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Purdue Volleyball Upsets #4 Penn State

What looked like might be a long weekend after having to go four sets with Rutgers ended on a high note as Purdue bested Penn State in a dramatic five-set victory at Rec Hall.


Purdue (19-4, 8-4) picked up a signature win this past weekend as they beat Penn State (18-4, 9-3) 11-25, 22-25, 25-23, 25-22, 20-18. This was just the second time Purdue has beat Penn State since 1987; it also was Purdue’s first win in Rec Hall since 1982.

It was going to take a special performance to knock off No. 4 Penn State on the road and that was exactly what No. 17 Purdue got from 6’5 senior right side hitter Sherridan Atkinson. Atkinson was phenomenal tallying a career-high 32 kills as she crossed the 1,000 kill plateau early in the match becoming the 27th Boilermaker in program history to do so. Atkinson was also low error committing only three errors on 56 attempts, .518 hitting percentage; she had no errors in the last two sets.

Head Coach Dave Shondell was pushing all the right buttons as he adjusted his lineup mid-match and kept his team composed with their back was against the wall.

Like they had in the previous two sets, Purdue spotted Penn State the early lead in the deciding fifth set before righting the ship. The Boilers were down 12-9 before storming back with a 5-1 run to get the first match point of the night. Penn State answered back with a kill and 3-1 run to get their own match point 15-16. Atkinson answered for Purdue extending the match. Penn State’s Nia Reed then sailed one long to give Purdue another match point before redeeming herself with a tip kill. Penn State followed it up with an out of system kill to get the Nittany Lions another match point, 17-18.

Staring down yet another match point Marissa Hornung made a spectacular play in coverage. After Penn State swatted Atkinson’s tip back Hornung set it right back over to the deep corner where it could not be dug. Atkinson then blasted one in transition to get Purdue their third match point, 19-18. After denying Jonni Parker once which Penn State successfully covered, Parker tried to go deep cross just missing the corner. Penn State challenged the call, their third challenge of the set, and was unsuccessful, just as they had been on the previous two.

Atkinson who had been clutch all night was on another level in set five tallying nine kills on 12 attempts with no errors.

Purdue was not ready to play in set one as they got blasted 25-11. Penn State outhit Purdue .455-(-.069), not nice. Purdue was down the whole set but really unraveled late as Penn State closed the set on a 10-1 run. Shonell made some moves to spark his team but it didn’t work. Jael Johnson who has been starting in lieu of Shavona Cuttino was replaced by Erin Williams and Joy Chen finished the set off at setter after some bad sets from Hayley Bush.

Purdue held the lead for much of the second set but fell apart late. Purdue’s 19-18 lead disappeared after a Brooke Peters service error and Penn State solo block of Blake Mohler. Purdue never got the momentum back as Penn State closed the set on a 5-2 run.

Out of the match break between sets two and three, Shondell put Marissa Hornung in the libero spot in place of Brooke Peters. Julianna Reisinger then took Hornung’s spot in the double substitution for the outside hitters and Peters was used for Atkinson in the back row the rest of the way. Hornung was the third libero Purdue used this weekend; Otec played libero in the last two sets of the Rutgers match.

The drama all started in set three as Purdue found themselves down 20-13. To this point, Sherridan Atkinson had been doing all she could to keep her team alive tallying six kills already in the set. She tipped one over the block, her seventh kill of the set, which sparked the Purdue comeback and sent Jena Otec back to the service line. Otec dropped in an ace and the Boiler block dialed it in collecting three blocks and forcing Penn State into four more hitting errors as Purdue stormed back to win as Penn State never got to a match point. Atkinson finished the set with 10 kills.

Purdue didn’t make it easy for themselves in set four as they got down early in set four. Purdue battled back to go up 15-14 before seeing Penn State immediately take it back with a 4-0 run. Sherridan Atkinson got the run stopped for the Boilers as they turned it around with a 6-1 run. Everyone was contributing as Jael Johnson, Caitlyn Newton, and Grace Cleveland all tallied kills during the run. Up 21-20, Purdue successfully sidedout the rest of the way getting a kill from Cleveland, a Penn State hitting error and two kills from Blake Mohler.

Purdue was outdone by Penn State in most categories due in part to the lopsided first set; Purdue was outhit .257-.233, although they did hit over .300 in each of the last three sets, out-served five aces to two, and out-blocked 11-9. Purdue’s defense was the difference maker though as Purdue tallied 62 digs to Penn State’s 53.

Caitlyn Newton was the only other Boiler hitter in double figures with 15 kills. Blake Mohler had nine kills and hit .316. Jael Johnson was the leading blocker with four and Atkinson posted three. Hayley Bush finished with 60 assists and three blocks. Marissa Hornung and Jena Otec were impressive in the back row tallying 16 and 14 digs respectively.

Rutgers Recap

Purdue had to play an extra set but in the end, they got it done beat Rutgers 3-1; 25-21, 23-25, 25-23, 25-13.

In set one, Purdue put together an incredible comeback to win the set. Purdue was 21-17 before running off eight points to clinch the set; five of which were Rutgers hitting errors.

Purdue left the door open in set two and Rutgers took advantage. A 20-19 Purdue lead quickly turned in to a 23-21 deficit as the Scarlet Knights got their offense going late in the set. From there on each team sided out to close out the set.

Purdue needed three set points to clinch set three as they were able to hold off the Rutgers comeback. A 5-1 run put Purdue in front 24-21 as they had to rally late.

Ready to get out of New Jersey Purdue led from start to finish as they outhit Rutgers .300-(-.100). Purdue got up 8-3 early and then just kept building on their lead.

Purdue outhit Rutgers .274-.136. They also put up some gaudy numbers as a team, 17 blocks, and 13 aces compared to Rutgers eight blocks and seven aces.

Sherridan Atkinson, Blake Mohler, and Caitlyn Newton all had 12 kills and hit over .300. Grace Cleveland, Mohler, and Newton all had six blocks while Jael Johnson posted five. Hayley Bush had 39 assists. Atkinson was the leading server with four aces trailed by Marissa Hornung with three and Julianna Reisinger and Jena Otec both with two. Otec led the passers with 14 digs.