2/6/21 Minnesota, Caitlyn Newton

Senior outside hitter Caitlyn Newton spikes the ball past two Minnesota blockers on Feb. 6. Newton finished the night with a team-best 29 kills with Purdue recording 63 kills across 5 sets.

The No. 11 Purdue Boilermakers traveled to Ann Arbor this weekend to take on No. 24 Michigan in the Wolverine’s season opener. The Boilers defeated the Wolverines 3-1 in both matches, giving Purdue its first wins over a ranked opponent this season.

The Boilermakers (4-4) had their work cut out for them both nights. Despite Michigan not having stepped on the court this season, the Wolverines (0-2) came to play. By keeping every set contestable, the Wolverines were able to stay in-stride with Purdue in key moments.

“It’s a great feeling Michigan is just becoming a great rival for us,” head coach Dave Shondell said after Saturday’s match. “But there’s a reason they’re ranked in the top 25.”

Saturday night was a point-for-point match between the two squads. Thanks to a six-game head start, experience allowed the Boilermakers to walk away with a victory.

The Boilermakers won the first set at the net. Freshman blocker Taylor Trammell recorded five of her nine total blocks and helped the Boilers earn a 25-22 victory to go up 1-0. Senior hitter Caitlyn Newton’s six kills were able to lead the Boilermakers to a 25-22 victory in set two.

Despite being down 2-0, Michigan never ran from the fight. Freshman hitter Jess Mruzik recorded 21 kills in her college debut. Her explosive performance left the door open for veteran Wolverines such as sophomore blocker May Pertofsky and junior hitter Paige Jones to keep Michigan competitive.

A 6-0 scoring run late in the third set capped off by a service ace from freshman libero Brooke Humphrey gave the Wolverines its first set win 26-24, bringing the match to a 2-1 score in favor of Purdue. This point-trading continued until the end. Purdue closed out the match with a 25-22 victory and a 3-1 win.

“I guess the beauty of what we did was we came back after blowing game three,” Shondell said. “And we bounced back; we didn’t let that blow our minds. So, I thought the best thing was we showed some experience and some toughness to win everything in four.”

Four Boilermakers recorded double-digit kills and the team boasted 17 blocks, five aces and a hitting percentage of .271.

Sunday was more of the same for Purdue. A 26-24 victory in the first set came with a .333 hitting percentage and sophomore hitter Maddy Chinn going 4-for-4 in kills with three blocks.

Michigan came right back and owned the second set. A 5-0 scoring run swung all the momentum to the Wolverines and provided the fire they needed to take their first win of the night, 25-22.

The Boilermakers quickly corrected this error and dominated the final two sets.

Junior hitter Grace Cleveland stepped into the lead role for the Boilermakers during the third set. She opened the set with four consecutive kills and opened the flood gates for fast offense and a dominant 25-13 victory to go up 2-1 on the Wolverines.

The final set was a party for Purdue. Four different Boiler players recorded kills and junior setter Hayley Bush took advantage of the Wolverine front. Using her versatility, she found holes in the Michigan court and racked up four of her seven kills. The Boilermakers closed out the set 25-18 and walked out of Ann Arbor with a second 3-1 victory.

“She (Bush) could be considered our most valuable player,” Shondell said. “She went out and really closed the door in the fourth set.”

Purdue won on more than one level this weekend. A total of four Boilermakers recorded double-digit kills over the two matches. On Sunday, the team hit a .349 percentage, the second-highest of the season, and .500 in the final two sets, as well as out-blocking Michigan 32-10 over the two matches.

“This was a great weekend for our volleyball team,” Shondell said. “To be 4-4 now and already have played three of the toughest teams on our schedule, we feel like we’ve got great opportunities to move forward.”

The matches were also career-high performances for two players. On Saturday, junior Jael Johnson earned a career-high eight blocks and Bush eclipsed 3,000 career assists during Sunday’s match.

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