The Purdue volleyball team gears up for a brutal road weekend against No. 8-ranked Wisconsin and No. 3 Minnesota, off the heels of a five-set win against rival Indiana University.
Purdue’s Friday night match in Madison will be their road rematch against Wisconsin. When the teams last met in September, the Badgers (16-6, 9-5 Big Ten) defeated the Boilers (21-4, 10-4) in straight sets.
Since then, both head coach Dave Shondell and senior libero Brooke Peters have seen a marked improvement in the team’s play. Peters expects Wisconsin to be surprised by the team’s progress.
“I think mentally, we’re in a better position than we were when we played them the first time,” Shondell said. “I think we’re a much better volleyball team, and we’re riding a pretty good win streak right now. If you can’t have confidence after seven in a row in this league, you’re not gonna have confidence.”
The Boilermakers are maintaining a seven-game win streak and a six-game streak in five-set matches, including wins over then-No. 4 Penn State and Iowa.
“I think any time we go on to a fifth game, that’s not a negative thing, we’ve been there before,” said Shondell. “We’ve survived those, so we feel pretty good about our chances.”
Peters feels that the team’s experience with the fifth set is valuable.
“I think something just clicked, and you could kind of see it in our eyes, like, ‘We’re not gonna lose, this is our game,’” Peters said. “Going into that fifth set, since we’ve done it a couple times now, we have that over teams.”
Purdue will need the confidence beyond this weekend, as well. The volleyball squad faces four top-10 teams in their final six matches of the regular season.
“It’s just like any other game, but we have that added pressure since we’re playing teams that are ranked ahead of us, that we have a chance of beating,” said Peters. “Going into those you can feel the pressure from coaches and from your teammates. Even though people might get more worked up about those games, I think it’s always good to play those games right before we go into the tournament.”
Purdue’s first challenge of the closing series lies in Wisconsin, where the Boilers have been putting almost all of their focus this week. The Badgers boast a formidable offensive front, headed by sophomore middle blocker Dana Rettke, referred to by Shondell as “the best offensive player in America.”
Despite this, Peters believes that Purdue matches up to Wisconsin’s power.
“Even though they might be better on paper than us, we have a fighting chance,” Peters said.