Purdue (23-9) won a four set decision over SMU Thursday night to advance to the second round of the NCAA Tournament. SMU gave Purdue all it could handle but collapsed at the end of the match. Annie Drews had an off night, but the rest of the offense picked up the slack.
SMU started the match well getting an early 4-0 lead with some offense from their back row. Purdue struggled offensively through the whole set (nine hitting errors, six from Annie Drews) but never got down more than four points. Down 20-17 Annie Drews put down two kills and Sam Epenesa added another to tie the set. SMU answered, but three points later Purdue took the lead with an Epenesa kill, 22-21. SMU tied the set again, but the Boilers didn't relinquish the lead as Purdue got to set point, 24-23, with the help of an SMU hitting error. Lydia Dimke committed a service error and Drew's sixth hitting error gave the Mustangs set point. SMU returned the favor missing their service attempt. The Mustangs redeemed themselves getting 2 kill froms Abbey Bybel to win the set 27-25.
Purdue was much improved in the second set racing out to a 14-4 lead committing only two errors during the stretch. Purdue appeared to be in control, but slipped a little. SMU capitalized on Purdue errors and started converting on offense winning eight of ten points to draw within four, 16-12. Up 18-14 Purdue won seven of the next 10 to close the set out, winning 25-17. Dimke subbed in for Drews, who improved little from the first set to the second, toward the end of the set. Purdue had much better ball control during the second set and were able to feed their middles. Danielle Cuttino and Faye Adelaja who had a kill a piece in the first set finished the second set with five and three kills respectively.
The third set was a close contest; the largest lead was three points. On two different occasions Sam Epenesa registered kills to put Purdue up three, 12-9 and 14-11. Down three SMU ran off four in a row to take the lead, 15-14. Purdue tied the set twice before taking the lead back, 20-19, after a big solo block from Epenesa. SMU came back and retook the lead the lead with a kill, 22-21. Lydia Dimke served an ace to tie it back up and Epenesa put down her fifth kill of the set to get Purdue to set point, 24-23. SMU answered and earned two set points, both times Purdue extended the set with kills from Faye Adelaja. Annie Drews who returned to the line-up midway through the set put down a kill to give Purdue their second set point, 27-26. The Mustangs couldn't find the court on their attack giving Purdue the 28-26 win. Purdue outhit SMU .459-.326.
Early on the fourth set looked like a repeat of the third. Halfway through the tide turned and Purdue dominated the second half of the set. In early going neither team was able to assert themselves. After a Faye Adelaja kill cut SMU's lead to one, the Mustangs put together a 3-0 run to go up four, the largest lead of the set to that point. Down 15-11 Purdue and SMU reversed fortunes; up to that point Purdue had committed six hitting errors. SMU did the same as Purdue went on a 14-1 run to close the set, winning 25-16.
Faye Adelaja led a quartet of Boilers who recorded double digit kills with 14, hitting .440. Annie Drews finished with 13 kills. Danielle Cuttino put down 11 hitting .474 and contributing on seven blocks. Sam Epenesa also hit 11 kills. Ashley Evans put up 51 assists and had four blocks. Alexa Smith led with two aces. Amanda Neill finished the night with 21 digs. Kate Workman was great in the back row as well pulling up 12 digs. Purdue hit .280 and had 11 blocks. SMU hit .179 to go with five blocks.
Purdue will face Texas (26-2) in the next round at 7:00 ET (Friday Night) on the Longhorn Network. Texas beat Fairfield in three sets. Texas is led by Outside hitter Amy Neal. Neal is undersized at only 5'9 but puts down over 4 kills a set and was named the Big Twelve Player of the Year. The Longhorns have lots of options though besides Neal.
MB Molly McCage Sr. 2.08 kills/set, .369 hitting percentage, .97 blocks/set, 1st team All-Big Twelve
DS Kat Brooks Sr. 2.11 digs/set
S/DS Nicole Dalton Jr. 1.74 d/s
L Cat McCoy So. 0.21 aces/set, 4.09 d/s, 2nd team All-Big Twelve
OH Amy Neal Sr. 4.28 k/s-30th in the country, .276, 0.46 aces/set-14th, 2.34 d/s, Big Twelve POY, 1st team
MB Chiaka Ogbogu Jr. 2.84 k/s, .415-14th, 1.29 b/s-37th
MB Morgan Johnson Fr. 1.24 k/s, .289, .91 b/s
DS Lauren Beard Fr. 1.69 d/s
OH Paulina P. Cerame Jr. 3.03 k/s, .286, 1st team All-Big Twelve
S Chloe Collins, Jr. 11.27 assists/set-27th, 1st team All-Big Twelve
OH Yaazie Bedart-Ghani Fr. 1.39 k/s, .305, .86 b/s, All-Freshman team Big Twelve
TEAM 14.27 k/s, .316-2nd, 1.26 aces/set, 14.41 d/s, 2.54 b/s
OPPONENTS 11.81 k/s, .171-24th, .92 aces/set, 13.23 d/s, 1.77 b/s
MB Faye Adelaja, Jr. 2.34 k/s, .405-20th, .89 b/s
MB Danielle Cuttino So. 2.04 k/s, .352, 1.19 b/s
S Ashley Evans So. 11.04 assists/s-29th, 2.38 d/s
Opp Annie Drews Sr. 4.26 k/s-31st, .257, .69 b/s
OH Sam Epenesa Sr. 2.07 k/s
OH Azariah Stahl So. 1.81 k/s
OH/DS Alexa Smith Fr. 2.13 d/s
DS Brooke Peters Fr. 0.29 aces/set
DS Kate Workman Sr. 1.26 d/set
L Amanda Neill Sr. 3.96 d/s, .25 aces/set
TEAM 13.88 k/s, .264-24th, 1.22 aces/set, 14.04 d/s, 2.34 b/s
OPPONENTS 12.17 k/s, .190, 1.31 aces/set, 12.76 d/s, 1.82 b/s
While Purdue has looked good at times this season, this match will show us exactly how good we really are. Texas is physical and skilled. It also is incredibly hard to beat the Longhorns in Gregory Gymnasium. In the last 12 years Texas has only dropped 12 home matches. Back in 2010 Purdue almost put another mark in the loss column when the then #16 Boilers played #9 Texas in the regional final. That year Purdue defeated #1 Florida to reach Elite Eight and face Texas. In the match against Texas Purdue setter Jaclyn Hart was injured in the first set. Purdue won the first set, but lost the match in four sets as Hart did not return to the match.
Texas did suffer a four set loss at home this season to #11 Florida. The Longhorns also lost a match on the road at TCU in five sets. Purdue had two opponents in common with Texas this season, LSU and Nebraska. Both squads swept the Tigers. Texas needed five sets to beat Nebraska in Austin. Purdue dropped a home match to the Huskers in three sets. Texas leads the series with Purdue 5-2.
There is a lot Purdue could improve on from the SMU match. There were stretches when setter Ashley Evans had trouble putting the ball in good spots for hitters and this is especially true for the middles. Purdue has to get Cuttino and Adelaja involved in the offense early and as often as they can. Both of them are efficient and don't commit many errors. Also the more attention they draw the more things will open up for the pin hitters. Annie Drews will have to rebound from a lackluster performance against SMU if we are going to have a chance. Drews could barely find the court in the first set. She got better as the match went on, but we can't afford to have our All-Big Ten performer on the bench. Lydia Dimke did play well off the bench in her place but she is not a go-to hitter.
Serving will be very key, Purdue has to be aggressive and they have to serve receive well. The Mustangs never aced us but we did not handle all serves cleanly. Ball control is going to be paramount against Texas. If we can't pass, we can't set the middles, if we can't set the middles Annie Drews becomes our only offensive threat. We are not especially balanced offensively, in our better matches though we have been. This means we have to get production from our outsides as well. Stahl and Epenesa played well against SMU and need to keep playing at that level, if not better to get the upset.