Hard Fought Battle Goes Purdue's Way, 3-1
Oct. 11, 2013
West Lafayette, Ind. - Nothing about it was easy, but Purdue University captured its second Big Ten win of the year with a come-from-behind defeat of Illinois, 3-1 (29-31, 25-23, 25-17, 25-23). There were a total of 33 ties and 12 lead changes in the back-and-forth battle, but it was the Boilermakers who came out on top, defending their home court with a four-set win in front of a crowd of 5,160 at Mackey Arena. With the win, Purdue improves to 11-5 (2-3 Big Ten), while the Illini drop to 6-9 (2-3 Big Ten).
Jocelynn Birks was firing on all cylinders, exploding for 22 kills, including 10 in the first set alone, for her 16th career 20-kill match and her second in seven days. Junior outside hitter Morganne Criswell eclipsed her career best with 15 kills, and fellow junior outside Liz McMahon registered an additional 11.
Jennifer Beltran manned a strong back line with 19 digs, moving into a tie with Michigan's Sloane Donhoff '11 for 12th in Big Ten history with 1,918 career digs. She is just three away from the all-time Illinois record, held at 1,921 by Ashley Edinger '09. Additionally, the senior libero tallied five assists and two of the team's four aces.
Freshman Danielle Davis made several key diving digs, finishing second on the team with 11, while Birks and Alexis Viliunas both had double-doubles with 10 digs and an ace apiece, as Viliunas added 46 assists.
For the second-straight match, Anna Dorn held strong at the net, putting up six of the team's seven blocks, but the Illini were narrowly out-blocked by the Boilermakers, 9-7.
Junior setter/outside hitter Val Nichol had a lights-out performance for the Boilermakers, going a dig shy of a triple-double with 14 kills, 23 assists, nine digs and four blocks. Kierra Jones led the team with five blocks to go along with 10 kills, while Sam Epenesa and Annie Drews had 14 and 12 kills, respectively. Fifth-year senior libero Carly Cramer led the match with 21 digs, followed closely by senior defensive specialist Hillary Fox, with 20.
The Fighting Illini led for nearly the entirety of the first set, jumping ahead early 6-2. Purdue fought back to tie the score at eight, but the Illini forged right back in front, 12-9. The Boilermakers did not back down, tying the score once again at 22. Illinois refused to allow Purdue to get a lead, as kills by Birks and Criswell made it set point Illini, 24-22. A pair of Illini errors tied the score at 24 and a kill by Val Nichol put Purdue ahead for the first time at a huge moment, 25-24. Criswell countered with a kill, but Epenesa pushed the Boilermakers back in front, 26-25. Another Criswell kill tied it at 26 and an ace by Viliunas made it set point Illini, 27-26. This would still not be enough, as Epenesa kept the Boilermakers alive with another kill. Ali Stark, staying in for a rare front row appearance, slammed her first attack of the day for another Illini set point, 28-27, but a service error tied it at 28. An attack error put Purdue ahead, but the Boilermakers then served one past the baseline to tie the score once again. Birks gave the Illini yet another set point, and an attack error due to miscommunication on serve receive finally closed out the first set as Illinois won, 31-29.
The second set began much like the end of the first, but a 4-0 run by Purdue powered by a block and an ace put PU ahead 17-13. The Boilermakers extended their lead to 21-15, but the Illini exploded out of a timeout to win six straight points, including three kills by McMahon, to tie the score at 21. Kills by Adelaja and Drews pushed Purdue back ahead 23-21, but a Birks-Dorn block chipped away at the lead. Drews made it set point Purdue, but a kill by Birks kept the Illini alive. However, Illinois was unable to extend the second set, as a kill by Jones ended the frame in favor of Purdue, 25-23, to tie the match at 1-1.
It was all Purdue in the third set, as the Boilermakers opened up an early 9-4 lead and never looked back, winning the frame 25-17 and taking a 2-1 match lead. Katie Griffin was a big help for PU, coming in off the bench and slamming four kills on six swings to help the Boilers out-hit the Illini .371 to .111.
The Illini got off to a hot start in the fourth, leading 4-1 off a Mayers kills. Purdue tied it at four, but the Illini went back ahead 7-4 thanks to a pair of Purdue errors. A 5-0 run put Purdue ahead 9-7, but the Illini battled back to take a 17-13 lead. The Boilermakers would not back down, and after trailing 19-16 used a 4-0 run to take the lead on three straight kills by Nichol. The Illini tied the score at 20 but never again took the lead, and after Illinois erased one match point, Purdue closed out the competition with a kill by Griffin to squeeze past Illinois, 25-23, and pull out the 3-1 victory.
The Illini head to the other side of Indianapolis on Saturday to take on Big Ten opponent Indiana, who sits at 0-5 in Big Ten play after dropping back-to-back five set matches. The match will be streamed live on the Big Ten Digital Network and will hit the radio waves on WDWS 1400 AM. First serve is set for 6 p.m. CT.