The No. 11 Purdue volleyball team (4-4) returns to Holloway Gymnasium this weekend to take on the Northwestern Wildcats (2-0). After earning their first top 25 win of the season this weekend against Michigan, the Boilermakers turn their attention to another team that has faced COVID-19 pauses.
The Wildcats opened their season by sweeping Rutgers 3-0 in their first two matches. Shortly after, the athletic program was put on pause because of several positive COVID-19 tests linked to the Michigan athletic department. This weekend will be the first time since Jan. 23 that the Wildcats have taken the court.
Purdue dealt with a similar issue against Michigan but appeared to be unfazed by its well-rested opponent. The Boilers left Ann Arbor, Michigan with two victories and a few individual honors.
Redshirt junior setter Hayley Bush earned the Big Ten Setter of the Week award after recording 90 assists over eight sets. Bush also eclipsed 3,000 career assists during Saturday’s match.
Freshman blocker Taylor Trammell walked away with the Big Ten Defensive Player of the Week. Her 16 blocks were a major contributor to the wins over the weekend.
“Trammell has been a godsend,” head coach Dave Shondell said after the Michigan series. “She’s opened up some eyeballs in the Big Ten for coaches who may not have even known who she was, but when she gets on the floor she makes a lot of good things happen.”
Northwestern may have just two games under its belt, but it still has a few stats of its own to showcase. Against Rutgers, the Wildcats had 18 blocks and scored 113 points in six sets. Sophomore hitter Temi Thomas-Ailara led the team with 29 kills and five blocks.
“We feel like we have length and some pretty smart kids,” Shondell said. “But certainly we will be tested by Northwestern.
“We’ve only seen two matches, and they have some big-time athletes. So, much like Michigan, we won’t know what we’re getting into until we take the court.”
The Boilermakers are one of the hottest teams in volleyball and just hitting their stride. Junior hitter Grace Cleveland had 19 kills and a .567 hitting percentage last weekend. Shondell believes her leadership is just as important as her performance on the court.
“She’s a dedicated student-athlete,” Shondell said. “There’s a lot of different kinds of leadership, but when she goes out and scores six kills and shuts it down after we lose a close-set, that’s leadership to me.”