The Purdue volleyball team was plagued by offensive errors as they opened their final home weekend of the season with a tough 3-1 (22-25, 20-25, 25-22, 17-25) loss to No. 6 Nebraska Friday night.
Redshirt senior outside hitter Sherridan Atkinson led the Boilermaker (21-7, 10-7 Big Ten) offense with 20 kills, while freshman defensive specialist Marissa Hornung racked up 21 digs and an ace in her third career start at libero. Hornung started at libero against Wisconsin and Minnesota because senior libero Brooke Peters was out sick.
"When a player misses a whole weekend, it's really hard to come back," Hornung said on starting at libero for the match. "We just went with what we had last weekend to build on our momentum."
Head coach Dave Shondell, however, argued for Hornung's talent as a player.
"We've got an absolute star in the making as a libero," Shondell said. "She's exceptional. That was one of the highlights of tonight's match, was how many plays she made."
The Boiler defense shone in the match. Purdue stifled the Huskers' lead player, senior outside hitter Mikaela Foecke. Heading into the match, Foecke was averaging 3.71 kills per set. Purdue's defense held her to 10 kills over the four-set match.
The defense also out-blocked the Huskers, putting up five solo blocks and 16 block assists to Nebraska's four solo blocks and 10 block assists.
"I thought both teams played very, very well defensively," Shondell said. "It was our best defensive effort of, probably, the season."
However, all of this couldn't outweigh Purdue's offensive errors. The Boilers made 20 attack errors and 11 service errors in the match. Adding that to Nebraska's 11 aces and team-best 13 kills from sophomore outside hitter Lexi Sun spelled defeat for the Boilermakers.
"My biggest disappointment was that, in the fourth game, we looked like we were tired," Shondell said. "Here you are playing against Nebraska, the defending national champ, and you're gonna be tired?"
Shondell also commented on the nature of playing high-ranking teams.
"It's like the story, if a tree falls in a forest, does anybody hear it?" Shondell asked. "If you play a great match against a team that's ranked in the top five in the country, does anybody know it unless you win?"
The match saw a number of plays in which one team or the other would make an apparently point-winning hit and let their guard down, only for the second team to recover the ball and win the point off of the others' inattention.
The Boilers hope to rebound from this loss Saturday night, when they play Iowa University at 8 p.m. in Holloway Gymnasium.