Purdue (22-7, 13-5) notched an impressive victory over then #3 Minnesota Saturday night. It took a few extra sets and lot of extra points, but Purdue took down the high-powered Gophers with a balanced attack; four Boilers registered double-digit kills.
Purdue got back on track in the fifth after a disappointing fourth set, leading start to finish. Purdue got it started with a Sam Epenesa kill, Gopher hitting error, a huge block on Daly Santana by Danielle Cuttino and Annie Drews, and an Amanda Neill ace. Purdue stumbled a little and Minnesota took advantage of some Purdue hitting errors and drew within one, 5-4. Faye Adelaja turned it on put up two blocks and slammed home a kill to help Purdue go up 10-5. Minnesota scored two of the next four. The next point Cuttino and Drews combined for a block then Drews got a solo block to get Purdue to match point, 14-8. This time Minnesota only denied us once; Cuttino put down a kill to win the set 15-9.
The teams played each other evenly in the early going of set one. Minnesota went up 11-8, but Purdue fought back tying the set at 11 and 12 before taking over the lead. Purdue took the lead and started to run with it, going up 17-13 then 19-14. Minnesota came right back though and tied the set at 20. Not long after Annie Drews put Purdue up 23-21 and Faye Adelaja put down two kills to seal the win 25-22.
Neither team won more than two points in a row til the teams approached the halfway point of the second set. With the score tied at 11 Purdue went on a three point run. The Gophers countered with a four point run to go up 15-14. It was the Boilers turn to answer with a four point run of their own. Minnesota hung around for a little longer, but Purdue closed the set on a 5-1 run to win 25-19. Purdue outhit Minnesota .300-.051.
Purdue had momentum going into the third set, but it was hard to sustain. After a forgettable hitting performance in the second set Minnesota started pick it up outhitting Purdue .396-.265 in the marathon set. Purdue got down 5-9 early, sputtering out of the gate. The Boilers picked it up though, back-to-back Drews-Cuttino blocks capped off a 6-1 run to go up 11-10. Three Drews kills down the stretch put Purdue up 19-14. Minnesota didn't fade away; they quickly cut Purdue's margin to one. That one point margin would haunt the Boilers. Kills by Azariah Stahl and Drews got Purdue to their first match point, 24-23. Purdue served for the match eight more times, each time Minnesota answered with a kill to tie things back up. Both teams gave the other opportunities that neither could take advantage of. Minnesota committed two errors, both times they redeemed themselves tying it back up. Purdue had a substitution error that resulted in 5'4 Linnea Rohrsen playing across the front row instead of 6'1 Faye Adelaja. The Gophers never capitalized on it, in fact they had a hitting error on an attempt where Purdue had no blocker up. Somehow Purdue survived and Rohrsen rotated to the back row and Danielle Cuttino came in to play middle. With the set tied at 32, Cuttino got called for over the net, which was highly suspect. Finally playing with the advantage Minnesota got a kill to win the set 34-32.
It was going to be incredibly hard for Purdue to win the fourth after the soul-crushing end the third set and they just weren't up to the task. Minnesota took the momentum from the third set and carried it through fourth set hitting .520 to Purdue's .143. It took Minnesota some time to get rolling but Purdue couldn't keep up once they did. Purdue got down 17-11, they were able to draw within three, but never any closer. Minnesota won 25-19.
Minnesota was led by Hannah Tapp- 22 kills, .513, 2.5 blocks; Daly Santana- 21 kills, 16 digs, two aces; Paige Tapp- 16 kills, .367; Samantha Seliger-Swenson- 66 assists, 11 digs; Dalianliz Rosado- 20 digs. Minnesota hit .244 and had 10 blocks.
Faye Adelaja had a great match with 16 kills, .536 hitting, and contributing on eight blocks. Annie Drews had a double-double 16 kills, 13 digs, and was a part of seven blocks. Danielle Cuttino recorded 12 kills, .440 hitting, and 3.5 blocks. Sam Epenesa put down 12 kills. Ashley Evans also had a double-double 59 assists, and 11 digs. Amanda Neill served up three aces and pulled 18 digs.
Annie Drews didn't keep pace with Santana across the net, but Purdue had a very balanced offensive attack that Minnesota couldn't defend. Our outside hitters did their job. Unlike past matches where Purdue has really struggled from the left side Epenesa and Stahl played within themselves and got their kills and limited their errors. It was demoralizing to see Purdue blow nine match points, but the girls were resilient essentially dominating in the fifth set. Purdue plays Michigan State Wednesday, but win a Saturday over #10 Wisconsin could help Purdue secure home-court for the first two rounds of the NCAA Tournament. The team will need a similar performance to get past the Badgers.
Purdue's match against Sparty (16-13, 8-10) will be at 7:00. Way back during the first weekend of conference play Purdue beat the Spartans in four sets; Purdue dropped the first set. Michigan State was led by Brooke Kranda's 19 kills. Rachel Minarick put up 32 assists and Abby Monson had 17 digs. Three Spartans had two blocks. .Sam Epenesa led Purdue with 16 kills hitting .394; four Boilers hit over .300 that match. Amanda Neill had 16 digs. Ashley Evans was the leading blocker with 3.5.
Big Ten teams: #7 Penn State, #10 Wisconsin, #14 Purdue, #16 Ohio State, #18 Illinois, receiving votes- Michigan
The following Big Ten teams are in the RPI top 50: 3 Minnesota, 4 Wisconsin, 7 Nebraska, 9 Penn State, 11 Ohio State, 24 Illinois, 30 Michigan, 32 Purdue, 42 Northwestern