Sept. 10, 1997
Purdue Volleyball Preview for Utah Classic
By Tom Schott
Having captured its first tournament championship and equaled its best start in four years, the Purdue volleyball team's objectives now are to remain focused and continue improving. In the words of music countdown guru Casey Kasem, ``Keep your feet on the ground and keep reaching for the stars.''
The Boilermakers (5-1), who won their own Mortar Board Purdue Premier last weekend, return to action this weekend at the Utah Classic in Salt Lake City. They take on Southwest Texas State on Friday evening, Weber State on Saturday afternoon and the host Utes on Saturday night.
``We have to put last weekend behind us and move forward,'' junior outside hitter Bev Krupa said. ``It was great, but now we have to focus on being ready to play three more matches this weekend. Hopefully, what we have accomplished will propel us to even better things, but we can't afford to get caught up in all the hype.''
Head coach Joey Vrazel has reminded her team that the bottom-line purpose of non-conference play is to prepare for the rugged Big Ten season.
``Certainly we want to win as many matches as we can, but what is most important is making sure we improve and are performing at a high level when conference play starts,'' Vrazel said. ``Once we start in the Big Ten, it's going to be a battle every night, so it's my responsibility to make sure we're ready.''
Vrazel figured her team would have a balanced offensive attack in 1997, and so far she has been right on target. Four players are averaging at least 2.75 kills per game: Kelly Colangelo and Sarah Emke (3.95 apiece), Katie Gibbons (3.05) and Krupa (2.75). As a team the Boilermakers are averaging 16.50 kills, just slightly off their pace of 17.36 a year ago, when they set a school record. Keep in mind that five of the first six matches have lasted just three games.
One major difference: Purdue has an overall hitting percentage of a robust .316, which ranks second in the Big Ten behind nationally top-ranked Penn State (.337). Last season, despite all the kills, the Boilermakers attacked at just a .235 clip.
``We have been very efficient on offense and gotten a lot of people involved,'' sophomore setter Taryn Catlin said. ``Everyone has contributed, and that makes my job a lot easier. I don't have to always worry about getting the ball to one or two hot hitters because they all have been consistent.''
If there's one player who has gone a bit unnoticed, it's freshman middle blocker Jennie Williams. Though she has only 13 kills (0.72 per game), she is hitting a team-high .417 (13-3-24) to go with 11 blocks (third on the team) and four service aces.
``Jennie has done a nice job,'' Vrazel said. ``She works hard in practice and last weekend saw the results of her efforts pay off in matches. She's a solid all-around player and has a good understanding of the game.''
Among this weekend's competition, Utah figures to be the most challenging. The Utes, who were 20-12 last season, have a modest 2-3 record, but the three losses have been to nationally-ranked Colorado, Notre Dame and Washington State. Meanwhile, Southwest Texas State is 2-4 and Weber State is 4-3.
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1997 Big Ten Conference Volleyball Standings
(through Sept. 9, 1997)
Big Ten Overall
Illinois 0-0 -- 7-0 1.000
Indiana 0-0 -- 7-0 1.000
Minnesota 0-0 -- 6-0 1.000
Penn State 0-0 -- 6-0 1.000
Wisconsin 0-0 -- 5-0 1.000
PURDUE 0-0 -- 5-1 .833
Michigan State 0-0 -- 5-1 .833
Ohio State 0-0 -- 5-1 .833
Northwestern 0-0 -- 6-2 .750
Iowa 0-0 -- 3-1 .750
Michigan 0-0 -- 3-3 .500