12/2/21 NCAA Tournament, Illinois State, Caitlyn Newton

Fifth-year outside hitter Caitlyn Newton spikes the ball. 

After receiving the No. 6 seed in the tournament, the Purdue volleyball team had confidence heading into the first round facing off against the Illinois State Redbirds in Holloway Gymnasium Thursday night.

Coming off of a tough loss in their last game of the season last weekend to the then-No. 11 Nebraska, the Boilermakers looked to bounce back in the NCAA Tournament. With the Block Party, band and Holloway crowd cheering loud, the Boilermakers were able to put on a show for their home crowd by sweeping the Redbirds, 3-0, to advance to the second round.

Fifth-year outside hitter Caitlyn Newton commented on the Nebraska loss and the team’s mentality heading into the first round of the Tournament.

“We just turned the page and moved on,” Newton said. “We looked at each game just one game at a time.

"I think that the loss helped fuel us into going in the tournament stronger and more focused."

The first set was an absolute shootout as the lead for either team was only 4 points. Illinois State was able to stay right with Purdue. A big block by junior outside hitter Emma Ellis gave Purdue a lot of confidence and allowed the team to pull away at the end of the set to win, 25-21.

Multiple serving errors from Illinois State and big plays made by Newton and senior outside hitter Grace Cleveland, who each had five kills, helped to propel Purdue to the set victory over the Redbirds.

Purdue started the second set off strong, scoring 3 straight points, but Illinois State was quickly able to rally back once again to make the set a back and forth battle. Again, one big spike from Newton gave the Boilermakers the confidence to score 5 points in a row. The Redbirds just would not give up, however, coming right back into the set down by only 3 points. Purdue was eventually able to put the set away, 25-17.

The set featured senior setter Hayley Bush earning her 1,000th dig, becoming only the second setter in Purdue volleyball history to achieve this feat.

Purdue head coach Dave Shondell expressed how proud he was of Bush reaching this achievement.

“She’s a great competitor,” Shondell said. “She doesn’t like to lose and she doesn’t like to see the ball hit the floor. It’s an incredible accomplishment for a setter.”

Newton added three kills in the set and Ellis added six kills. Whenever the Redbirds brought the set close, Purdue was always able to make a big play that motivated it to pull away and score when it needed to.

Illinois State got off to a 3-0 start to begin the third set, but another 5 straight points scored for Purdue allowed the Boilermakers to get back on track and take a lead against the Redbirds. Freshman middle blocker Raven Colvin proceeded to take the match into her own hands, adding five huge kills that put the Holloway crowd on their feet.

Colvin reflected on her first NCAA Tournament game and the true impact that she had on the match.

“I think my teammates helped me a lot in being confident in myself and believing in me,” Colvin said. “They help me stay calm, which helps me in big games.”

Purdue absolutely dominated the third set, winning, 25-11, earning a sweep. The Boilermakers will move on to the next round of the NCAA Tournament and face the Dayton Flyers in the second round.

Newton was the kill leader for Purdue, racking up 12, with Cleveland close behind with nine. Colvin’s eight kills and Ellis’ seven also came in clutch for Purdue, helping the team to dominate the end of the second set and the third set.

Shondell expressed his excitement for the team moving onto the next round and into tomorrow’s match.

“I feel very fortunate to advance and we played really really well to do it and if you look at our numbers, they were really good."

Purdue’s match against unseeded Dayton (26-5) will begin tomorrow at 5 p.m. in Holloway. The match can be streamed on ESPN+. Dayton has won 21 straight matches going into the matchup with the Boilers.

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