 15 digs, 5 kills, and 4 block assists.

This next week Purdue will face Rutgers on Friday night and Maryland on Sunday afternoon. They were swept by both Illinois and Northwestern this past weekend. Rutgers is 7-8 and 0-2 in conference. The Scarlet Knights are led by freshman outside Meme Fletcher with 2.79 kills/set. Middle blocker Eden Frazier hits .321 and averages 1.09 blocks/set. Their other middle Mikaela Matthews also averages a block per set. Rutgers is third best in league with 14.41 digs/set. Libero Ali Schroeter is third best in the B1G with 4.56 digs/set. Maryland is 7-6 and 0-2 in conference. They are 0-3 against ranked teams, losing to #5 Washington, #9 USC, and #16 Illinois this season. The Terrapins are led by their outside hitters Adreene Elliott and Ashleigh Crutcher who average 3.93 and 3.35 kills/set respectively.

Penn State, Northwestern, Illinois, Nebraska, and Purdue all won their first conference matches and have 2-0 records in conference play. Statistically Purdue is third in the B1G, behind Wisconsin and Penn State, averaging 14.7 kills/set. They also have the second best hitting percentage second to Penn State, .298. KiKi Jones is second in the B1G in hitting percentage .441. Faye Adelaja is 7th .396. Annie Drews leads the Big Ten in kills with 205 (4.27/set). Val Nichol is fourth in the conference with 10.9 assists/set.

Update:

Purdue remained at #15 in rankings released on Monday (9/29). Fellow B1G teams in the Top 25 are #3 Penn State, #6 Wisconsin, #8 Nebraska, #16 Illinois, and #18 Minnesota. Also Northwestern received votes.