12/2/19 Volleyball selection

The Purdue volleyball team celebrates after its tournament seeding is announced Sunday night. The team will host part of the first two rounds in Holloway Gymnasium.

The Spurgeon Lounge in Mackey Arena erupted in applause, cheers and tears as Purdue's logo was flashed across the television screen with a large 16 next to it.

"Me, Caitlyn (Newton) and Hayley (Bush) kinda just sat there," fifth-year middle blocker Blake Mohler said. "We were all just kind of in awe. We had tears in our eyes. It was really shocking and a really good feeling, and I'm really humbled by it."

The 16 seed Boilermakers (22-7, 14-6 Big Ten) will host Wright State, Dayton and Marquette, and play against Wright State in Holloway Gymnasium in the first round of the NCAA tournament at 7 p.m. on Friday. This is the first time the Boilermakers have hosted a tournament match in eight years, when they hosted Morehead State, Ball State and Louisville in 2011.

"I just think it's a great confidence boost," head coach Dave Shondell said. "It's validation of what we have done so far this season. That committee that hasn't put you on that line for eight years. Then this team gets hot and wins 13 out of their last 16. We earned that."

In order to host a game in the tournament, a team must be ranked in the top 16 teams in the nation. The Boilermakers, who were sitting right below the 16th seed for the majority of the season, finally made it over the hump with a six-match winning streak to end the regular season.

In addition to their end-of-season win streak, the highlights of the Boilers' season include wins over Nebraska, Kentucky and Louisville, who were then ranked No. 5, No. 16 and No. 22 respectively.

After a season like that, Shondell was confident in the Boilers' potential to host. That confidence was not necessarily shared by the rest of the team.

"None of us really thought we were gonna get it," Mohler said. "We were all just kinda like, 'OK, coaches keep saying this, but it's not gonna happen. Let's get ready to go (on the road).' I didn't even unpack my bags from Michigan State. I just kinda kept it in the corner because I knew we were gonna have to turn around and leave."

Mohler, who played what was supposed to be her last match in Holloway on Nov. 23 against Michigan, is excited to be back on her home court for the tournament.

"It feels really good," Mohler said. "It hasn't really hit that I'm not gonna play here again, so I'm really excited that I get the next chance to do that."

Other than the confidence boost of a home-court advantage, the Boilermakers will prepare no differently for this match than any regular season match.

"Very little (changes)," Shondell said. "We have to prepare for teams at a high level, because you're gonna be playing the best teams in the country every single week."

Wright State (24-5, 13-3 Horizon League) is coming into the tournament unranked, but Shondell and the Boilermakers are taking the tournament one match at a time, giving each opponent its due respect.

"They're gonna be a handful in that opening match, for sure," Shondell said.

Mohler mistakenly assumed her last match in Holloway was already past her, but due to the win-or-go-home situation, this match may actually be her last. Regardless, Mohler prepares for every match the same way, unwavered by the circumstances.

"I always have the same routine, same mindset," Mohler said. "And now that we're playing at home, I feel like it's gonna be even better to stay calm and focused."

If the Boilermakers emerge victorious, the team will face off against the winner of Dayton and Marquette, which will be decided on Friday as well. The winners of Friday's matches will play at 7 p.m. on Saturday in Holloway.

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