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Purdue Volleyball Mortar Board Premier Preview

Purdue Volleyball will kick off their season this weekend hosting the Mortar Board Premier. Purdue will host Virginia Commonwealth University, Austin Peay State University, and Ohio University.

Purdue starts this season right outside of the Top 25. This year's team returns 11 letter winners and five starters including the libero. Since last season Val Nichol and KiKi Jones have graduated, and freshman Christina Ambrose has transferred. The team has added four freshman Blake Mohler, Alexa Smith, Brooke Peters and Shavona Cuttino. Shondell has also added a new assistant, Todd Garvey, form Mercy Academy in Louisville, Kentucky.

Last season Purdue finished 5th in the B1G with a 22-10 over record and 12-8 conference record. Despite being ranked all season long the team missed the NCAA Tournament. This year's squad will look to take the team back the tournament. Top returners are senior opposite Annie Drews (3.92 kills/set and .257 hitting percentage), senior outside Sam Epenesa (2.43 kills/set), junior middle Faye Adelaja (1.97 kills/set, .77 blocks/set, and .344 hitting percentage), sophomore middle Danielle Cuttino (1.71 kills/set, 1.01 blocks/set, and .291 hitting percentage), senior libero Amanda Neill (3.66 digs/set and 19 aces), sophomore setter Ashley Evans (2.34 digs/set), and sophomore setter Lydia Dimke (24 aces). Senior Kaisley Fisher is finally healthy and could also be a contributor for the team this season. As a team the Boilers hit .257 on the season.

Purdue's first match-up will be against VCU Friday night at 7:00 P.M. Purdue has faced VCU twice in the past winning both contests. The Rams finished the 2014 season with a 17-13 and 9-5 record. They return eight letter winners. Last season VCU was led by All-Atlantic 10 performer Kalah Jones who posted 3.27 kills/set and 1.83 digs/set. Other top performers back this season are Jessica Young (2.51 kills/set), Uzoamack Ibeh (1.32 kills/set and .58 blocks/set), and Rebekah Strange (3.16 digs/set and 31 aces). Strange is a former teammate of Brooke Peters at Avon High School. As a team the Rams hit .208 and served up 149 aces.

On Satuday morning at 11:00 A.M. Purdue will take on Austin Peay. Purdue won the only previous match-up between the teams last season. The Governors return eight letter winners and five starters. In 2014 APSU went 14-19 and 8-8 in the Ohio Valley Conference. Despite having eight letter winners on the roster the Governors will be forced to replace the production of their top two hitters and three players who averaged 3+ digs/set. Key returners for APSU are Sammie Ebright (2.07 kills/set and 1.83 digs/set), Christina White (2.01 kills/set and 2.01 digs/set), Ashley Slay (1.95 kills/set and .7 blocks/set), April Adams (2.8 digs/set) and Aubrey Marsellis (2.24 digs/set and 8.07 assists/set).  The Governors hit .199 and served up 156 aces.

Purdue will end the weekend with a match against the Bobcats of Ohio University at 7:30 P.M. Last season the Bobcats won their third consecutive MAC regular season title finishing 23-6, 16-0. Unfortunately they didn't win their conference tournament and missed out on the NCAA Tournament. Ohio looks prime to have another successful season returning 9 letter winners and five starters. While Ohio will be missing 4 kills/set from departed senior Kelly Lamberti they have plenty of talent on the roster. Jamie Kosiorek is the top returning hitter with 2.69 kills/set and 46 aces. Karin Bull is another returning hitter (1.86 kills/set and 1.16 blocks/set). MAC Player and Setter of Year Abby Gilleland is back after averaging 1.45 kills/set, 10.64 assists/set, 2.45 digs/set, and 28 aces. MAC Defensive Player of the Year Meredith Ashy will look to anchor a tough backrow after posting 4.89 digs/set last season. Last season Ohio hit .242 and served 180 aces.