Holloway Gymnasium may seat just over 2,000 people, but the echoing cries of Boilermaker volleyball fans made it seem 10 times larger than its attendance numbers would suggest.
No. 7 @PurdueVB has one of the toughest home court environments in the nation & it's all because of the @BoilerBlock 🏐 🏟This is the Boiler Block Party: 𝗔𝘁 𝗧𝗵𝗲 𝗡𝗲𝘁Full Feature ➡️ https://t.co/dEnMP6auy6 pic.twitter.com/VBVBwik8ou— Purdue On BTN (@PurdueOnBTN) September 24, 2021
It seemed nothing could calm the echoing crowd of fans that filled Holloway in a Friday night 3-2 upset against the No. 3 Ohio State Buckeyes (10-1, 0-1 Big Ten). With the band and Block Party sections in a full cheering swing, the No. 7 Boilermakers (9-1, 1-0 Big Ten) had all of the crowd fuel in their favor in a bout with its first top five team of the season.
“It’s really hard to play in Holloway," senior outside hitter Caitlyn Newton said. "Give a huge shoutout to our fans, they were amazing tonight.”
The fans at Holloway constantly alternated between dead silence and intense cheering, breaking the constant tension by erupting when Purdue nabbed early kills or stopped Buckeye strikes. The early energy charged up the Boilermakers, who needed to play some of their best volleyball to keep pace with the tough Buckeyes.
The match went to five sets for the first time this season, but Purdue’s tenacity earned it a tone-setting win to open conference play.
Locker room vibes 💦 pic.twitter.com/cRrbM2SQMJ— Purdue Volleyball (@PurdueVB) September 25, 2021
The Boilermakers took the first set 25-17 with senior outside hitters Grace Cleveland and Caitlyn Newton getting off to hot starts of their own, racking up a combined 10 kills, two digs and one block. Junior outside hitter Emma Ellis also contributed in the offensive production with three kills.
The Buckeyes took the second set 25-19. Sophomore opposite hitter Emily Londot was the second set star for the Buckeyes with 12 kills, two blocks and one assist. Cleveland and Newton remained consistent with their performances in the second set, combining for 24 kills.
In the second set, Purdue had a big run of 7 straight points, propelling it to within three of the Buckeyes. Cleveland and Newton continued to wreak havoc on the Buckeyes, making several big plays to draw the set to a close score.
Purdue started the third set off hot as it scored 5 straight points to begin the round, forcing Ohio State to call a timeout. Most of the set was a pure defensive showdown between the teams as each side played aggressively with multiple big defensive stops that kept the score close.
However, the Boilers’ efforts were outlasted by the Buckeyes, who took the third set 25-21. Newton and Cleveland put up solid set performances along with senior middle blocker Jael Johnson, who had five kills and five digs.
Though Johnson said the coach's sideline pep talks helped them out of a 3-1 deficit, an assortment of veterans also stepped in and got the team fired up. They were a real source of motivation and leadership, she said, one they needed going into the fourth and eventual fifth sets.
The fourth set kicked off with a back and forth battle where each team seemed to have a constant lead by 2. This set again was a defensive showdown, and the crowd continued to show no mercy, cheering their hearts out to distract the Buckeyes.
Holloway became a complete madhouse in the closing points of the fourth set when Purdue came back from a 4-point deficit. Cleveland, who played her heart out against the Buckeyes, made big plays to keep the Boilermakers’ hopes of beating a top-five team alive.
The Boilermakers took the fourth set 25-22 tying the game up 2-2 with the fifth set to decide it all. Cleveland, Newton and Johnson continued to strike and create big plays as well as creating defensive stops. Although the score was close, the Boilermakers pulled away at the end to send the match into the fifth and match-deciding set.
After the match, head coach Dave Shondell said the key to the game was keeping focus and taking advantage of opportunities.
“When we were down in the fourth, all of a sudden, they made a few errors." Shondell said. "Then we started to capitalize on them.”
These opportunities gave them the momentum they needed to prevail in the fourth and fifth sets.
Holloway rocked until the very end as the roar of the crowd, mentioned by many players, created momentum shifts and stuck by the team to act as a 7th member of Boilermaker squad.
Purdue will continue its Big Ten run against Indiana at 2 p.m., Sunday in Bloomington.