Nov. 20, 1997

Purdue Volleyball Preview For Wisconsin, Illinois

By Tom Schott

Joey Vrazel is right on target. The third-year Purdue volleyball coach predicted her team would play better during the second half of the Big Ten Conference season, and the Boilermakers have done just that.

Purdue (10-17, 3-13) has won two of six matches since the turn, including last Saturday's three-game dismantling of intrastate rival Indiana in Bloomington. The Boilermakers have four matches remaining beginning tonight against No. 5 Wisconsin at 7:30.

"We didn't want to use our youth as an excuse, but the truth was we were young at the start of the season," Vrazel said. "We had a group of players that had not competed at a level anywhere near as high as what they were facing every night in the Big Ten. But now they are starting to get that experience, and we've gotten some positive results."

The biggest change in Purdue has been on defense, which is vital to scoring points. The Boilermakers have improved their blocking, digging and coverage. As a result, they are able to keep more rallies alive and make better use of their potent offense that averages 16.68 kills per game.

"Siding out has never been a problem," Vrazel said. "But when we were not winning, it was because we couldn't score enough points. You need to play good defense to score, and we have done a much better job over the last few weeks."

Wisconsin (24-2, 15-1) comes to town still tied for the top spot in the Big Ten with No. 2 Penn State (26-1, 15-1). The Badgers and Nittany Lions split their two meetings.

"They are very good," sophomore middle blocker Sarah Emke said of the Badgers. "They have a lot of talented players who make very few mistakes, and they are extremely athletic and aggressive. There's no question we will have our hands full, but I know we're up for the challenge."

The Boilermakers will play host to Illinois (14-12, 5-11) on Sunday at 5 p.m. The match will be televised live by SportsChannel/Fox Sports Chicago, and seniors Sarina Harris and Linda Menconi will be honored.

1997 Big Ten Conference Volleyball Standings (through Nov. 19, 1997)

Penn State        15-1    .938    26-1     .963
Wisconsin         15-1    .938    24-2     .923
Ohio State        11-5    .688    20-8     .714
Minnesota         11-6    .647    21-7     .750
Michigan State    10-6    .625    20-9     .690
Michigan          10-6    .625    17-10    .630
Illinois          5-11    .313    14-12    .538
Indiana           4-12    .250    17-12    .586
Purdue            3-13    .188    10-17    .370
Northwestern      3-13    .188    12-14    .462
Iowa              2-15    .118     9-19    .321

This Week's Results and Remaining Schedule

Wednesday, Nov. 19
Minnesota def. Iowa 15-11, 14-16, 15-8, 15-7 (at Minneapolis) 
Friday, Nov. 21
Michigan at Indiana, 7:30 p.m.
Illinois at Ohio State, 7:30 p.m.
Northwestern at Penn State, 7:30 p.m.
Wisconsin at Purdue, 7:30 p.m.
Michigan State at Minnesota, 8 p.m.
Saturday, Nov. 22
Northwestern at Indiana, 7:30 p.m.
Wisconsin at Ohio State, 7:30 p.m.
Michigan at Penn State, 7:30 p.m.
Michigan State at Iowa, 8 p.m.
Sunday, Nov. 23
Illinois at Purdue, 5 p.m. (SC/FS)
All times EST.