After a successful weekend at home the team is on the road this weekend in St. Louis playing in the Marcia E. Hamilton Classic, hosted by St. Louis University. Purdue will face Arkansas-Pine Bluff, Brigham Young, and St. Louis. The tournament will be a homecoming for senior Sam Epenesa who is from nearby Glen Carbon, IL.
Friday evening Purdue will take on Arkansas-Pine Bluff at 5:30. UAPB is winless so far this season after being swept by their opponents at Mississippi State's Bulldog Classic. The Golden Lions return 10 letter winners and four starters from last year's 12-21 squad. Key players on this year's squad are Courtney Brand (3.00 digs/set), Whitney Harris (1.00 blocks/set), Lauren Corby (1.25 blocks/set), Hadley Swartz (2.67 kills/set), Jennifer McClendon (3.00 kills/set), Kaitlynn Shearer (2.5 kills/set), Tara Jenkins (2.33 digs/set), and Taylor Zaeske (3.33 digs/set). Looking at the stats it seems UAPB employs a variety of lineups.
Saturday afternoon (1:00 P.M.) Purdue takes on their toughest non-conference opponent on their schedule, #12 BYU. BYU was the national runners-up last season (30-5) and return 10 letterwinners and five starters. The Cougars have made a coaching change since last season; Shawn Olmstead took the men's volleyball head coach position and turned the women's team over to his sister Heather who was on his staff. BYU is 2-1 so far after beating Chicago State and #7 North Carolina and getting swept by then #22 USC. BYU graduated some talent but most of their core is back. Leading the team this season are Alexa Gray (4.00 kill/set, .80 blocks/set), Amy Boswell (2.10 kill/set, .312 hitting %), Cosy Burnett (2.00 kills/set, 1.9 blocks/set), Whitney Howard (.387 hitting %, 1.00 blocks/set), Ciara Barker (4.7 digs/set), and Camry Willardson (2.1 digs/set, 9.2 assists/set). BYU is physical along the net and will be a test for Purdue as they average 3.35 blocks/set.
Purdue will end their weekend with a 8:00 P.M match with hosts St. Louis. Last season St. Louis upset Purdue on Belin Court in five sets. The Billikens finished last season with a 21-10 record and third place finish in the Atlantic 10. SLU returns all seven starters and 12 letterwinners; five different Billikens who averaged 2+kills/set are back. Even with most of the team back Saint Louis has struggled out of the gate falling to 1-3. Contributors this season are Danielle Rygelski (3.57 kills/set, 3.14 digs/set, 8 aces), Nenye Okoro (2014 A-10 ROY, 1.87 kills/set, 3.73 digs/set), Megan Gilbert (1.6 kills/set, 2.13 digs/set), Lauren Leverenz (2.81 kills/set and .312 hitting %), Taylor Paulson (2.19 kill/set, .94 blocks/set, .324 hitting %), Mackenzie Long (3.19 digs/set, 5 aces), and Meredith Boe (11.06 assists/set).
Purdue returned to the Top 25 coming in at 24. The top five are as follows: Penn State, Stanford, Texas, Florida, and Nebraska. Other ranked B1G teams are #6 Illlinois, #13 Wisconsin, #19 Michigan State, #22 Ohio State, and Michigan received votes.
Around the B1G
So far Maryland, Illinois, Michigan, Nebraska, Northwestern, Penn State, and Purdue are all undefeated. Three of the Big Ten's ranked teams have suffered their first losses; Michigan State lost to #10 Kentucky, Ohio State lost to Wyoming who is now reciving votes, and Wisconsin lost to #20 Western Kentucky. Minnesota who traditionally does well in volleyball is winless after dropping a five-set match to Texas A&M and getting swept by Stanford.