The Purdue volleyball team looks to even out its Big Ten record this weekend after losing their first two games on the road.
The Boilermakers (8-3, 0-2 Big Ten), will host Northwestern University (9-5, 0-2) and the University of Illinois (6-5, 1-1) Friday and Sunday, respectively.
After a promising start to non-conference play, the Boilermakers lost six straight sets in their opening weekend to No. 13 University of Wisconsin (6-4, 2-0) and No. 7 University of Minnesota (8-2, 2-0).
“We prefer to look at it as a great education,” head coach Dave Shondell said. “We had the toughest two teams to play right out of the gate, so that’s about as tough of a challenge as you can get.”
Though they lost all six sets over the weekend, Purdue played competitively, as they were ahead at one point in over half of their sets.
To sophomore defensive specialist Emma Terwilliger, the team’s adjustment to Big Ten play is right where it needs to be.
“I think we have a lot of younger players on the team, so people are getting used to making a lot of adjustments,” Terwilliger said. “At first we had kind of a shocker to us. Big Ten is a lot different than any other games we’ve ever played, but I think by the end of the weekend, (we) started getting used to our competition.”
Fifth-year middle blocker Blake Mohler, who went down with an ankle injury back in the Stacey Clark classic on Sept. 20., is back at full strength and looking to continue the success she had earlier in the year.
“The ankle doesn’t bother her,” Shondell said. “She handled it very well, and she was good on both nights (last weekend).”
Moving into the weekend, the Boilermakers will have to improve defensively to stop the high-powered offenses of Northwestern and Illinois.
“I think we have a lot of fire in our belly from the last weekend,” Terwilliger said. “We’re ready to just jump on the court and win another game.”
Both Northwestern and Illinois emphasize the left side of the court on the attack, something that Shondell is preparing the Boilermakers for. Illinois’ left outside hitter, senior Jacqueline Quade, was named first-team All-American last season, and can pose a threat to Purdue’s defense.
Another problem facing the Boilers this weekend comes from Northwestern’s massive 22-person roster, compared to Purdue’s 16.
“They’re very spirited,” Terwillinger said about their ability to stay fresh in matches. “I think they’re gonna have a lot of people that can jump in there.”
While this may not have been the start to Big Ten play the Boilers had hoped for, Shondell believes this team can be very successful, as long as all of its working parts are operating at full capacity.
“I have been very pleased with the development of this team,” Shondell said. “What we need to see is just everybody playing well at the same time.”