10/4/19 Northwestern, Grace Cleveland

Sophomore middle blocker Grace Cleveland leaps up to hit the ball over a Northwestern defender. Cleveland led the Boilermakers in both kills and total attempts, recording 10 and 29 respectively. Cleveland also recorded three of the 28 team digs and three of the 10 team blocks. 

After a less-than-ideal start to Big Ten play, the No. 20 Purdue volleyball team is preparing to play Northwestern University.

Though the Boilermakers (9-4, 1-3 Big Ten) haven’t been doing great in conference play, head coach Dave Shondell sees improvement on the horizon.

“I have been very pleased with the development of this team,” Shondell said. “What we need to see is just everybody playing well at the same time.”

The Boilermakers should be carrying momentum into Saturday’s match at Welsh-Ryan Arena against a team they already beat at home a week ago.

Though Purdue has already defeated Northwestern (9-4, 0-4) once, Shondell knows the Boilermakers cannot look past any game, especially a potential revenge game for the Wildcats on their home court.

“You have to be prepared for a team to make some changes,” Shondell said.

Having played the Wildcats just last week, the Boilermakers already have a sense of what they're getting into.

“When we turn around and play them about seven, eight days later, the preparation will be a lot easier that match because you know firsthand what you see,” Shondell said.

Purdue defeated the Wildcats 3-1 the last time around, but only outscored its opponent by a total of 13 points across all three sets.

Northwestern freshman outside hitter Temi Thomas-Ailara landed 21 kills against Purdue the last time, something that could pose a larger threat this time around, as Purdue’s defense has struggled recently.

“We’re going to have to do a pretty good job of defending that as well as everything else they might bring,” Shondell said.

That defense is led by junior libero Jena Otec, who is currently ranked No. 50 in the nation in digs per set.

The Boilermakers are ready for any changes the Wildcats may make, and they plan on making a few of their own adjustments as well.

“We’ll definitely watch their game against Illinois and see if they’ve made any changes and see what we can do differently,” Otec said.

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