The No. 4 Purdue (11-2, 3-1 Big Ten) women’s volleyball took on two Big Ten opponents over the weekend in the University of Illinois (11-4, 3-1 Big Ten) on Friday night and Rutgers University (8-7, 0-4 Big Ten) on Saturday night in seemingly routine matches.
Purdue’s consistent and experienced stars in fifth-year senior outside hitter Caitlyn Newton and senior outside hitter Grace Cleveland combined for 33 kills, 21 digs and 12 blocks in the match against the Illini. Cleveland tied her career high 10 blocks. Star senior setter Hayley Bush recorded 47 assists and 15 digs, becoming the eight setter in Boilermaker history to reach 4,000 career assists.
Even with all of these outstanding performances, the team came up just short against the Fighting Illini, suffering their second loss of the season.
The Illini came in with a message to send to the top-ranked Boilermakers, pulling off the huge upset over Purdue at Holloway with a final score of three sets to two. The Illini played with the poise and offensive power the Boilermaker crew is usually known for, with four players logging double-digit kills while three combined for double-digit digs.
“We have to put together a game plan, we’re playing another Big Ten opponent,” head coach Dave Shondell said after the game. “We just have to put it together.”
The loss to Illinois was not to be repeated.
Fueled by the fall, the Boilermakers completely out-dueled Rutgers and swept them 3-0.
Cleveland once again shined with 13 kills and 4 blocks. She recorded a .750 attack percentage, the second highest of her career. Junior outside hitter Madeline Koch had a breakout game against Rutgers with a stellar performance, recording her career high of 10 kills and one dig.
The match was also highlighted by fifth-year senior defensive specialist Jena Otec hitting 145 career aces. She is the first Boilermaker in 24 years to reach this milestone and becomes tied for 10th in program history.