11/12/16 Iowa, Fans

Fans jingle keys in anticipation of the match point during a volleyball game against the University of Iowa in Holloway Gymnasium last year.

Purdue volleyball will face its first challenge of the year, with a three-match tournament this weekend in Holloway Gymnasium.

The Mortar Board Premier kicks off the nonconference season for the No. 25 Boilers, featuring matches against Oral Roberts, Cleveland State and Alabama on Friday and Saturday.

The Boilers held a tough nonconference schedule last year, one of the top in the nation, including matches against Kentucky, Kansas, and eventual national champions Stanford. Despite the challenges, the Boilers ended the first half of their season with a 10-1 record, falling only to Kentucky.

“It’s not going to be one of the top three schedules in the country, nonconference, like it was last year,” said head coach Dave Shondell. “But it (isn’t because) we didn’t try. Scheduling has become one of the most challenging pieces of coaching.”

The Premier is the first home tournament that the team hosts, with the second annual Stacey Clark Classic occurring right before the start of the Big Ten season.

“You always try to find a way to host twice,” Shondell said. “We’ve always done that and I want to do that for our fans, but it’s getting harder and harder.”

Purdue volleyball does a lot for its fans, including adding air conditioning to Belin Court over the summer.

On the first day players returned for fall practices, they were amazed at the temperature inside the gym.

“I’ve never felt it feel this nice and cool in the gym before,” said senior outside hitter Azariah Stahl.

“It did not feel like our gym,” said senior setter Ashley Evans. “We’ll enjoy it, but most of all our fans will enjoy it because they’ve really stuck it out for us the last 30-40 years we haven’t had AC.”

The tournament starts up with Purdue facing Oral Roberts at 10 a.m. Friday morning with breakfast offered for the first students to show up. The Boilers then face Cleveland State at 7:30 p.m. Friday and Alabama at 3 p.m. Saturday.

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