Purdue’s seniors left it all out on the floor, but came up just short dropping a heartbreaking fourth set, 27-25, falling to No. 11 Utah 3-1 in the second round of this year’s NCAA Tournament. Purdue found themselves down two sets to zero (25-23, 25-19) at the set break then crushed Utah in the third (25-13) to keep their season alive before falling in the fourth.
While it is always hard to watch seniors’ seasons end Purdue’s should be proud of their effort. Danielle Cuttino had 16 kills, hitting .333, while adding six digs and five blocks. Azariah Stahl was phenomenal tallying 15 kills on 27 attempts with only two errors, .481, while racking up a double-double with 11 digs and a solo block. Ashley Evans notched one last double-double with 44 assists and 10 digs. She also posted seven kills on 14 attempts with one error, .429, to go with three blocks. While it was not a great statistical night for her, Carissa Damler finished her career with one dig and one assist and was error-less in serve reception.
The teams traded blows in the early goings of the fourth set but Purdue was able to put together a 4-1 run to swing the lead their way, 12-10. Purdue eventually stretched their lead to five, 20-15 and looked to be on their way to extend the match. Utah though did not back down. The Utes kept putting the ball away and Purdue spotted them two hitting errors drawing Utah within one, 23-22. Azariah Stahl put one away for Purdue earning them their first set point. Purdue though could not slow down Utah who seized the momentum as they chipped away at Purdue’s five-point lead. Utah got two kills from Carly Trueman who then committed an error on match point giving Purdue an extra life, 25-25. It wasn’t meant to b. Utah got a kill from Dani Barton then on the second match point, setter, Ashley Evans, couldn’t convert, committing her only attack error of the night ending Purdue’s season, 27-25.
In the first set Purdue surrendered the lead early then was forced to play catch-up the rest of the set. Down 21-16, Purdue finally made their move. Benefiting from one Utah error Purdue got two kills from Azariah Stahl, one from Blake Mohler, and solo stuff by Mohler to the tie set at 21. Utah got back in it earning a set point, 24-22. Another kill from Mohler extended the set but Purdue wouldn’t score again falling 25-23.
After splitting the first 18 points of the set Utah strung together a quick 4-1 run to go in front by three, 13-10. The run was the first of three mini runs that propelled Utah to the second set win 25-19. A four point run stretched the Ute lead to six, 20-14, and they closed the set out by scoring the last three points.
With their season on the line Purdue blew the doors off in the third set putting away 16 kills on 25 swings with 1 error (.600) cruising to a 25-13 win. Danielle Cuttino led the way for Purdue with five kills, followed by Mohler with four, and Evans and Stahl with three each. Sherridan Atkinson tallied only one kill but teamed with Cuttino for two blocks and Evans added a solo stuff.
In addition to the seniors Blake Mohler had another great night putting away 10 kills to go with six blocks, hitting .529. Brooke Peters led the defense with 12 digs. Sherridan Atkinson finished with seven kills, nine digs, and seven blocks.
Purdue hit .356 as team, 100 points better than Utah, .253. Purdue also out-blocked the Utes 13-3 in addition to outperforming them in digs, 64-52. A crucial category Purdue lost was in service aces failing to score one Utah racked up five as the Boilers couldn’t apply pressure on Utah in the service game. Utah also managed 67 kills, seven more than Purdue. Twenty-seven of those kills came from All-Pac-12 performer Adora Anae.