11/3/18 Indiana, Blake Mohler

Junior middle blocker Blake Mohler prepares to spike the ball during a November 2018 match against Indiana University.

The Purdue volleyball team is preparing to face Ohio University in its debut match this weekend.

The team’s history with the Bobcats stretches back to 2005, with the Boilermakers currently holding a 4-0 record against the team. Head coach Dave Shondell was present for all four matches, but one in particular sticks in his memory: a tournament appearance in 2007.

Ohio was hosting a section of the first and second round, as per NCAA Volleyball Tournament format. The top 16 teams in the tournament host three other teams on their home court in a mini-tournament to determine which teams will play in the Sweet 16. Purdue journeyed to Athens — along with Xavier University and California Polytechnic State University — to face Ohio in the first round.

“OU had not lost many matches. They had won 40 matches in a row on their court,” Shondell said, “and we went in, and we played a really good match and were prepared for them, and we beat them in four games in their place.”

In the team’s other three matchups, Purdue defeated the Bobcats in straight sets on its home court.

Despite this history, the team isn’t heading into the game relying on a pattern. Since the last matchup in 2015, both teams have entirely rotated out their rosters, meaning that the players on both sides of the net will be facing each other for the first time.

“We’re not really focusing on the past,” sophomore outside hitter Grace Cleveland said. “We’re taking it one set at a time, and we’re still playing together, learning each other’s connections. Hopefully the first game will help set things up.”

In the spirit of new experiences, Shondell confirmed that multiple freshmen are starting or have the potential to start in Sunday’s match.

In addition to a three-way competition for the second left-side hitter position between freshmen Maddy Chinn, Madeline Koch and Emma Ellis, Shondell emphasized the talent of freshman defensive specialist Maddie Schermerhorn.

“I don’t know how we’re not going to play her somewhere,” Shondell said. “Schermerhorn is not playing second fiddle to anybody at this point.”

In addition to the young talent on the court, veteran stars are returning, including Cleveland, sophomore setter Hayley Bush and fifth-year middle blocker Blake Mohler. Mohler was recently named a Preseason All-Big Ten pick by the conference for her performance last season.

“We love (Mohler), and she’s working hard, and we’re excited to see what she can do this coming season,” Cleveland said.

The team expects a hard-fought match in its season opener. Shondell commented on the team’s consistent quality.

“If you look at the last 15 years, they have been the best team in the Mid-American Conference,” he said.

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