10/31/18 Volleyball Michigan State, Volleyball Team

The Purdue volleyball team huddles before the beginning of the fourth set.

On Halloween night the Purdue volleyball team took home a victory against Michigan State in an aggressive 3-1 match.

No. 12 Purdue (20-4, 9-4 Big Ten) has been solidifying its position for a good spot in the NCAA tournament with a six-game win streak under its belt after its triumphant win against Michigan State (15-10, 3-9). In addition to climbing the ranks, senior hitter Sherridan Atkinson was recently named Big Ten Player of the Week coming off of her career-best 32 kills against then-No. 4 Penn State.

The Spartans began the match with a hot 4-1 start, immediately taking advantage of the Boilers’ attack errors. Purdue quickly responded with some key plays and two serving aces from senior hitter Sherridan Atkinson. From the frontline, sophomore outside hitter Caitlyn Newton and freshman middle blocker Grace Cleveland put on some pressure at the net, contributing three and two kills respectively. Despite an early deficit, the Boilers cleaned up and finished the set 25-18.

Like in the previous set, Michigan State quickly tallied some points, leaving Purdue scrambling early on. The Spartans proved to be difficult in this set, going on a 5-point scoring streak to which Purdue’s defense was unable to respond. Even when they reached a tie at 14, the Boilers couldn’t get their passes off and allowed Michigan State to control the ball. Purdue was unable to garner kills in time and fell short, 25-19.

Yet again, the Spartans remained in possession of the court at the beginning, putting up 6-0 on the scoreboard. Junior Blake Mohler and Atkinson responded with some kills and a solid defense on the net, but Michigan State held the lead at 10-7. It wasn’t until the combination of Mohler and Newton shifted gears and fought back against their opponents' attacks, exposing their positioning in defense and making key plays to spark an 8-0 run. Mohler and Newton closed the set, 25-18, and put Purdue in position to close the game.

But the Spartans didn’t go down without a fight. They put up a staggering 11-4 on the board, leaving the Boilers behind with yet another deficit to recover from. Still, Purdue never backed down. Crucial kills from Atkinson and defensive plays from senior libero Brooke Peters and freshman defensive specialist Julianna Reisinger attribute to a quick turnaround. The Spartans couldn’t keep up and fell short to the finish.

Head coach Dave Shondell praised the efforts of Atkinson and Mohler leading the offensive charge, especially after giving up the second set. He also credited Reisinger for contributing to the big plays at the right moments.

“The player that you wouldn’t recognize pretty easily is Julianna Reisinger,” said Shondell. “When we got on some runs, (Reisinger) was in the game making plays.”

Despite the stats that Cleveland and Newton put up at the frontline, Shondell remarked that they didn’t make as much as an impact as Atkinson and Mohler did. Additionally, he spoke about the mediocre passing on the court that could’ve made a difference in avoiding early deficits. Nonetheless, he noted that this is still a young team that needs to grow if it wants to be placed in a favorable position for the NCAA tournament.

"Teams have to understand in this league that everyone can beat you and everyone can outplay you. ... We did not start fast, but we did finish fast," Shondell said.

Even coming home from a tough couple road games, Mohler didn’t take the big wins against Penn State and Rutgers for granted in this matchup.

“You have to work hard every match,” she said. “Nothing’s easy, it’s just who can put the ball in and who has the mentality that they can win it.”

Purdue will play Indiana at 8 p.m. on Saturday night in Holloway Gymnasium. Fans are encouraged to wear black for "Boilermaker Blackout" night.

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