LINCOLN, Neb. - No. 22 Purdue (17-7, 7-6 B1G) gave No. 6 Nebraska (19-4, 12-1 B1G) the fight of its life on its home floor Friday at the Devaney Sports Center, ultimately falling to the Cornhuskers 3-1 (22-25, 25-21, 24-26, 23-25). The Boilermakers out-hit (.328-.281), out-blocked (11-6) and out-dug (52-49) the NCAA Selection Committee's No. 2 team in the nation.
Danielle Cuttino and Sherridan Atkinson showed 8,420 fans in attendance why they are legitimate All-Americans this season as they both finished the match with identical offensive lines of 20 kills, two errors and 40 swings to hit .450 against one of the Big Ten's best defensive programs. Azariah Stahl added seven kills and a .250 hitting percentage. The trio led Purdue's blocking efforts as well as Stahl and Atkinson each finished with four blocks while Cuttino matched Blake Mohler with three blocks on the night.
Ashley Evans registered 44 assists and 13 digs in the contest for her eighth double-double of the season. The performance defensively gives her 1,004 digs in her career, making her the only Boilermaker in program history to earn 3,000-plus assists and 1,000-plus digs in her career. Heading into the weekend, Nebraska held opponents to a Big Ten best .163 hitting percentage. Evans set the Boilermakers to a .328 hitting percentage in the match, including hitting percentages of nearly .400 in the second (.382) and fourth (.389) sets.
Brooke Peters complemented Evans' defensive effort with 11 digs of her own and was just an assist away from her first career double-double. Jena Otec added nine digs and a service ace while fellow freshman Julianna Reisinger also added an ace. Otec's 15 service aces against Big Ten opponents are the most by a freshman in the conference.
The match was tight throughout as the Boilermakers pulled within one of the Cornhuskers in the first set with a kill by Atkinson to present a 22-21 score. However, Nebraska managed to hold on to win the set 25-22. Purdue responded with a 4-0 run fueled by two kills at the hands of Caitlyn Newton to take an 19-14 advantage in the second set. The four-point run was all the Boilermakers needed to close out the set as it earned a 25-21 victory to tie the match heading into intermission.
The third set was as dramatic as they come between two Big Ten powerhouses as the set saw 12 tie scores and four lead changes. Purdue took the lead on a stuff block by Cuttino to threaten Nebraska with a 23-22 advantage. However, the Cornhuskers found a way edge the Boilermakers 26-24.
Purdue's fight in the fourth set was as impressive as the Boilermakers have looked all season. Down 16-10 to a team that has won 23 straight home matches, Purdue fought its way back into contention. The Boilermakers eventually tied the set at 22 on an incredible one-on-one block by Azariah Stahl. Purdue later pulled within one with a chance to tie the set at 24 but the Cornhuskers managed to escape the set 25-23.
The Boilermakers prepare for their first meeting of the season with the Hawkeyes on Sunday, Nov. 5, at 3 p.m. ET in Iowa City, Iowa.