The offense shined this past weekend as the Purdue volleyball team stormed past two opponents to claim the LUV Invite in Nashville, Tennessee.
The No. 23 Boilermakers (4-1) were set back on their heels by a road loss to in-state rival University of Notre Dame the week before the tournament. To make things tougher, the team was guaranteed a match against No. 22 University of Louisville in neutral territory.
Heading into the game, Purdue held a 8-1 record against the Cardinals (6-2) and was starting star players in nearly every position.
Sophomore Grace Cleveland and junior Caitlyn Newton returned at outside hitter and fifth-year middle blocker Blake Mohler had been named preseason All-Big Ten. The Boilers had two strong candidates for libero in sophomore Marissa Hornung and junior Jena Otec.
Purdue handled the match with relative ease, in keeping with its history with the Cardinals. In a 3-1 victory, the Boilermakers outperformed their opponent in every category, outscoring Louisville 75-61, tallying up five aces and outblocking the Cardinals 14-6, according to a press release from Purdue Athletics.
Newton led the offense with a career-best 26 kills, followed by 11 kills from Cleveland. Otec, Hornung and sophomore setter Hayley Bush heaped 63 digs and the Boilers’ five aces onto the statistical pile to round out Purdue’s performance.
These numbers may make it look like Purdue ran the table for the entire match, but Louisville claimed the first set 26-24 after a long back-and-forth period between the teams. Despite nine kills from Newton, the Cardinals claimed an advantage late in the set that carried them to a victory.
The Boilers played the next three sets as if the first had never happened. Purdue dominated the middle two sets, earning 25-16 and 25-21 victories. By the end of the third set, Newton had scored her 22nd kill of the match.
The Cardinals briefly attempted to bookend the match with competition, forcing seven ties with the Boilermakers throughout the set. The final breakaway by the Boilers — a 4-1 run and a 6-1 run — proved to be too much for Louisville. Purdue claimed the match, an upset victory, and a spot in the tournament final.
The tournament’s host, Lipscomb University, defeated Xavier University 3-1 in its own match, setting up Purdue to face the Bison (3-5, 0-0 Atlantic Sun Conference).
This match proceeded in much the same way as Purdue-Louisville, a 3-1 Purdue victory. This time around, Cleveland’s 16 kills, two aces and three blocks led the Boiler offense. Newton and Mohler boosted the team with a combined 31 kills and 10 blocks.
Lipscomb claimed another close first set 25-23. The set was tied up 12 times, and the Bison sealed their victory off of two Boilermaker errors. The Boilers quickly kicked into gear after this setback.
Purdue dominated the second set 25-13. After an 11-0 Boilermaker run opened the frame, Purdue couldn’t be touched. Mohler sweetened the victory with four of her six blocks in the match.
The final two sets were slightly more even between the Boilers and Bison. Despite a Lipscomb comeback run late in each set, the Boilers emerged from the match victorious after 25-20 and 25-17 set wins. With this win, the Boilers claimed the LUV Invite.
Newton, Cleveland and Mohler were all named to the all-tournament team, and Newton was named tournament MVP after the match.
The Boilers return to Holloway Gymnasium this weekend as Purdue plays host to the Stacey Clark Classic. The Boilermakers will play Texas A&M-Corpus Christi at 10:30 a.m. Friday.