No. 17 Purdue wins thriller in five sets against No. 4 Penn State
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - Two of the top teams in the Big Ten met on Saturday night at Rec Hall as the No. 4 Penn State Nittany Lions (18-4, 9-3) welcomed the No. 17 Purdue Boilermakers (19-4, 8-4). In a suspenseful, two-and-a-half hour match, the Boilermakers upset the Nittany Lions in five sets, 11-25, 22-25, 25-23, 25-22 and 20-18.
“I’m terribly disappointed,” Penn State head coach Russ Rose said. “We have a lot of young people and I think with young people there’s a tendency to lose their focus and concentration.”
Penn State dominated the first two sets, winning convincingly in the first and close in the second. The Nittany Lions had 13 kills in the first and holding on to the lead for the entire set to win 25-11. The score was closer in the second set, but the lead only changed hands three times as Penn State won the second set 25-22.
“Every team in the conference if you give them an opportunity to get some momentum and get some belief, they can give you a lot of difficulty,” Rose said.
The Nittany Lions were on the verge of sweeping the entire weekend in the third set, but Purdue came out relentless with 15 kills as a team and 4 blocks in the set. Purdue was led on the night from senior outside hitter Sherridan Atkinson with 32 kills and won the third set 25-23. Atkinson hit 52%, a mark that led all starters on both teams.
“Atkinson had one of her great performances since she has been in the conference,” Rose said. “The third game was sloppy.”
Purdue took all of their new-found momentum in the fourth set but found themselves down 9-4 early in the set. The Nittany Lions reeled off seven of eight points early in the fourth set, and Purdue head coach Dave Shondell was forced to take a timeout.
After that timeout, the Boilermakers came back to win the set 25-22, scoring nine of the final 13 points to force a decisive fifth set.
“We need to compete more in practice,” junior libero Kendall White said. “The way we played is the way we practiced this week.”
In front of more than 3,000 fans at Rec Hall, the Nittany Lions and Boilermakers battled in a back and forth fifth set. The Nittany Lions led early again in this set 7-4 when Purdue took their first timeout of the set.
Whatever Shondell was saying in those huddles was clearly working, as the Boilermakers scored three of the next four points to get right back in the match. Penn State’s senior outside hitter Taylor Leath did her best to keep the Nittany Lions in it towards the end with her 21 kills at a 33 percent rate.
“There’s no guaranteed wins, yes we beat Purdue once but they came out and kicked our butts in the last couple sets,” White said.
On a controversial final point, replay review handed the Boilermakers a 20-18 final set victory to hand Penn State its first home loss of the season.
Penn State travels to face another team they went five sets with, as it takes on the Nebraska Cornhuskers in Lincoln. Purdue heads home to take on Michigan State in West Lafayette.
Joe Skinner is a sophomore broadcast journalism major. To contact him, email firstname.lastname@example.org.