Comeback was the name of the game for the Boilermakers in their 3-0 Senior Day victory over Michigan on Saturday.
No. 23 Michigan (19-9, 12-6 Big Ten) jumped to an early lead in all three sets, but the No. 17 Boilermakers (20-7, 12-6) were able to fight back each time.
"Honestly it's just our thing," fifth-year senior Blake Mohler said. "If we get down two sets and come back three, or get down 5 points and come back and win. I don't know why we do it, but we like to do it, and I think we do it pretty well."
After finally taking the lead for the first time midway through the first set, fifth-year senior middle blocker Shavona Cuttino led the Boilers on a 14-6 run in order to take the win.
"It was a lot of one-on-one situations, and I thought we executed that really well," Cuttino said.
Cuttino had four kills in the first set, having one of her best performances on a night that honored her.
"Because it was senior night," Cuttino said. "You don't want to lose on senior night, but at the same time, it's another game, and another opportunity for us to be seeded higher to figure out where we're gonna go in the tournament.
The second saw the Boilers down by as much as 5 early on, but a five-kill offensive effort from Mohler put the Boilermakers on top once again.
"I think every single one of us just came out swinging hard and executing plays," Mohler said. "We did a lot of film study on what shots were gonna be open, and I think we hit those pretty well."
Cuttino and Mohler finished the match with seven and eight kills respectively; Mohler had five blocks as well.
"(Mohler), if it's a big match, she's gonna be good," head coach Dave Shondell said. "This was a big match. She was really good."
Mohler came into the game the same way as always, not letting the Senior Night event add any pressure to her performance.
"If I would have done anything like that or thought of it as senior night, it would have been more emotional, and we knew this was a big match either way," Mohler said. "The energy of Senior Night helped, but I kind of just ignored the fact that this is my last game in Holloway. I needed to stay mentally focused."
Defensively, Purdue had only three blocks, and struggled to slow down the explosive performance of sophomore outside hitter Paige Jones, who finished with 15 kills and 13 digs. Senior setter Mackenzie Welsh, who recorded 53 assists on Wednesday against Michigan State, finished with 32 assists and three kills.
"When you play Michigan, your defensive game plan starts squarely on Paige Jones," Shondell said. "She had 38 swings, the next most was 24, so you know she's gonna get the ball.
"Having a game plan designed to slow her down is one thing; going out and doing it is something else."
Michigan's offense saw another spark of life in the third set, going on an 8-0 run to make the score 12-8. Unfortunately for the Wolverines, it was not enough to stop junior outside hitter Caitlyn Newton, who led the match in kills for the Boilermakers with 14. The Boilermakers brought the set to a tie at 25, before closing it out 29-27.
"The key to the game was out serving," Shondell said. "I think we're becoming one of the best serving teams in the league."
The team finished with three serving aces.
The game ended with a ceremony recognizing Cuttino and Mohler as the team's two seniors.
"It hasn't really hit me," Cuttino said, "but I was just excited, I was smiling, I'm so happy to be here and be with any team."
The Boilermakers will look to repeat their success against Michigan at 7 p.m. Wednesday in the Crisler Center in Ann Arbor, Michigan.