10/31/18 Volleyball Michigan State, Volleyball Team

The Purdue volleyball team huddles before the beginning of the fourth set.

In the first round of the NCAA tournament, Purdue volleyball controlled the court and swept East Tennessee (25-23, 25-7, 25-18) to progress to the second round.

The Boilers (23-8) used their offensive talent to completely shut down the Buccaneers’ (28-6) opportunities to respond.

Finishing the season leading the Big Ten conference with 525 kills, fifth-year hitter Sherridan Atkinson led the charge with 12 kills and 7 digs. Freshman blocker Grace Cleveland and sophomore hitter Caitlyn Newton also contributed 10 and 9 kills respectively, and redshirt junior blocker Blake Mohler also added on 6 kills. Freshman libero Marissa Hornung handled the backcourt, racking up 16 digs.

East Tennessee's offense was led by senior middle blocker Mariah McPartland, who put down 11 kills, followed by junior hitter Leah Clayton with 7 kills. Overall, they had a .195 attacking percentage, which couldn’t match Purdue’s .409 attacking percentage, as well as 21 total errors that gave Purdue the chances they had to tally kills.

Despite taking the early lead, Purdue had some trouble with their pass game, but it was able to make up its struggles with the Buccaneers' attack errors.

The Buccaneers flipped a switch and McPartland’s spikes became a significant problem for Purdue, exposing a vulnerable defense early. The deficit continued to grow after a Purdue timeout, climbing 13-10 in favor of East Tennessee.

The Boilers took back the lead with some great blocking combinations by Cleveland. While the Boilers were the first to reach 20 points, East Tennessee went on a 5-0 run to tie the score. Purdue stopped the run, however, and closed the set 25-23.

Early in the second set, Purdue’s blocks on the net completely shut down East Tennessee attacks on the front line, putting up a devastating 7-0 lead. Atkinson began to put down some kills after getting some open shots on the right side of the net, proving to be extremely effective against the Buccaneers’ defense. Even with Clayton trying to pick up some kills for the Buccaneers, Purdue’s offense ran the court and widened the gap to 16-4. With East Tennessee unable to dig out of the massive deficit, Purdue rode the momentum to claim the set 25-7.

The Buccaneers still weren’t quite able to keep up with the Boilers’ fast pace offense, taking an early timeout when Atkinson put the score at 7-2. That break allowed East Tennessee to close the deficit 11-7 with some crucial kills by Lux and Clayton. Newton and Cleveland continued to strike down East Tennessee’s blocks and widening the gap 17-11. But the Buccaneers had no answers to the Boilers’ offensive prowess, and Purdue closed the match 25-18.

The Boilers will face No. 10 Kentucky (25-4) at 7 p.m. Saturday, in Lexington.

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