The No. 11 Purdue volleyball team extended its winning streak to four this weekend after beating the Northwestern Wildcats in back-to-back nights.
Northwestern (2-2) had not played a match since January due to a coronavirus-related pause in athletics, but the extended bye showed its worth on the sideline. The Wildcats could be seen cheering, chanting and acting out skits in celebration of their teammates’ achievements. This added spirit was more than any Boilermaker fan could dispute; the Northwestern bench was the loudest spot in Holloway for both matches.
Friday’s match was slow, but the Boilermakers pulled out the win, 3-0. A few early set jitters were quickly shaken off and a surprise performance emerged from sophomore outside hitter Maddy Chinn. Chinn led the team with a .417 hitting percentage and once again proved why she is such a valuable asset to the Purdue arsenal.
“She’s just a really consistent and level-headed player,” head coach Dave Shondell said after Friday’s match. “I think she brings a nice positive, loose attitude to the team. Which her teammates like to see her in because when she does, she exudes calm.”
Saturday was senior-night, and the dull energy from the night before had completely dissipated with seniors libero Jena Otec and outside hitter Caitlyn Newton receiving recognition. The Wildcats came with a new focus and were able to keep the Boilermakers locked in. With 31 combined kills, sophomores Abryanna Cannon and Temi Thomas-Ailara were able to give the Wildcats enough fuel to steal set two, 25-22.
“I thought that they raised their level considerably from last night,” Shondell said. “I know how talented they are, so when they come out and don’t make errors of their own, they’re gonna put pressure on you to have to perform.”
Purdue recognized this new challenge and immediately raised the bar. Newton led the team with 17 kills and a terrific senior night show, paving the way for the junior class to close out the game.
Junior outside hitter Grace Cleveland and middle blocker Jael Johnson dominated the final set with a combined 23 kills and eight blocks. Junior setter Hayley Bush got in on the fun as well as she earned another career milestone. During the match, she earned her 3,067th career assist, ranking her as No. 10 in Purdue history.
“I think our junior class is already providing great leadership,” Shondell said. “But to know that those players are returning and you can build a fall team around them is encouraging.”
Overall, the Boilermakers played well this weekend. Errors were the only attribute to the Wildcat’s success during sets, and every player is finding more ways to make big plays.
The Boilermakers will have a quick turnaround following their victories. They travel to Bloomington on Tuesday to play the Hoosiers. The teams are splitting their two-game rivalry series between Bloomington and West Lafayette this week.