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Purdue Volleyball: NCAA Tournament Preview

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Purdue finished the regular season 29-9, 12-8 in conference (5th place) which earned them an at-large bid in this year’s tournament. Thursday night they’ll take on High Point in first round.

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Purdue begins their tournament run in Salt Lake City at the University of Utah. The Boilers face High Point (24-7, 16-0) in the first round. The Panthers earned an at-large bid after winning the Big South regular season title, but fell in the tournament championship to Radford in four sets.

The match will be Thursday at 6:30 ET and can be streamed on the Pac-12 Utah website.

The other match-up in the Utah sub-regional is the No. 11 Utes versus Cleveland State at 9:00 ET Thursday.

This is Purdue’s 19th NCAA Tournament appearance and 12th in 14 years; the Boilers are 20-11 in the tournament under Shondell and no team in program history has lost in the first round. Last season Purdue lost in the second round to No. 15 Missouri in four sets. Purdue’s best finish has been the regional finals, which they’ve advanced to three times, most recently in 2013.

Purdue made the tournament with 6-9 record against the RPI top 50, 4-5 against the top 25; the Boilers were 25th in the final RPI standings. Purdue had some damaging losses, losing to Ohio State, RPI 44, and Maryland, RPI 52, which hurt their chances of hosting as did the two losses to Michigan, RPI 29. Otherwise Purdue’s losses were to top ranked teams or teams ranked ahead of them; Kansas, Minnesota, Nebraska, and Penn State. Similar to the RPI top 25 Purdue went 4-5 against the AVCA top 25. Purdue’s signature wins this season were over Creighton (then- AVCA 7, RPI 10), Minnesota (5, 7), Wisconsin (10, 18), and Michigan State (10, 23) which buoyed Purdue’s resume. Purdue’s strength of schedule was 14th.

Match Preview

Purdue is playing great as of late and it’s due in large part to their ball control and Danielle Cuttino. With Cuttino back in the middle of the floor teams have to hit around her and track her on offense as she hits from just about anywhere along the net, not to mention how effective she is offensively. Purdue’s passing has come along as the season has wore on and Shondell is confident enough in it to throw Cuttino in back row so she can hit during serve receive. Big contributions from Cuttino and Sherridan Atkinson are what make this team go but solid contributions from Azariah Stahl and Blake Mohler will be key. As will the play of Caitlyn Newton, she just has to play within herself and not try to do too much. Ashley Evans does a good job moving the ball around is aggressive offensively to keep teams off-balance.

Key Players

class, height, position, # name , stats, (statistical rank nationally)
Positions: MB- middle blocker, OH- outside hitter, RS- right side hitter, DS- defensive specialist, L- libero, S- setter
Stats: K/S- kills/set, B/S- blocks/set, D/S- digs/set. .000- hitting percentage, A/S- assists/set SA/S- service aces/set

Jr. 5’9 L 3 Brooke Peters- 3.70 D/S

Sr. 6’1 S 5 Ashley Evans- 11.56 A/S (13), 2.20 D/S, 0.28 SA/S

Sr. 6’0 OH 10 Azariah Stahl- 2.31 K/S, .237, 2.36 D/S

Jr. 6’5 OH/RS 16 Sherridan Atkinson!- 3.48 K/S, .329, 0.69 B/S

So. 6’2 M 17 Blake Mohler- 2.02 K/S, .335, 0.86 B/S

Fr. 5’10 DS 19 Jena Otec- 0.31 SA/S

Sr. 6’4 OH 20 Danielle Cuttino!- 4.08 K/S (37), .334, 0.90 B/S

Purdue Team Stats

Comparison Kills/Set Hitting % Assists/Set Aces/Set Digs/Set Blocks/Set
Comparison Kills/Set Hitting % Assists/Set Aces/Set Digs/Set Blocks/Set
Purdue 14.28 (20) .301 (8) 13.26 (27) 1.31 13.17 2.33
Opponents 12.25 .213 11.50 1.19 11.17 1.59

! All-Big Ten

High Point Preview

This will be the first ever meeting between Purdue and High Point on Thursday. This is the Panthers third NCAA Tournament appearance, second in a row, first at-large bid. Last year they were swept in the first round by No. 7 North Carolina. The Panthers were 39th in RPI standings. They made the tournament despite going 0-4 against RPI top 50 teams and losing to No. 127 UNC Greensboro; the Panthers did not face any teams ranked by AVCA at the time the game was played although Cal Poly has since cracked the top 25. Against the tournament field, HP was 2-5 with their wins coming against Radford. High Point played the 63rd toughest schedule this season. The Panthers won the Big South regular season title and were runner-up in their conference tournament.

High Point is a good ball control squad who is led by their outside hitter Haley Barnes. They also serve tough which could cause problems. That said, the Panthers have not faced a team near as good as Purdue is, or who has a player as dominant in the middle of the floor as Cuttino. Expect lots of blocks from Cuttino and Atkinson when the duo are in the front row together. Unless Cuttino or Atkinson have a disastrous night Purdue not likely get upset by High Point.

Key Players

Jr. 6’1 MB 1 Jordan Hefner%- .298, 0.81 B/S

So. 5’8 S 5 Jenna Smith- 6.76 A/S

Jr. 6’2 RS 7 Katie Tylman#- 2.36 K/S, .314

Sr. 6’0 S 11 Carly Jimenez- 5.03 A/S

Fr. 5’6 L 19 Abby Bottomley*^F- 5.25 D/S (27)

Sr. 6’0 OH 20 Haley Barnes*- 3.25 K/S, 2.98 D/S, 0.48 SA/S (9)

Jr. 6’2 MB 22 Molly Livingston*- 2.98 K/S, .384 (30), 0.95 B/S 0.36 SA/S

High Point Team Stats

Comparison Kills/Set Hitting % Assists/Set Aces/Set Digs/Set Blocks/Set
Comparison Kills/Set Hitting % Assists/Set Aces/Set Digs/Set Blocks/Set
High Point 13.59 .255 (34) 12.67 1.73 (7) 15.56 2.02
Opponents 11.67 .163 (28) 10.81 0.94 14.65 2.07

*First-Team Big South

# Second-Team Big South

% Honorable Mention Big South

^ Big South Freshman of the Year

F All-Freshman Team

Right side Katie Doering was also named to the All-Freshman team

Head Coach Tom Mendoza was the Coach of Year

Rest of the Field

The top seeded 16 teams are as follows: #1 Penn State, #2 Florida, #3 Stanford, #4 Kentucky, #5 Nebraska, #6 Texas, #7 Minnesota, #8 Washington, #9 Creighton, #10 USC, #11 Utah, #12 Baylor, #13 BYU, #14 Iowa State, #15 UCLA, and #16 Wichita State

The Pac-12 led with nine teams in the tournament and the Big Ten was second with eight teams making the field; #1 Penn State, # 5 Nebraska, #7 Minnesota, Illinois, Michigan, Michigan State, Purdue and Wisconsin.

Big Ten Honors

Weekly

Ashley Evans was recognized by the conference as the Setter of the Week after Purdue went 1-1 against Michigan and Michigan State. Evans averaged 12 assists per set while surpassing the 4,000 career assist mark. Evans had previously surpassed 1,000 digs and the assist milestone makes her the only player in program history to have 4,000 assists and 1,000 digs. Evans has accomplished this despite only being the starting setter for three seasons. Evans also posted a .417 hitting percentage and 2.5 digs per set over the two matches to go along with four aces and five blocks.

Season

Danielle Cuttino and Sherridan Atkinson were unanimous All-Big Ten selections. This was the second unanimous distinction for Cuttino who was the conference kill leader in league play (300, 4.17 per set) and second in kills per set, 4.08, over the whole season. Cuttino hit .310 in conference play and averaged 1.01 blocks per set. Atkinson was named All-Big Ten for the first time after posting 3.5 kills per set in league play hitting .329. Atkinson was also effective defensively and at the service line tallying 46 blocks and 15 aces. Senior, defensive specialist Carissa Damler was Purdue’s Sportsmanship Award honoree.

Cuttino and Atkinson were two of nine unanimous All-Big Ten selections: Autumn Bailey- Michigan State, Stephanie Samedy and Samantha Seliger-Swenson- Minnesota, Mikaela Foecke and Kelly Hunter- Nebraska, Simone Lee and Haleigh Washington- Penn State, and Dana Rettke- Wisconsin. Lee was the Player of the Year while teammate Washington was recognized as the Defensive Player of the Year. Hunter was named as Setter of Year and Rettke was the Freshman of the Year. John Cook of Nebraska and Russ Rose from Penn State split Coach of Year honors as Cook was the pick of his colleagues and media members selected Rose.

Final Big Ten Standings

AVCA Rankings

  1. Penn State (64)
  2. Texas
  3. Florida
  4. Stanford
  5. Nebraska

(First-place votes)

Big Ten teams: #8 Minnesota, #11 Wisconsin, #12 Michigan State, #16 Purdue, RV Michigan, RV Illinois

RPI

  1. Penn State
  2. Florida
  3. Kentucky
  4. Texas
  5. Stanford