8/27/21 Loyola Marymount, Grace Cleveland, Jael Johnson

Senior middle blocker Jael Johnson teams up with senior outside hitter Grace Cleveland to block a LMU hit. 

The No. 9 Purdue women’s volleyball team takes on three tough opponents this weekend in the Stacey Clark Classic tournament. 

Purdue looks to wrap up its non-conference season with three victories, building up enough momentum to start a new win streak after suffering a devastating loss to the Louisville Cardinals last week.

Stacey Clark was a Purdue volleyball season ticket holder since 1993. She became a part of the Purdue volleyball family when she became president of the Gold Block booster club. Clark died of pancreatic cancer in Feb. 2016. 

The tournament, formerly known as the Boiler Box Challenge, was renamed the Stacey Clark Classic six years ago to honor her memory.

Senior outside hitter Grace Cleveland said she thinks the team has done well the first three weeks of the season, but emphasized her belief that there is still work to be done before the upcoming home series. She also highlighted the team’s work toward improving their blocking while honing their first and second contact skills after suffering its first loss this Friday.

First and second contact refers to the hit progressions from the setters, hitters and defensive specialists. Teams are allowed up to three contacts on their side of the net before they need to knock it back to the opposing side.

Excelling in both blocking and contact will be vital for a victory in Friday’s match, according to head coach Dave Shondell. He expressed his pride in the team’s overall chemistry and positive attitude throughout the season, saying he looks forward to seeing how far his team will go.

Cleveland echoed Shondell’s comments about the team’s chemistry and energy. She said she feeds off her coach’s energy, an ability that helps keep her and the team focused.

The Boilermakers’ (5-1) third match of the weekend may be one of its toughest non-conference opponents in the No. 22 Tennessee Volunteers (6-1). The Volunteers are looking for a victory to push past rivals in Kentucky and Florida for a chance at the Southeastern Conference title.

Before then, the Boilers will take on Jacksonville State (9-1) Friday morning. The Gamecocks, the leader in the Atlantic Sun Conference, hope to continue their five-game winning streak this weekend. 

“We’re really excited,” Cleveland said about the tournament lineup. “All the teams have different skill sets, so I’m sure we’ll practice a lot on defending them this week, but overall glad to be back at home and then get prepared for Big Ten play."

The team will need to continue its strong work ethic in practice and maintain a positive attitude, as outlined by Shondell, in order to play the best it can going into this weekend’s matches.

Purdue’s first match against Jacksonville State begins at 10:30 a.m. Friday in Holloway Gymnasium. The match can be streamed on BTN+.

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