Get to know Missouri's potential NCAA Volleyball 2nd round opponent: Purdue

By the rankings, Purdue is the most likely opponent for the Tigers should they get past IUPUI

Kicking off the action on Friday afternoon (4:30 p.m.) at The Hearnes will be Central Arkansas out of the Southland Conference against Purdue of the Big Ten. We will have some more on Central Arkansas tomorrow, but I wanted to spend some extra time on Purdue. As I stated yesterday, IUPUI is the only opponent we KNOW Mizzou will play in this tournament, but I am going to make some assumptions that we would likely face Purdue in the second round. What can the Tigers expect? Is Purdue a team that could give Mizzou some trouble? Let's put them through the same bullets from yesterday and see what we have to work with.

About the Boilermakers: Purdue finished the regular season with a 20-11 mark overall, 11-9 in the Big Ten (6th place). This was good enough to be voted 19th in the latest AVCA Coach's Poll, while also holding the rank of 27th in the RPI. The Big Ten does NOT have a conference tournament (unlike IUPUI and the Summit League), so Purdue finished with a four-game winning streak. If you want to compare RPI ranks, 27th puts them near LSU, aTm, and UGA, who are 30, 31 and 32. Against these three, Mizzou played each only once. They beat LSU 3-1 in Baton Rouge in late October, taking down aTm 3-0 in College Station two days later. They also beat UGA 3-1 at home in mid-October.

Out of Conference: Purdue had the unique circumstance of playing a mid-season exhibition, as they lost to Poland 3-1. Yes...Poland. Anyway, the non-con season saw Purdue go 9-2, though they started with a loss to #7 (RPI) USC 3-1. Their only other non-con loss came the next day against #59 Western Kentucky in what I would consider a bad loss (especially in a home tournament). Their best non-con wins came against #82 Pitt, #85 Bowling Green and #110 ND. The Tigers and Boilers shared one opponent this year, that being Pitt. The Tigers took down the Panthers 3-1, while the Boilers did the same by a 3-2 score.

In Conference: Make no mistake, the Big Ten is one of the premier volleyball conferences in the country. With their RPI of 27th, Purdue was only 6th-best in ranking, as the conference boasts eight of the top-33 teams in the nation from a RPI standpoint. Needless to say, a 20-game conference docket is quite the gauntlet. Purdue dropped both matches to #1 Penn State, though they did take them to five in W. Lafayette, but did boast some very impressive results. They took both matches from #9 Nebraska (3-1 in Lincoln and 3-0 in W. Lafayette). They took a 5-set thriller against #15 Wisconsin at home, also beating #20 Illinois 3-1 as well. They beat both #28 Michigan State and #33 Michigan. Their worst loss in conference came at the hands of #63 Northwestern, who had their number and swept them this season.

The Roster: Seems like Purdue has really employed a rotation of ten. They are pretty even in terms of attack distribution, and appear to have employed two setters this season as well.

  • Kierra "Kiki" Jones (6'1 JR - Middle Blocker) - Leads the team in hitting percentage at .393, but was only third on the team with 245 kills and fourth with 2.09 per set. Leads the team in block assists with 125 and total blocks with 140. Started every match for Purdue
  • Faye Adelaja (6'1 RS Frosh - Middle Blocker) - One of only three to start every match for Purdue. Hits .331, but with only 1.59 kills per set. Second on the team in block assists (108) and total blocks (127) and did lead the team in solo blocks with 19
  • Carly Cramer (5'6 RS Senior - Defensive Specialist) Did not start a match this season, but is the best server on the team with 31 aces. Also the top digger for the Boilers with 4.02 per set. Was one of three service receivers
  • Catherine Rebarchak (6'2 RS Senior - Outside Hitter) - Has second most kills on the team (269), but did not play in 6 matches. Hits .255, but has the highest kills/set average at 2.92
  • Val Nichol (6'1 Junior - Setter/Outside Hitter) - The primary setter for Purdue, as she averaged 6 assists per set. Also averaged just under 2 digs per set.. But she also had the most kills on the team with 323, hitting .241 on the season with 2.76 kills/set. Only other Boiler to start all 31 matches
  • Annie Drews (6'4 Soph - Outside Hitter) - Tallest member of the squad, hit .200 on the season with just under 2 kills/set
  • Sam Epenesa (6'0 Soph - Outside Hitter) - One of the many averaging a little over 2 kills/set, though only on .146 hitting
  • Hilary Fox (6'1 Senior - Setter/Outside Hitter) - Though she is listed as a setter, she was not the other setter in the Purdue lineup. Fox did her best work in the back, digging 2.61 balls/set which was good enough for second on the team. She was also the primary service receiver, receiving at a .972 clip
  • Amanda Neill (5'8 Soph - Defensive Specialist) - Fourth best on the team with digs and digs per set. Was also the second-best with 28 aces
  • Rachel Davis (6'0 RS Senior - Setter) - This is the #2 setter on the team, with over 5 assist per set. Also one of the primary diggers with just under 2 per set.
Stats of Note: Purdue hit .240 on the season and averages 12.46 assist per set (two full assists per set behind Missouri). They do not rank in the top-50 nationally in any category, with their block coming in the best at #58. Kiki Jones (.393 hitting) is top-30 in the country.

Notes of Note: It is certainly worth noting Purdue's recent NCAA Tournament experience, especially with so many RS Seniors on the squad.
  • 2009 - Did not make the tournament (Presumably this is when people like Rachel Davis, Catherine Rebarchuk and Carly Cramer were riding the pine)
  • 2010 - Purdue enters the tourney as the #24 ranked team nationally, hosting a regional. They take out Kentucky in four and then Louisville in four to move on to the Super Regionals. In Austin, Texas, they defeat #1 Florida in STRAIGHT sets before losing to #6 ranked Texas in four.
  • 2011 - Purdue enters the tourney as the #8 ranked team, hosting a regional once again. They take out Morehead State in straight sets before beating Louisville (again) in four (again). They then head north to Minneapolis, where they fall to #21 ranked Florida State in the Sweet 16 in four.
  • 2012 - Ranked #22 to start the tourney, Purdue does not get to host, heading south to Florida State. They defeat Colorado State in three before taking on their hosts, who they dispatch in five (15-11 in the fifth). Strangely, this gets them a ticket home, as they host the Super Regional round. The home crowd is not enough, as they fall to MN in four very tight frames.
Prediction: Should we face Purdue (and I believe we will), this is going to be a salty opponent. They have been through the wars in one of the toughest conferences in the nation, as well as three straight seasons of at least two tournament wins. I dont believe the stage will be too big for them (especially since a 7:30pm start time on Saturday night may bring fewer people than Friday night because of the SEC Championship game ending not long before the match begins). However, this team really does not seem to excel at anything in particular, though they are solid in most areas (digs and aces are barely top-200, everything else is 100-50). I would not be surprised to see Purdue take a set and go down fighting in the others.
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