Just like that, the streak is over.
Another packed house at Holloway Gymnasium on Friday night created a boisterous environment for the No. 4 Boilermakers (10-1, 2-0 Big Ten) as they took on unranked Illinois (10-3, 2-0 Big Ten). With the band and Block Party riled up once again, the Boilermakers used the crowd noise to their advantage on offense, using the extra spark to fire rocketing shots at the Illini.
Unfortunately, the energy wasn't enough, as Purdue fell in five sets for its second loss of the season.
The Boilermakers kept it neck and neck with the Illini during the first set. The biggest lead by either side was a mere 3 points. Illinois ultimately took the first set 30-28 despite multiple Purdue chances at converting a set point, missing on multiple opportunities to seal a set it had at its fingertips.
Sophomore middle blocker Taylor Trammell had a big set, making some key moves to keep the Boilermakers in it throughout the set with three blocks and one kill. Fifth year outside hitter Caitlyn Newton played up to her star standard in the first set with six kills, three digs and 16 attacks.
The first set was highlighted by senior setter Hayley Bush, who hit 4,000 career assists during the match. The Purdue star is the eighth player in program history to hit this historic milestone.
Bush, who is an American Volleyball Coaches Association All-American Honorable Mention and first-team all-Big Ten setter, continued her illustrious Purdue career by moving up to eighth all-time in assists. She is the sixth setter in program history to earn these honors.
The Holloway crowd erupted in the second set as Purdue got off to a hot start. As the Boilermakers captured many big kills, senior middle blocker Jael Johnson and fifth year libero Jena Otec gave the Fighting Illini a tough time with their extravagant and perfect serves that resulted in multiple aces for the Boilermakers.
The Boilermakers got back on track and took the second set 25-15. Newton led the way with 11 kills and 28 total attacks, elevating the team to its blowout set win.
With the Holloway crowd still roaring and cheering for their team, the third set kicked off with back and forth scoring plays. Trammell continued her big night with multiple big blocking plays, five more to be exact, and six kills that helped the Boilermakers maintain their lead throughout the set.
The Fighting Illini would go on to take the third set 26-24 when they made a comeback run after being down by as many as 7 points. Led by outside hitter Megan Cooney and outside hitter Jessica Nunge, who had 13 and 11 kills in the match respectively, their big plays in this set proved to be too much for the Boilermakers.
The Fighting Illini started the fourth set off strong starting with a 5 point lead over the Boilermakers. While the Holloway crowd continued to erupt in cheer, Purdue was down big in a potentially match-deciding set. Cleveland however, did not take being down lightly as she recorded five huge kills that helped the Boilermakers come back from being down 8 points to take the lead in the set. The cheering fans became almost like a light switch, staying silent while in play and screaming whenever the Boilermakers gained a point.
The Boilermakers win the fourth set 25-18 to keep their winning hopes alive. Cleveland and Newton once again played big roles in the set victory for the Boilermakers recording a combined 12 and 15 kills in the match, respectively. Purdue came back from a 7 point deficit to ultimately take the set. The Illini played their hearts out but were no match for the Boilermakers.
The fifth set started off with an unbelievable save by Jena Otec that sent her into the stands to save the ball. While Purdue did not win that point, the entire crowd was in awe at her effort, giving her a round of applause.
The Illini once again started out strong leading by as much as 5 in the fifth set. With the Boilermakers making mistakes such as errant serving and hits out of bounds, they did not help their situation.
If you’re not at your best and you don’t take advantage of playing in front of a sellout crowd, your own people, we have nobody else to blame but ourselves,” head coach Dave Shondell said after the match.
The Fighting Illini won the fifth set 15-10, handing Purdue its second loss of the season.
“For much of the match tonight, we just weren’t the Purdue team that I’ve seen throughout the season," Shondell said. "We just weren’t really as engaged or as sharp as we needed to be."
The Boilermakers will move on to the Rutgers Scarlet Knights tomorrow at 7 p.m. in Holloway Gymnasium. The game can be streamed on BTN+.