Purdue (11-4, 1-3) dropped both matches against their Top 3 foes this weekend, falling first to #3 Wisconsin in five sets and then #2 Minnesota in three.
Purdue pushed Wisconsin to five sets before falling. Purdue was up two sets to one but couldn’t close it out, dropping their third five-set match at home this season.
After getting the early lead in the fifth Purdue fell apart committing four errors giving Wisconsin a 7-3 advantage. Purdue cut it two later, but Wisconsin left no doubt ending the match on a 6-2 run, winning 15-9. Purdue hit .000 during the set.
Purdue came ready to play in the first set, winning the first point and never surrendering the lead. Wisconsin also helped committing a dozen errors. Wisconsin cleaned it up late in the set whittling a six point Purdue lead to one on an overpass kill, 20-19. Blake Mohler repaid the favor on the next point to keep Wisconsin at bay. Purdue won the set 25-21.
In the second set it was Purdue who committed too many errors. Purdue dug themselves multiple holes. Each time Purdue would cut the lead to one or two, then Wisconsin would answer with another run. Purdue fell 25-20.
With the match tied at a set a piece, a barrage from the Boiler pin hitters gave Purdue the set advantage. Azariah Stahl put down five kills and Danielle Cuttino and Sherridan Atkinson both added four kills as the team hit .552. With the score tied at 12 Purdue went on a 9-3 run, eventually winning 25-18.
The teams traded runs in the fourth with Wisconsin landing the last blow. Up 17-16 Purdue let Wisconsin score six straight. Purdue cut the lead to three, but their run ended there. Wisconsin won the set 25-21.
Danielle Cuttino paced Purdue with 18 kills, 1.5 blocks, while hitting .333. Sherridan Atkinson put down 10 kills to go with 1.5 blocks and a .389 hitting percentage. Faye Adelaja also registered 10 kills. Natalie Haben pulled up 17 digs and Brooke Peters added 12. Blake Mohler was active along the net with 3.5 blocks. Purdue hit .193 and matched Wisconsin with 9 blocks. Tionna Williams led a quarter of Badger hitters with double digit kills with 17, while hitting .500.
Sunday, Purdue got outstanding play from their outside hitters Danielle Cuttino and Azariah Stahl but could not get past the juggernaut that is Minnesota. Purdue hit better than their season average, but the mistakes piled up, especially late in the match.
Minnesota jumped on Purdue from the early going taking advantage of Purdue errors. A 2-1 Purdue lead quickly disappeared as the Gophers ran off five straight, including two Purdue errors. Both offenses ramped up as the set carried on. Purdue was never able to score more than two points in a row as Minnesota slowly but steadily stretched their lead to eight, 24-16. Purdue fought off two set points before falling 25-18. The Gophers hit .531 on the set, Purdue .406.
Purdue hung around with Minnesota til middle of the second set before fading. A Danielle Cuttino kill drew Purdue within one, 12-11. Three straight Boiler hitting errors however gave Minnesota some breathing room. The Gophers grew their lead down the stretch, continuing to hit at a high clip and making Purdue pay for miscues. Minnesota won the second set 25-18, hitting .500 to Purdue’s .303 effort.
Purdue had opportunities late in third set but mental breakdowns doomed the Boilers. After trailing the whole set Cuttino put one down and tied the score at 19. Blake Mohler got a clutch solo block on Minnesota’s Sarah Wilhite’s back row attack to give Purdue the advantage. Minnesota tied it back up at 21 then on a scramble play Sherridan Atkinson free balled the ball out of bounds putting Minnesota in front. Minnesota repaid the favor missing a serve and Azariah Stahl dropped a tip kill over the block to get Purdue the lead, 23-22. After a successful dig, Mohler and Evans both went after the second hit in back court resulting in a double hit being called tying the score at 23. On the ensuing point a controversial double hit call on Ashley Evans gave Minnesota match point. After Azariah Stahl wasn’t able to find the floor Sarah Wilhite ended the match for the Gophers with a cross-court kill, 25-23.
Azariah Stahl and Danielle Cuttino put down 34 of Purdue’s 47 kills, contributing 17 each. Stahl hit .517 to go with an ace, and 1.5 blocks. Cuttino hit. 382 and also had 1.5 blocks. Blake Mohler hit .444 to go with 1.5 blocks. Natalie Haben led the defense with nine digs. Purdue hit .323 and out blocked Minnesota 5-2. Minnesota hit .457, led by Sarah Wilhite’s 19 kills and .621 effort.
In the Minnesota match it was disappointing watching Ashley Evans, ball handling and how she ran the offense against Minnesota. Evans put up multiple bad sets and failed to get either middle hitter involved. It was a miracle that Stahl and Cuttino were able to put so many balls down seeing as they were always double blocked and Minnesota knew where every set was going. Minnesota on the other side ran different routes; both pins, middle of the court and back row; which kept the Purdue blockers guessing. Multiple times the Gophers went up against a single blocker or even no blocker at all. Minnesota passed better and made their setter’s job easier, but even when the pass was there Evans sent it to the outside hitter. I understand feeding the hot hand, but two hitters do not make a team. Faye Adelaja is extremely efficient, she makes the most of her limited opportunities and Mohler too is serviceable but they only had 21 attempts combined. Today goes to show you aren’t going to beat a top team with just two hitters. Aside from the offense and setting the ball Evans had multiple instances where she was going after the same ball as a teammate which ended in an error, one time they both let it drop. That just shouldn’t happen, she needs to be more assertive and run a better offense.
Next Purdue faces Iowa Friday in Iowa City at 8:00. Then on Sunday they’ll get a shot at another Top 10 team when they face Nebraska at 3:00 on ESPN2.