After closing out the regular season with a six-game win streak, the Purdue volleyball team is advancing to the first round of the NCAA tournament.
“It’s definitely very exciting, being in two years past I kind of know what to expect,” junior outside hitter Caitlyn Newton said.
The Boilermakers (22-7, 14-6 Big Ten) will play Wright State University to begin the tournament.
“I think that they are scrappy, very competitive. They have enough size to be able to compete with teams of our level,” head coach Dave Shondell said.
The Raiders (24-5, 13-3 Horizon League) beat Notre Dame 3-2 early in their season. Shondell claims that coming to Purdue will be similar in their eyes.
Though Wright State is only three hours away in Dayton, Ohio, Purdue has never played the Raiders.
“When you’re scheduling opponents and you’re a school like Purdue that has had some success, you’re not going to try to play teams that won’t be very competitive,” Shondell said.
The Raiders received an at-large bid to make it into the NCAA tournament for the first time in franchise history.
“Wright State has not been a very strong team until recently,” Shondell said. “This coach, Allie Matters, has only been there two years, but before she got there, they had been struggling for a long time.”
While this may be Wright State’s first time in the tournament, Purdue has regularly been in the tournament since Shondell was hired as the head coach in 2003.
“We normally have some pretty good success,” Shondell said. “We’ve never lost to a first-round opponent.”
Since coming on board as head coach, Shondell has lead the team to seven appearances in the Sweet 16 and two appearances in the Elite Eight. The team has yet to make it to the Final Four and is still searching for that moment.
With the semester wrapping up and finals rapidly approaching, the team has to find a way to balance academics and athletics in order to perform in the court and in the classroom.
“A lot of communication with our professors is very helpful,” Newton said.
Newton also cited planning ahead as another way the team prepares for finals season while also being able to focus on the match ahead.