Purdue beat the University of Iowa 3-1 in its first game at home after a long string of traveling games.
The first set found the Boilermakers (13-5, 5-4 Big Ten) fighting neck and neck with the Hawkeyes. They scored point for point in the first part of the set until the Hawkeyes (8-12, 2-7) took a five-point lead of 15-10.
The Boilermakers tightened the gap to 22-20 with kills from junior outside hitter Caitlyn Newton, senior middle blocker Shavona Cuttino and freshman outside hitter Emma Ellis, but it wasn’t enough to finish the set.
Head coach Dave Shondell noted that unexpected strategy on Iowa’s part contributed to the lapse in defense.
“We thought they’d set certain people but they set other people and that kind of threw off our defense a little bit and allowed them to get off to a really fast start,” Shondell said. “We just weren’t sharp and our left side block wasn’t effective enough against what they were doing.”
The Hawkeyes picked back up their momentum, finishing the match at a 25-20 lead. They also took the initial lead in the second half.
However, the Boilermakers picked up the pace, slowly evening out the score with kills from sophomore outside hitter Grace Cleveland, Newton, Cuttino and Ellis.
The offensive momentum continued when Purdue took a 3-point lead, holding the Hawkeyes back with 11 digs from sophomore libero Marissa Hornung.
The energy of the stadium matched the force with which Purdue took back the game, the student section screaming personalized cheers for each player.
Shondell noted the shift in winner’s mentality between Purdue and Iowa over the second set.
“The funny thing about volleyball is that so much of it is determined by the mentality of each team,” Shondell said. “And you could just see all of a sudden they came to a conclusion that they didn’t think they were going to beat us tonight. And all of a sudden they started to go away a little bit and then we started thinking, 'We’re going to win this match, we’re gonna do this.'”
Purdue finished the second match with 5-point lead of 25-20.
This point was the key turnaround in the game for Purdue. Sophomore setter Hayley Bush noted Purdue’s change in energy.
“We were kind of on the road for a really long time and it took us a set to realize: This is home. We have all the energy here and we just need to apply it,” she said.
The Boilers brought the same intensity into the third set, scoring the first few points off kills from Newton and Cleveland, while keeping the Hawkeyes at bay with blocks by Newton and Cuttino.
Bush commented on how the energy of the crowd affected the play.
“When they’re excited and we’re excited, (the energy) is really up,” Bush said. “And that kind of gets the team we’re playing, it gets in their head a little bit so it really helps us stay up.”
The Boilers kept a comfortable lead, finishing the third set up by 9 points, 25-16.
Newton hit the first point in the fourth set off a pass from Bush. The Boilers stayed vigilant, holding off the Hawkeye hitters with digs from Hornung and junior defensive specialist Jena Otec.
The game ended decisively with Purdue winning the fourth set 25-15 off kills from Newton, Cleveland, Cuttino, Otec and senior middle blocker Blake Mohler.
Shondell commented on the players' overall improvement, from losing the first match to the overall win.
“Our defense did a good job of adjusting defensively, because you saw our hitting percentage in the first game was almost 400 and continued to go lower to 200 about at the end of the match. So I thought we did a nice job defensively.”
Shondell said he was also pleased with the way his offense played, specifically Cleveland, who finished the game with 16 kills and five blocks.
“Offensively, Grace Cleveland put on a show and she had a lot of help,” he said.
Purdue faces No. 5 Nebraska at 8 p.m. Saturday in Holloway Gymnasium.