In front of a Wilkinson Hall-record crowd of 2,313, IU fell in five sets to #20 Purdue, 24-26, 25-16, 18-25, 26-24, 13-15. As a result, Purdue retained the Monon Spike trophy. The Hoosiers (12-6, 1-4 B1G) and Boilermakers (10-4, 2-3 B1G) played a back-and-forth affair that lasted nearly three hours; it was the third straight five-setter between the two Big Ten rivals.
Going into Wednesday night’s contest, Purdue had won 14 matches in a row against Indiana. However, IU had pushed Purdue to five sets in three of the previous five contests, including both last year in IU coach Steve Aird’s first season. Entering the battle for the Monon Spike, each team had experienced the same Big Ten path: defeat at Minnesota, at Wisconsin, and home to Illinois, with a home win vs. Northwestern.
IU’s brand new volleyball facility was filled to the brim. Hoosier fans, young and old, packed the building to see their team. The IU Drumline attended, as well as the IU RedStepper Dance Team. “We have the best fans ever,” senior setter Victoria Brisack said after the match. Senior Jacqui Armer, who transferred from LSU, agreed: “Our fans were great. It was an awesome atmosphere.”
Very little separated the two teams. Purdue sophomore Grace Cleveland recorded a game-high 23 kills, but IU senior Deyshia Lofton had the highest hitting percentage. Purdue junior defensive specialist Jena Otec led the way with 23 digs, but IU’s Lofton, Armer, and Kamryn Malloy all registered more blocks than any Boilermaker, with 8, 6, and 5, respectively.
The 5th set started ominously for the Hoosiers, as Purdue jumped out to an 8-5 lead. After the teams switched sides, IU leapfrogged ahead 12-11 on a block by freshman Breana Edwards. A Purdue timeout turned the tide, and the Boilermakers took the final game, 15-13. At the end of the night, Purdue ended up with two more kills, four more attacking errors, and three more digs. IU had three more aces and four more blocks. Remarkably, when things settled, each team tallied exactly 106 points.
I thought it was a heck of a volleyball match between two pretty good teams. Obviously, we fell a couple points short. (Purdue) does a great job. They battled.IU head coach Steve Aird
Even with the ever-present Big Ten gauntlet, Aird remained optimistic about his outlook for the season and kept things in perspective. “(The loss) hurts, but you get back in the lab and work. We’re closing the gap. There’s people dying in Syria, man. It’s competitive athletics. A lot of people beat themselves up about it. Hopefully, tonight I don’t peed on by my four-year-old. I’ll wake up tomorrow and life will go on.” When he does, the focus will turn to three straight road games, starting with #17 Illinois, who beat the Hoosiers in straight sets last Friday in Bloomington.
“It hasn’t been a rivalry for a long time,” Aird told media yesterday about Indiana and Purdue. Perhaps Wednesday’s match sparked something in the years to come.
Featured image: IndianaHQ