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Boilers Fall Short in Upset Bid Over Penn State

#17 Purdue won the first set for the first time this season in Big Ten play but couldn’t close out in the last three sets as they fell to #9 Penn State in four.

Purdue Volleyball

Purdue (14-4, 3-4) came out strong in set one but couldn’t quite match that intensity in the following sets as they lost to Penn State (14-3, 5-2), 28-26, 24-26, 22-25, 21-25. Four Boiler hitters were in double-figures but Purdue’s offense lacked any punch late in the last three sets as they struggled to convert defense to offense in transition despite some spectacular digs.

Sherridan Atkinson led Purdue with 15 kills. Grace Cleveland who started the match strong finished with 14 kills. Caitlyn Newton was solid putting away 13 kills, hitting .276. Blake Mohler had 11 kills on .421 hitting and three solo blocks. Hayley Bush finished with 50 assists. Brooke Peters led the Boilers with 29 digs. Jena Otec had 11 digs and two aces.

Purdue was outhit .246-.204 and out-blocked 13-6.

The two teams traded five-point runs late in set one as Purdue hung on, saving two set points before winning 28-26. Caitlyn Newton who struggled earlier in the set went off-speed for a kill that sent Jena Otec to the service line with the scored tied 19-all. Purdue then alternated Otec aces and Grace Cleveland kills to round out the run with Purdue in front 23-19. Penn State then got five straight kills as they got the first set point. Purdue in turn got back-to-back kills from Atkinson and Otec to give Purdue their own set. Penn State answered back with a kill and ace to get to a second set point, 26-25. Atkinson answered the bell again getting a kill and ace for the Boilers before Penn State capped the set off with a hitting error, 28-26. Cleveland and Atkinson both tallied five kills in the set.

Purdue started set two strong, but couldn’t get across the finish line failing to capitalize on a set point before falling 26-24. Purdue broke an early 5-all tie with a five-point run then held off successive Penn State mini-runs til late in the set. Purdue was up 23-21 when Otec’s back row swing sailed long and Atkinson’s tip got stuffed to tie the set. Purdue caught a break when Penn State’s setter was called for a double contact. On the next point, the ricochet off the Purdue block landed just out of bounds tying the score at 24-all; the call stood after Purdue challenged it. Purdue’s setter Hayley Bush then put up a bad set that Purdue couldn’t hit over giving Penn State set point. Neither team held anything back on the ensuing long rally as Penn State came out on the winning side tooling the Purdue block to win the set.

Purdue got down early in set three but hung around staying within striking distance all set long. Purdue wasn’t as sharp at the service line and couldn’t really pressure the Nittany Lions. The Boilers made one push late but it wasn’t enough. Down 22-19, Purdue got a first ball kill from Mohler and a back row kill in transition from Atkinson. Penn State got a kill before Purdue could really get on a run but the Boilers got one last kill from Cleveland as they tried to hang on. Penn State finished the set off with a kill and block, 25-22.

A late Penn State run did Purdue in, in set four as they were looking to extend the match. Purdue was up 18-16 when the wheels fell off. Four Boiler errors, two hitting, and two setting buoyed an 8-1 Penn State run. Purdue staved off two match points thanks to a kill from Cleveland and a Penn State hitting error. The clinching match point was originally awarded to Purdue as the line judges ruled no touch and that the ball landed out. Penn State challenged the call and a touch was called giving Penn State match 25-21.

Purdue’s lack of service pressure in the latter sets wasn’t the only issue for the Boilers, although it certainly made it easier for Penn State to run their offense; Penn State hit over .300 in each of the last two sets. Sherridan Atkinson hit a lot of off-speed shots and tips through the middle sets when she needed to swing away on some of them. Another issue was some poor decision and execution by Hayley Bush. None of her mistakes were egregious, some of the calls against her were questionable, the timing of them was what was killer. Late in sets two and four, some calls went against her and in set three she went for a dump which was unsuccessful, taking the ball out of her hitters’ hands.

Purdue will have an opportunity to remedy some of these issues Saturday when they face Iowa on the road at 8:00 on BTN+.