The Boilermakers made short work of Rutgers on Wednesday, winning 3-0, including one of the most lopsided sets in Boilermaker history.
Sophomore outside hitter Grace Cleveland led Purdue (19-7, 11-6 Big Ten) on a 15-0 serving run early in the second set, recording five aces against the Scarlet Knights (8-20, 2-15). It was not only the longest serving streak of Cleveland’s career but also the longest Boiler serving streak of the season.
“It’s probably a once-in-a-season type of thing, or once in my career,” Cleveland said. “I heard the Boiler box say, ‘She’s been down there seven times,’ but I wasn’t keeping track.”
The Boilermakers finished the set 25-4.
“It was as lopsided as I can remember,” head coach Dave Shondell said. “I can’t remember winning a set like that in the Big Ten. It hardly ever happens, and it’s just so nice when it does.”
Cleveland’s streak was not broken, but she was taken out by Shondell.
“It was time to let them off the hook and try to do something we’ve been looking at where we brought a setter in for (Cleveland),” Shondell said. “It allowed us to practice something we may need to use at some point in the season, and it was the right thing to do.”
The match was riddled with controversial calls from the referees, frustrating Shondell, who used all three of his challenges.
The first set featured two close out-of-bounds calls against the Boilermakers, both of which were challenged. The most frustrating call for the Boilermakers came midway through the set, when the referee blew her whistle during an opposing serve. Assuming this meant a stoppage of play, the Boilers did not return the serve, only to have a point called against them.
“The girl served the ball, and the ball was to the net before she blew the whistle,” Shondell said. “You can’t serve the ball before the whistle. Why didn’t the official just say, ‘Oh, you served too soon, serve again?’ That’s what you’d do.”
Regardless, the Boilermakers won the first set 25-14 thanks to efforts from junior outside hitter Caitlyn Newton and fifth-year middle blocker Blake Mohler.
After the controversial whistle- blowing, Newton led the team on a 6-point run, with three aces and a kill. Newton dominated the net with 13 kills and four blocks in the match.
“I think our hitters were taking really big swings,” Cleveland said. “Newton was taking huge swings, and so was (Mohler), and Maddie Koch, who hasn’t played for a few matches, came out and did a really good job.”
Koch, a freshman outside hitter who has played in only 10 matches this season, finished with six kills and a block, setting a new career best for kills.
“She hasn’t had a chance to play,” Shondell said. “This was the second time that (Koch) has played well in a match. She needs more time in there, but when you play in the Big Ten you can’t give people more time. It’s just too tough of a league.
“It was great that she got that opportunity to gain more confidence.”
Cleveland dominated the third set for the most part, and finished with eight kills and a block. Purdue had a bit more trouble with the Knights this time around, but ultimately won the third set 25-18, ending the match.
“It was nice to get a sweep,” Cleveland said. “Now our focus is turning toward Michigan for our last home match, so we’ll definitely be looking at them tomorrow and preparing for them.”