WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. - On the surface, the 2017 season looks just like most years for the Purdue volleyball program. However, with one of the best senior classes to ever come through the program leading the way, Purdue soared to new heights in Dave Shondell's 15th season leading the Boilermakers.
Purdue finished the season 23-10 with a 12-8 record in the Big Ten, marking the 10th season Shondell has led the Boilermakers to at least 20 wins and 10 conference wins. The effort placed Purdue fifth in the Big Ten, and the Boilermakers finished the year ranked 18th in the nation. It was the 10th year under Shondell that the Boilermakers finished fifth or better in the nation's toughest volleyball conference and the third time in program history Purdue was ranked all 16 weeks of the AVCA Coaches Top 25 Poll.
The Boilermakers' match in the second round of the NCAA Tournament marked the 12th season in Shondell's 15 years leading the program that Purdue made it to the Round of 32 or better. The feat makes Purdue one of 11 programs in the nation to advance to the second round of the NCAA Tournament or better in 12 of the last 14 seasons. Purdue's efforts in the tournament lift Shondell to a career record of 21-12 (.636) in the NCAA Tournament.
Shondell led the Boilermakers to new heights in the regular season as well, taking down four top-10 teams in the regular season for the first time in program history. It all started with a 3-1 victory over No. 9 Creighton when the Boilermakers hit .411 with 66 kills to register the second best hitting percentage recorded in program history in a four-set contest.
Purdue's next ranked win came in a redemption match as the Boilermakers evened the score with No. 5 Minnesota in Holloway Gymnasium after they had fell to the Golden Gophers on the road earlier in the season. The 3-1 victory snapped an 11-game winning streak for Minnesota. Roughly 24 hours later, Purdue handed No. 10 Wisconsin its only three-set loss of the season, marking the first time in program history the Boilermakers defeated two top-10 opponents in as many days.
The next ranked team to challenge Purdue faced the same fate as the Boilermakers showed out on senior night to take down No. 10 Michigan State in four sets. The win marked the third victory in as many tries against ranked opponents to finish the 2017 regular season.
Altogether, Purdue was 4-6 against ranked opponents in 2017 with No. 13 Utah being its only ranked opponent that was ranked outside the top 10. Purdue now has 56 ranked wins under Shondell and of those wins, 41 have been upsets. Of those 56 victories, 33 came in West Lafayette, Ind., and the Boilermakers were the lesser ranked team in 25 of those contests.
With back-to-back sweeps of Indiana, Purdue has now won 11-straight matches over the Hoosiers and is now 28-3 against its in-state rival under Shondell. The second of the two victories came on Indiana's home court, claiming the Boilermakers the Monon Spike for the 10th consecutive season. Purdue now leads the Monon Spike series 32-12 all-time.
A great deal of Purdue's success was due to the leadership of its four seniors, Danielle Cuttino, Carissa Damler, Ashley Evans and Azariah Stahl. Evans set the Boilermakers to the most efficient hitting percentage ever recorded in program history. Purdue ranked among the top three offenses in the country the majority of the season and finished with a .301 hitting percentage on the year in order to surpass its previous all-time best mark of .285 set in 1982.
Cuttino finished the year as the Big Ten's statistical champion in kills (300) and kills per set (4.17) against conference opponents. Freshman Jena Otec finished her rookie season leading the Big Ten in service aces (27) and services aces per set (.38) in conference action.
Purdue finished the season with two All-Big Ten selections, four AVCA All-Northeast Region selections and three AVCA All-America honorees. Never in Purdue's decorated history have the Boilermakers had three student-athletes earn All-America honors in the same season. Of Purdue's 17 All-Americans in program history, 12 have been coached by Shondell. The Boilermakers also had four Academic All-Big Ten honorees, one CoSIDA Academic All-District selection and one CoSIDA Academic All-American.
Cuttino earned a total of four All-America awards in her final season as a Boilermaker, giving her seven in her career. The seven All-America honors are the most awarded to any student-athlete in Purdue volleyball history. She's also became the fourth First Team All-American in program history. She also earned her third AVCA All-Northeast Region honor of her career and her second unanimous All-Big Ten selection of her career. She was named espnW National Player of the Week following Purdue's victories over Minnesota and Wisconsin.
The Indianapolis, Ind., native eighth in program history in career hitting percentage (.308), 10th in total blocks (411), eighth in block assists (339), and 10th in block solos (72) after splitting her career between middle blocker and outside hitter. Cuttino became one of 26 Boilermakers to earn 1,000 kills in their career and one of six Boilermakers to register 1,000 kills and 400 blocks. She surpassed current Team USA standout and Purdue alumna Annie Drews all-time on the career kills list with 1,389 total kills.
Evans also goes down as one of the all-time most decorated student-athletes in program history as she earned three All-America honorable mention awards and earned the third Academic All-America honor of her career. It was her first time being recognized on the first team and she graduates as the only three-time Academic All-American in the history of Purdue athletics. Penn State's Simone Lee also earned her third All-America honor. Together they are the first two three-time volleyball Academic All-Americans in Big Ten history and the first three-time volleyball honorees across all conferences since 2007. Just 21 Division I volleyball student-athletes and 47 Big Ten student-athletes have ever been named three-time Academic All-Americans. Evans also earned AVCA All-Northeast Region, CoSIDA Academic All-District and Academic All-Big Ten nods. She's just the third three-time Academic All-District selection and third four-time Academic All-Big Ten honoree in program history. She was also a two-time Big Ten Setter of the Week in her senior season.
In just three years of setting the Boilermakers, Evans earned 4,124 career assists to position her sixth all-time in Purdue history. She's one of seven Boilermakers with 4,000 assists, one of 18 Boilermakers with 1,000 digs and the only Boilermaker in program history to own 4,000 assists and 1,000 digs in her career.
Sherridan Atkinson's breakthrough junior campaign did not go unnoticed as she was named an AVCA Third Team All-American and an All-America Honorable Mention by PrepVolleyball and VolleyballMag. She also earned Academic All-Big Ten honors, AVCA All-Northeast Region recognition and was a unanimous All-Big Ten selection. Following her efforts against Minnesota and Wisconsin she was named the Big Ten Player of the Week, VolleyMob National Player of the Week and Division I Volleyball HERO of the WEEK.
Senior outside hitter Azariah Stahl was selected as an AVCA All-Northeast Region Honorable Mention while Blake Mohler and Olivia Van Zelst each earned Academic All-Big Ten honors for the first time in their careers. Senior defensive specialist Carissa Damler was awarded the Big Ten Sportsmanship Award.