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Purdue Volleyball: Regular Season Finale Preview

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The Boilers will face Indiana and Illinois to end regular season play. Both matches could have big implications for Purdue’s tournament future; will they be seeded or no?

It all comes down to this. Number 12 Purdue (22-7, 11-7) plays its two biggest rivals in the last week of the regular season. There is a lot at stake for all three schools. Purdue could get a seed and host the first weekend of the Tournament, IU is on the bubble, and Illinois could earn a top four seed and host the first two weekends of the tournament.

Weekend Recap

Last weekend Purdue took a set off No. 6 Nebraska before falling in four; 22-25, 20-25, 25-22, 17-25. The following night, Senior Night, Purdue won in five over Iowa; 22-25, 25-23, 25-20, 22-25, 15-11.

Nebraska won the serve-pass battle Friday night controlling the match; Nebraska had 22 points strictly off serve, 11 aces and 11 Purdue service errors. The teams were evenly matched offensively hitting .209-Nebraska and .208-Purdue. The Boilers did have the advantage blocking though, 13-9.

Purdue was up towards the end of set one with the Huskers but struggled to sideout in the loss. Nebraska ran off eight of nine points to turn a two-point Purdue lead into set point for the Huskers, 24-19. Just like in set one, Purdue had a lead toward the end of set two but then saw it disappear as they struggled to pass. A Purdue service error sparked a six-point Husker run that put Nebraska in front 23-18. The same thing nearly happened a third time but Purdue got it together in set three. A 5-1 run Nebraska cut Purdue’s lead to one, 21-20. Purdue sidedout on the next point before trading points for a stretch. The set ended with a Nebraska double contact and kill by Blake Mohler. In set four, a 9-7 deficit ballooned to 22-11 as Purdue’s passing woes continued and the Husker block was dialed in.

Sherridan Atkinson led Purdue with a double-double 20 kills and 10 digs. Blake Mohler posted 13 kills and four blocks. Grace Cleveland was the leading blocker seven including three solo. Hayley Bush also had a double-double with 45 assists and 10 digs. Marissa Hornung had Purdue’s only ace while recording a match-high 21 digs. Jena Otec also had 10 digs.

Against the Hawkeyes Purdue was great offensively, but couldn’t slow down Iowa enough; Purdue outhit Iowa .288-.225. Purdue got off to a good start in set one but struggled to sideout down the stretch. Purdue was up 15-11 after a six-point run. Iowa, from that point on sidedout on each Purdue serve. A four-point run flipped Purdue’s two-point lead Iowa’s way and that was it for the Boilers. Purdue had to rally late to win set two. A four-point Iowa run swung to the lead to the Hawkeyes, 19-18. Purdue answered with a 5-1 run to go up 23-20 then going on to win the set. Set three was tied 20-all when Purdue took over scoring the last five points, including back-to-back blocks to clinch the set. In set four, Purdue was up 22-21 when a Purdue ball handling error gave Iowa serve. The Hawkeyes went on to close the set out with two kills and a Purdue hitting error. Sherridan Atkinson stepped up to the plate in set five scoring five kills, three early as Purdue was up 8-5 at the changeover.

Atkinson led the Boilers with 19 kills, hitting .340. Blake Mohler came up big for Purdue putting away 17 kills, hitting .375 to go with four blocks. Grace Cleveland posted 14 kills. Hayley Bush finished with 54 assists. Marissa Hornung led with 26 digs followed by Jena Otec’s 19.

Week Preview

Wednesday evening Purdue will face the Hoosiers in Bloomington at 7:00 on BTN+. Then on Saturday, they’ll face No. 4 Illinois at 6:00 on BTN.

Both matches this weekend will be intense, beyond the postseason implications IU and Illinois will be having Senior Night. Purdue has to match the intensity of their opponent. It starts and ends with passing for the Boilers. IU is not a particularly tough serving team but Illinois is, and that was what doomed Purdue in the first matchup with the Illini. Purdue has to pass better if they’re going to win either match this weekend. Against the Hoosiers Purdue can separate themselves in that facet of the game. If Purdue can stay in system and get the ball to Atkinson, Mohler, and Newton with favorable blocking matchups IU won’t be able to match that. If Purdue is forced to play long rallies with the desperate Hoosiers it could get ugly for Purdue. Against Illinois passing well is the baseline. If Purdue struggles it will be a quick sweep.

Key Players

class, height, position, # name, stats (statistical rank in the Big Ten) **Stats from conference play only**
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

Rs Fr. 5’10 S 2 Hayley Bush- 11.1 A/S (5)

Sr. 5’9 L 3 Brooke Peters- 3.72 D/S (10), 0.25 SA/S (15)

So. 6’1 OH 4 Caitlyn Newton- 2.67 K/S, .246

Fr. 5’7 DS 10 Marissa Hornung- 3.11 D/S (14), 0.25 SA/S

Sr. 6’5 OH/RS 16 Sherridan Atkinson- 4.15 K/S (3), .299 (12), 0.26 SA/S (11)

Jr. 6’2 M 17 Blake Mohler- 2.47 K/S, .328 (8), 1.0 B/S (12)

So. 5’10 DS 19 Jena Otec- 2.32 D/S

Fr. 6’3 MB/OH 20 Grace Cleveland-2.44 K/S, 0.9 B/S

Indiana

IU (16-13, 7-11) is playing to extend their season this weekend and it can go one of two ways for the Hoosiers. They’ll play at a higher level with the higher stakes or their desperation will lead to more mistakes. If IU gets off to a good start early this match could go the distance.

Key Players

Key Players

Jr. 6’0 S 1 Victoria Brisack- 5.65 A/S (14), 2.0 D/S

Jr. 6’1 MB 2 Hayden Huybers- .313 (10), 0.87 B/S

So. 5’7 L 4 Bayli Lebo- 4.35 D/S (6)

Fr. 6’2 OH 11 Breana Edwards- 2.9 K/S

Jr. 6’2 MB 16 Deyshia Lofton- 2.22 K/S, .289 (15) , 0.91 B/S (12)

Fr. 5’10 S 18 Abigail Westenhofer- 4.75 A/S (15)

So. 6’0 OH 22 Kamryn Malloy- 2.24 K/S, 2.46 D/S, 0.27 SA/S (15)

Illinois

The Illini (26-3, 15-3) do so many things well and are fairly balanced offensively. The focal point of their offense is Jacqueline Quade in the last previous match she only had 11 kills, but Beth Prince, Illinois’ other outside hitter went off for 19 kills. Purdue has to get a good block in front of them. Both are prone to just swing away at times and Purdue could get some big blocks. Another player Purdue will have to keep track of is Ali Bastianelli. Bastianelli is a great blocker but she’s also a threat offensively.

Key Players

Sr. 6’2 S 1 Jordyn Poulter- 11.74 A/S (3), 0.88 B/S, 2.7 D/S, 0.32 SA/S (4)

Fr. 5’8 DS 3 Taylor Kuper- 2.44 D/S

Sr. 6’3 MB 5 Ali Bastianelli- 2.61 K/S .349 (6), 1.23 B/S (4)

Jr. 6’2 OH 7 Jacqueline Quade- 4.12 K/S (5)

Jr. 6’3 OH 8 Beth Prince- 2.67 K/S (14)

Jr. 6’4 MB 12 Ashlyn Fleming- .462, 1.0 B/S (13)

So. 6’4 OH/RS 15 Megan Cooney- 2.39 K/S, .246

So. 5’8 L 16 Morgan O’Brien- 4.2 D/S (7)

Big Ten Standings

Minnesota has already clinched the Big Ten title and will look to run the table as they finish conference play with matches against Penn State and Rutgers.

AVCA Rankings

  1. BYU (49)
  2. Stanford (15)
  3. Minnesota
  4. Illinois
  5. Texas
  6. Nebraska
  7. Penn State
  8. Wisconsin

12. Purdue

18. Michigan

BYU lost last night to Loyola Marymount so no teams will go in the NCAA Tournament with a perfect record.

RPI Rankings

  1. Stanford
  2. Minnesota
  3. Texas
  4. Illinois
  5. BYU
  6. Wisconsin

11. Nebraska

13. Penn State

16. Purdue

18. Michigan

53. Maryland

57. Indiana

67. Northwestern

77. Iowa

82. Ohio State

91. Michigan State

209. Rutgers

Tournament Forecast

Purdue is certainly among the handful of teams in consideration for a seed (for the NCAA Volleyball Tournament the top 16 teams are seeded and host the first weekend), but many of these teams have better resumes than Purdue. 21/10 (AVCA Ranking/RPI Ranking) Central Florida (27-3, 1-80), 9/16 Creighton (26-4, 18-0), 20/12 Washington State (20-9, 11-8), 25/16 Baylor (19-8, 11-5), 16/25 Marquette (26-5, 15-2), 13/20 Florida (23-6, 14-3), 19/19 Washington (18-11, 10-9), 17/21 Oregon (19-10, 12-7), and 18/18 Michigan (21-9, 10-9) are also in the discussion of who gets those last few seeds.

While the Big Ten is the best conference in the country it ended up hurting Purdue more than it helped this season; Purdue was left in the gap between the top five and bottom half who all were ranked outside the RPI top 50. The Boilers only managed one win over the top five teams in the league. That, with a weak non-conference schedule, left Purdue with few opportunities to pick up quality wins. Purdue was 1-7 versus the RPI Top 25, 1-0 against RPI 26-50, and 11-0 against RPI 51-100 teams. The Boilers lost to Michigan in their lone matchup with the Wolverines. Purdue’s win over Alabama early in the season lost all its luster as Bama went 6-11 in the SEC this season. Only the Louisville win held up through conference play as the Cardinals are 38th in the RPI rankings. Purdue has no bad losses but they only have one quality win. Even if they do beat Illinois it may not be enough for them to earn a top seed.

Every other team in consideration for a seed has at least two wins against RPI Top 25 teams.

Resume Comparison

School UCF WSU Bay. Marq. Purdue Cre. UM UW UF UO
School UCF WSU Bay. Marq. Purdue Cre. UM UW UF UO
RPI 10 12 14 15 16 16 18 19 20 21
vs RPI 1-25 3-1 2-5 3-2 3-5 1-7 4-4 2-7 3-5 2-3 4-6
vs RPI 26-50 1-1 9-1 3-3 2-0 1-0 - 1-0 6-4 3-2 8-2
vs RPI 51-100 8-1 5-2 10-3 4-0 11-0 3-0 12-2 6-1 7-0 3-1
SOS 19 5 7 42 21 62 11 6 65 12

Florida still has a chance but it seems like a long shot. One of Florida’s Top 25 wins came against Nebraska who was missing a starter at the time, and the Gators lost to 115 Northern Arizona. Everyone in front of Purdue in the RPI standings has a strong enough resume as does Creighton to get a seed leaving Purdue on the outside looking in. The Boilers could very well end up in Milwaukee or Omaha to face one of the teams who forced them out of the Top 16.