Purdue return’s an All-American, Sherridan Atkinson, and some key veteran pieces but will need underclassmen to step into big roles in order to have a successful season.
Purdue will go into conference play largely untested due to a weak non-conference slate. Only two of Purdue’s non-conference foes finished in the RPI Top 50 last season, Notre Dame and Louisville, with two other making the Top 100, Lipscomb and Alabama. Additionally, none of the teams are picked to win their respective conference.
The Boilers won’t play anyone really bad but they won’t play anyone really good in the preseason. This could come back to haunt Purdue come selection time like it did in 2014.
Wofford was picked to finished third the Southern Conference this season. The Terriers made it to the SoCon championship last season and return their entire starting lineup. Last season Wofford went 22-11, 10-6 (4th in the SoCon). Wofford is led by junior, outside hitter Catie Cronister who was the 2017 Co-SoCon Player of the year. Cronister made the Preseason All-SoCon team as did her teammate senior, middle blocker Colleen Reilly.
Bowling Green only lost one player from last season’s 17-12 squad. The Falcons went 13-3 in conference play splitting the MAC East title with Miami. Senior, libero Kallie Seimet split MAC Player of the Year honors with Olivia Rusek of Miami.
Coming off a 15-17, 9-11 (7th) campaign Tulsa was picked to finish 6th by American Athletic Conference coaches. Libero Emily Thorson was a unanimous Preseason All-American Conference team selection and she was joined by Taylor Horsfall. Both were first team selections last season with Thorson bringing home Libero of the Year honors.
Oakland finished second in the Horizon League last season, 12-4, 17-12 overall. They’ll look to improve on last year’s record without graduated Horizon League Player of the Year, outside hitter, Darien Bandel.
Notre Dame is picked to finished fourth in the ACC this season. Last season the Irish went 22-10 overall, 12-8 in conference play finishing fifth. Ryann DeJarld and Jemma Yeadon were tabbed as Preseason All-ACC selections; DeJarld was a first team selection last season. The Irish keep trending in the right direction but don’t have the talent to really contend. They made the NCAA Tournament last season where they were swept by Western Kentucky in the first round.
Last season Xavier finished 13-19, 8-10, good enough for sixth which is where they are projected to finish this season. Half their starting lineup is back this season.
Lipscomb will look to capitalize on the talents of two-time Atlantic Sun Player of the Year, senior, outside hitter Carlyle Nusbaum. The Bisons are predicted to finish third in the conference. Last season Lipscomb finished fourth in the ASun, 8-6, 16-13 overall.
The stiffest competition Purdue will face will be Louisville. Former Husker player and assistant coach Dani Busboom Kelly has the Louisville program on the rise but doesn’t quite have the pieces yet be contender on the national stage. Last season they were projected to finish eighth in the ACC and went on to share the title with Pittsburgh. Louisville was 24-7 last season, 18-2 in conference; they lost in the first round of the NCAA Tournament to Northern Iowa.
Louisville returns the reigning ACC Setter and Defender of the year, seniors Wilma Rivera and Molly Sauer. Junior, outside hitter Melanie McHenry who also was a First Team All-ACC selection. This season the Cards are picked to finish second behind Pitt. The before mentioned trio and senior middle blocker Jasmine Bennett were all named to the Preseason All-ACC Team.
Preseason Conference USA team selections Sarah Bell and Kylie Grandy will look to lead Southern Miss this season. The Eagles are picked to finished 5th this season. Last year they tied for fourth with UTSA and Florida Atlantic after going 9-5 in conference play and 20-12 overall.
Alabama was picked this season to finish second to last, 12th, in the SEC. While the SEC is not on the same level as the Big Ten or Pac-12 it still is relatively strong boasting two national title contenders, Kentucky and Florida. Not to mention Missouri and football powerhouses like Georgia, LSU, and Auburn who are improving on the volleyball side meanwhile Alabama hasn’t been able to keep pace.
Junior, middle blocker, Kelley Hartman is a key returnee for the South Alabama Jaguars and as such was named to the Preseason All-Conference team. The Jags were picked to finish second in the Sun Belt-East this season.
There’s a youth movement all across the Big Ten as ten of the fourteen schools boast four or more freshman. Penn State has brought in eight freshman to replace their heralded senior class from last season. Many programs also have large sophomore classes. Only Indiana has six underclassmen; everyone else has seven or more. Also of note, Northwestern has no seniors and Wisconsin has only one on their squad.
Considering half of Nebraska’s roster is newcomers you would think they would take a step back this year after winning last year’s National Championship. This is not the case. The Huskers have simply reloaded. Lexi Sun, the 2016 Gatorade Player of the Year and All-Big Twelve selection at Texas last season, has joined the Husker squad. They’ve also brought in the top setter in this year’s recruiting class, Nicklin Hames and the No. 10 recruit, middle blocker Callie Schwarzenbach.
Everyone else in the conference will be looking to knock off the returning champs; the usual suspects Minnesota, Wisconsin and Penn State will look to do just that. Minnesota brings back a trio of All-Americans as they’ll attempt to return to the Final Four in their backyard this year. Wisconsin has Molly Haggerty back this season to strengthen the Badger’s offense, and Penn State is reloading with eight freshman and graduate transfer Taylor Leath from North Carolina. Illinois is this year’s interloper who will look to finish in the top five in conference with their veteran squad. The Illini are led by senior, setter Jordyn Poulter who spent time with the US National team this summer.
Purdue is in the middle of the pack, battling with the likes of Michigan, Michigan State, Ohio State and Iowa for an at-large bid.
OH1 Caitlyn Newton
M1 Blake Mohler
RS1 Sherridan Atkinson
OH2 Garrett Joiner
M2 Grace Cleveland
S Hayley Bush
L Brooke Peters
DS Marissa Hornung, Jena Otec
Purdue will likely use double subs for the outside hitters and leave Atkinson in for all 6 rotations for extra offense. Cleveland may not start the season as a starter but she’ll likely claim the spot by the end of the season as she gets acclimated to the college game. Erin Williams and Shavona Cuttino just don’t have the skillset, or in Williams case, the size, to be competitive in the Big Ten. Another midseason change we could see would be Moe Hornung wearing the libero jersey if Peters struggles as she did towards the end of last season. Jena Otec also could fill a different role throughout the season. Purdue is thin at the pins and if Newton or Joiner struggle Otec may be called on to play along the net.
Nebraska was picked by the conference coaches to win the conference this year. The rest of the top five was rounded out by Wisconsin, Minnesota, Penn State, and Illinois; Purdue was picked to finish 7th.
The coaches also selected a Preseason All-Big Ten team including seven unanimous selections. Boiler, Sherridan Atkinson was one the seven which also included Jordyn Poulter, Illinois; Carly Skojdt, Michigan; Stephanie Samedy and Samantha Seliger-Swenson, Minnesota; Mikaela Foecke, Nebraska; and Dana Rettke, Wisconsin.
- Stanford (43)
- Nebraska (20)
- Penn State
- Florida (1)
22. Michigan State
As a reminder the following Purdue matches will be on TV
September 2 vs. Notre Dame 2:00 ESPNU
October 5 @ Michigan 9:00 BTN
October 10 vs. Penn State 7:00 ESPNU
October 19 vs. Maryland 7:00 BTN
October 31 vs. Michigan State 7:00 BTN
The Boilers first matches will be Friday August 24 at 10:00 A.M. versus Wofford and at 7:30 P.M. versus Bowling Green.