Nov. 21, 2003
WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. - The Boilermaker volleyball team used a balanced attack and a lot of patience in their 3-2 victory over Northwestern Friday night. The victory, which came by scores of 30-19, 25-30, 30-27, 22-30 and 18-16, snapped a 10-match losing skid for Purdue and marked the team's first win over the Wildcats since the 2000 season.
"I feel like we just came out really hungry tonight and finally we had everybody playing well at the same time," redshirt sophomore Leah Wischmeier said. "I also think we were more confident tonight than we have been in the past. Getting our confidence back is fabulous, because it is hard to play when you are low on confidence. I think this will help propel us into the remaining games in the Big Ten."
The confidence came as the team battled back from an 8-3 deficit in game five to take their first five-game victory of the season in seven chances. Purdue scored first in the deciding game, but Northwestern took advantage of a handful of Boilermaker miscues to jump out to the early five-point lead. The Boilermakers, however, were not rattled and tallied seven of the next 10 points, on a Renata Dargan service ace and kills from Dargan, sophomore Marie Franke and freshman Brittany Dildine, to cut the margin to one at 11-10. The teams traded points before a Kim McConaha kill and a Northwestern miscue tied it up at 13. The Wildcats regained the lead at 14-13, but a pair of points including a Wischmeier kill set up Purdue first chance at the match. An Iwona Lodzik kill thwarted that effort, but the Boilermakers were steadfast. With the game tied at 16, Franke and Dildine put down back-to-back kills to send the crowd into a frenzy as the Boilermakers clinched the match with an 18-16 win.
Wischmeier led the Purdue charge with 18 kills, while Dildine added a career-high 16 and McConaha tallied 15. Dildine completed her first career double-double with a career-high 14 digs, four blocks and an ace. Dargan served up four aces in the Purdue effort, while libero Daren Poe
pulled up 16 digs and Lauren Berg
added 10. McConaha posted nine blocks and nine digs for the Boilermakers to go with her double-digit kill tally. Lodzik led all hitters with a 23-kill, 10 dig double-double, while Christie Gardner tallied a match-high 19 digs for Northwestern.
The night began with a Purdue win in game one as the Boilermakers charged out to a 5-2 lead and saw it swell to as many as 11 before taking the 30-19 victory. The Wildcats made it interesting early, turning the early Purdue lead into an 11-10 advantage of its own after breaking through a string featuring five ties. The Northwestern lead did not last long as Purdue took advantage of three straight Wildcat miscues to regain the lead. After allowing NU to within three at 19-16, Purdue caught the momentum and never looked back scoring six straight to go up 27-17 and then finishing the match with kills by McConaha and redshirt freshman Sarah Vitali, who was making her second start of the season. Purdue hit .471 in the game, committing just two errors in 34 swings, while holding Northwestern to a .086 percentage.
"I knew coming in that we were going to play well, because we had a good week of practice" head coach Dave Shondell said. "I am not afraid of playing Dildine. I think that she is a warrior and she showed that tonight. Sixteen kills for a defensive specialist is a pretty good effort. And Vitali is a smart player. She may not get a lot of kills or blocks, but she is not going to hurt you. She is going to be smart and make little plays and serve tough. I thought those two were critical for us, but everybody's level of play raised tonight."
Game two started with a dead heat as neither team could get more than a two-point advantage. After trailing 8-7, Northwestern made a 5-0 run including a service ace to take the lead. Down 14-12, Purdue tallied the next four points, including a trio of kills by Wischmeier, Dargan and Dildine. The Boilermakers owned the lead until NU turned a 21-19 deficit into a 22-21 advantage with a 3-0 run of their own. A Dargan kill made it 25-24, but the Wildcats scored five of the last six to take the game 30-25 at even the match at a game apiece.
Purdue bounced back in game three, taking a 10-7 lead to start things off. The Boilermakers kept the momentum going leading to a five-point advantage at 17-12, but Northwestern found a spark in Lodzik and utilized her serve and her swing to score seven of the next eight points and take their first lead of the game at 19-18. Purdue again remained confident and composed, bouncing back to take a two-point lead at 22-20. The Wildcats scored three straight including an Erika Lange service ace to regain the lead at 25-24. The Boilermakers called a timeout to talk things over and scored five of the next seven, including back-to-back aces by Dargan to set up their first game-point attempt at 29-26. The Wildcats held off the first attempt, but were done in by their own service error, which gave Purdue the 30-27 win.
The rollercoaster ride continued in game four as Purdue jumped out to a 5-1 lead, capitalizing on a trio of Northwestern errors. The lead was short lived as the Wildcats tied it up at six moments later. The teams battled over the next several serves, but NU broke through to take an 11-9 lead. A pair of blocks and another Northwestern miscue gave Purdue back the advantage at 14-13. The see-saw battle continued as neither team could up the point margin to more than two until Northwestern scored seven straight to turn a 23-22 lead into a 30-22 game four victory and force the deciding fifth game.
The Boilermakers out-blocked Northwestern 12 to 9.5, while out-hitting NU .196 to .158 and out-digging the Wildcats 76 to 71. With the victory, Purdue moves to 13-15, surpassing last year's win total of 12 and tying the highest victory tally since the 2000 campaign.
"I think this was the biggest win of the season for this team," Shondell said. "I know that we beat Minnesota and Michigan State here, but never did we need a win any more than we needed it tonight. The difference was that everybody that played, played well. For a team that had lost six five-game matches and hadn't won any to be down 8-3 and come back and win that match is a true show of great character. I couldn't be any prouder."
Purdue (13-15, 6-10 Big Ten) will be back in action at 7 p.m. Saturday when it takes on #20 Illinois. The Fighting Illini come into the contest on a five-match winning streak after topping Indiana 3-1 in Bloomington Friday night.
"I look forward to playing Illinois a lot more now than I would have if we had lost tonight," Shondell said. "They are probably the tallest, most physical team in the Big Ten, if not the nation, at 6-7, 6-3, 6-4, 6-2, 6-1 and a small setter, but we will be ready to go. This win will help us quite a bit and I think we will play well again tomorrow and that is all we can ask for."
The match will be the last in the Intercollegiate Athletic Facility for senior Jen Bova.