Road Tests

PURDUESPORTSDOTCOM The No. 23 Boilermakers will face off with the Northwestern Wildcats and the Illinois Fighting Illini in the team's final road trip of the regular season.
The No. 23 Boilermakers will face off with the Northwestern Wildcats and the Illinois Fighting Illini in the team's final road trip of the regular season.

Nov. 16, 2006

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WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. - The No. 23 Boilermaker volleyball team is set to take its final regular season road trip this weekend. Purdue is slated to face Northwestern in Evanston, Ill., on Friday and Illinois in Champaign, Ill., on Saturday.

Multimedia Information
Both matches will broadcast live on WLAS 1410 AM in Lafayette and on Live stats for Friday's match will be available on Live stats for Saturday's match will be available on

Series Information
Northwestern (Purdue leads the series 39-22): The series with the Wildcats began with a trio of Purdue wins beginning in 1977. The Boilermakers won seven straight from Oct. 17, 1981 to Oct. 15, 1983. The teams traded wins from 1987 to 1990, but Purdue took 13 of the next 14 including streaks of six and seven respectively. Northwestern took 10 of the next 16. The teams then split the 2005 meetings with each winning on its home court. The Boilermakers won the Oct. 21 contest.

Illinois (Illinois leads the series 34-30): Illinois won the initial meeting 2-1 in Champaign on Oct. 25, 1975, but Purdue won 18 of the next 22 including an eight-match streak to take the lead. The Illini chipped away at the Boilermaker lead over the next several years, tying the series at 24 on Oct. 21, 1998. That win came in the midst of a six-game streak. Illinois won 13 of the next 15 including six straight, but Purdue has taken four of the last five meetings.

A Look at the Boilermakers
The No. 23 Purdue Boilermakers (19-8, 9-7 Big Ten) look to snap a four-match win streak when they take on Northwestern and Illinois this weekend after dropping contests to Michigan and Michigan State last weekend.

Sophomore outside hitter Danita Merlau leads the offense with 3.80 kills per game. Junior outside hitter Sam Mader, sophomore middle hitter Stephanie Lynch and junior middle hitter Lizzie Jacques also put up more than 2.00 kills per game. Mader averages 3.13 kills per game, while Lynch leads the team with a .313 hitting percentage to go with 2.56 kills per game and 1.13 blocks per game. Jacques has recorded 2.11 kills per game and 0.93 blocks per game, while freshman outside hitter Carrie Gurnell adds 1.87 kills per game.

Sophomore defensive specialist/outside hitter Kelli Miller has pulled up 4.01 digs per game to lead the Boilermaker defense, while also racking up 81 kills and 25 aces. Senior defensive specialist/outside hitter Brittany Dildine (3.70), Merlau (1.59), junior defensive specialist Anne Mastandrea (1.48) and freshman setter Sam Gray (1.45) follow. Purdue has served up 170 aces, led by Dildine's tally of 37. Gray follows with 36 aces, while Merlau (31), Miller (25), Lynch (17) and senior setter Lindsay Shondell (11) also have posted 10 or more aces. The Boilermakers lead opponents in all major statistical categories.

News about Northwestern
The Northwestern Wildcats (13-12, 7-9 Big Ten) are looking to rebound from weekend losses to No. 10 Wisconsin and No. 13 Minnesota.

Junior outside hitter Lindsay Anderson leads a group of five hitters averaging more than two kills per game for the Wildcats. Anderson has put down 3.51 kills per game to go with 2.64 digs per game and a team-high 37 aces. Junior outside hitter Courtnie Paulus (2.85), junior middle hitter Brittney Aldridge (2.23), sophomore middle hitter Chelsy Hyser (2.21) and senior middle hitter Julie Purcell (2.15) follow. Paulus also adds 2.78 digs per game and 35 aces, while Hyser and Aldridge lead Northwestern at the net with 1.27 and 1.20 blocks per game respectively. Hyser also boasts a team-best .292 hitting percentage.

Freshman libero Kate Nobilio leads the Wildcat defense with 4.81 digs per game. Paulus (2.78), Anderson (2.64) and junior setter Stephanie Jurivich (1.97) also contribute to the Wildcat defensive effort. Northwestern is coached by Keylor Chan, who is in his seventh year with the team.

Facts about the Fighting Illini
The Illinois Fighting Illini (14-12, 5-11 Big Ten) are slated to play Indiana on Friday before journeying to West Lafayette to face the Boilermakers on Saturday. The Illini enter the week after dropping matches to No. 10 Wisconsin and No. 13 Minnesota last weekend.

Redshirt sophomore outside hitter Kayani Turner leads the Illini offense with 4.64 kills per game. Junior middle hitter Vicki Brown follows with 3.75 kills per game, while junior outside hitter Stephanie Alde and freshman outside hitter Amy Palash add 2.57 and 2.53 kills per game respectively. Brown boasts a team-high .341 hitting percentage and also chalks up 1.06 blocks per game. Palash has served up 30 aces and accounted for 1.87 digs per game in addition to her kill tally. Senior outside/middle hitter Meghan Macdonald adds 1.93 kills per game on a .296 hitting percentage, while also registering a team-best 1.18 blocks per game and 24 aces.

Freshman libero Ashley Edinger leads the Illinois defense with 4.79 digs per game. Sophomore setter Lizzie Bazzetta and senior defensive specialist Beth Vrdsky account for 2.40 and 2.35 digs per game respectively. Five Illini players have served up more than 20 aces, led by Edinger's tally of 36. The Fighting Illini are coached by Don Hardin, who is in his 11th year with the team.

Comparing the Opposition

Category        Purdue    Northwestern    Illinois	
Hitting %       .237      .197            .219
Kills           15.60     14.48           16.09
Assists         14.32     13.31           15.01
Aces            1.70      1.40            1.89
Blocks          2.52      2.94            2.40
Digs            14.77     15.95           14.64

What a Difference a Win Makes...

If the Boilermakers top Northwestern on Friday ...

• They will move to 20-8 on the season, giving the team its second straight 20-win season and the 13th in school history.

• They will moved to 10-7 in the Big Ten, which would mark the team's second straight 10-win conference campaign and the ninth in program history.

• They will have swept the Wildcats for the first time since the 2000 season.

• They will improve the program's all-time record to 3-4 when playing on Nov. 3.

Fountain of Youth
Although the Boilermaker lineup has been different for nearly all of the team's 27 contests, one constant has remained. The Boilermakers have started at least one freshman in all 27 matches. Two freshmen have been featured among the starting six in five of those contests. Setter Sam Gray has started 20 contests, while middle/outside hitter Carrie Gurnell has earned the start in 13 matches.

Lineup Breakdown
The Boilermakers have used seven different starting lineups during the season with sophomore middle hitter Stephanie Lynch and sophomore outside hitter/defensive specialist Kelli Miller being the constants. Lynch has started all 27 contests, while Miller has been announced as a member of the starting six in 11 contests and as the team's libero in the other 16 matches.

Rank And File
The Boilermakers fell seven spots to No. 23 in the Nov. 13 AVCA poll after dropping a pair of matches to unranked foes.

Purdue has experienced a roller coaster ride in the poll this season after earning the No. 16 spot in the AVCA Preseason Coaches poll. A two-week stint at No. 14 followed (Sept. 4 and Sept. 11), a poll position which matched the team's highest ranking of 2005. Purdue owned the No. 11 position in both the Sept. 18 and Sept. 25 polls, before spending the next two weeks at No. 9. The Boilermakers then fell to No. 14 on Oct. 16. The team moved up to No. 13 the following week, before returning to No. 14 a week later. Most recently, the team was ranked 16th.

The Boilermakers two weeks at No. 9 gave the team its highest ranking since Nov. 14, 1983 and put Purdue among the nation's top 10 for the first time since the final poll of 1985, when the Boilermakers were ranked 10th.

The Boilermakers have been ranked in the AVCA poll for 22 straight weeks beginning on Sept. 19, 2005. Since rankings began in 1982, Purdue has been ranked 70 times, including preseason and postseason listings.

The Boilermakers, which finished the 2005 season at No. 17, were ranked among the nation's Top 25 for 13 straight weeks in 2005, marking the first time the Boilermakers have achieved that feat since 1983. The 1983 squad was ranked for 13-straight weeks beginning with the preseason poll and lasting through the final poll.

Against the Top 25
The Boilermakers have faced nine Top 25 opponents thus far in 2006, and have won three of those matches. During the Dave Shondell era, Purdue has beaten 11 Top 25 teams, including three Top 10 opponents. The Boilermakers posted wins over No. 10 Wisconsin and No. 9 Minnesota in 2005 and a victory over No. 9 Colorado State in the first round of the 2004 NCAA Tournament. Purdue owns a 49-153 all-time record in matches against the Top 25.

Dildine Is Digging It
Senior defensive specialist Brittany Dildine surpassed the 1,000 dig milestone with eight against No. 2 Penn State on Sept. 30. Dildine was just five shy of the mark entering the match and recorded the all-important dig during Game 2 of the match. With 1,155, Dildine is just the 10th Boilermaker to reach the 1,000 dig milestone. In her first three seasons at Purdue, Dildine accounted for 785 digs. She is currently ranked fifth on the Boilermaker all-time digs list.

Defense Rules
Sophomore defensive specialist/outside hitter Kelli Miller was named Big Ten Defensive Player of the Week for the second time this season, when she garnered the accolade Oct. 9. The Muncie, Ind., native averaged 5.1 digs per game in the team's contests against Indiana and Iowa, while racking up her second 30-plus dig performance in the last four matches. In the mid-week win against Indiana, the Boilermaker sophomore served an ace and accounted for nine digs. She followed the effort with 32 digs against Iowa, making her only the second player in Purdue history to surpass 30 digs twice in a career. Miller also made good on 96 percent of her 82 service reception attempts against the Hawkeyes.

Miller also was honored on Sept. 4, for her performance at the Mizuno Challenge in Auburn, Ala. The Mizuno Challenge MVP racked up 17 digs as the team's libero against Virginia Tech, before posting double-doubles against Arizona State and Auburn while playing all six rotations. Miller led the Boilermakers with 18 kills on a .412 hitting percentage, while pulling up 28 digs against the Sun Devils. She then wrapped up the weekend with 13 kills on a .423 hitting percentage and 13 digs against the host Tigers. As the team's primary passer, Miller also made good on 98 percent of her serve reception attempts on the weekend.

Dynamic Danita
Sophomore outside hitter Danita Merlau was named Big Ten Player of the Week, Oct. 9 for her performances against Indiana and Iowa. She registered 5.8 kills per game and chalked up double-digit tallies for the 17th and 18th time this season. In the win over the Hoosiers, the New Palestine, Ind., native posted 17 kills, including eight in the third stanza. During game three, she recorded three kills as the team turned a 20-12 deficit into a 26-25 lead and then added another as part of a 3-0 run which sealed the Boilermaker win. Against the Hawkeyes, she posted a career-high 29 kills on 75 attempts for a .320 hitting percentage, while she also served up four aces and finished the double-double with a career-best 13 digs. In a 33-31 game three, Merlau played a key role for Purdue as she netted nine kills and two aces. In the decisive game five, Merlau accounted for the final three points of the match with two kills and ace to give Purdue the 15-11 win.

Block Party
Sophomore middle hitter Stephanie Lynch put up 10 blocks against No. 19 Michigan Sept. 23, marking the first time a Boilermaker player had posted double-digit blocks since all-time block assists leader Kim McConaha did so on Nov. 27, 2004 against Northwestern.

Lynch leads the Boilermakers with 101 blocks on the season, 1.17 per game. The New Albany, Ind., native has been a force at the net as of late, racking up six or more blocks on six occasions during the last month, including the career-high 10 against the Wolverines. Lynch posted seven blocks against both No. 20 Pepperdine and No. 9 USC, before adding 10 against the Wolverines and eight against No. 13 Ohio State Sept. 29. Most recently, she added six stuffs against Indiana (10/4) and eight against No. 23 Minnesota (10/14).

In The Backcourt
Sophomore outside hitter/defensive specialist Kelli Miller has posted double-digit dig totals in 19 of the team's 27 matches, and 20 or more digs in seven contests, including a career-best 32 digs against Iowa on Oct. 7. The performance marked Miller's fifth night with 20 or more digs in a match this season. The effort followed a 31-dig night on Sept. 29, which marked the first time a Boilermaker player had surpassed the 30-dig milestone in a match since Nov. 13, 2004. Most recently, Miller chalked up 24 digs against No. 23 Minnesota.

Miller also has contributed to the Boilermaker offense, chalking up 81 kills and 25 aces. The Muncie, Ind., native has accounted for three double-doubles this season: against Arizona State (18K, 28D), Auburn (13K, 13D) and No. 9 USC (13K, 14D).

Perfect Serves
The Boilermakers have served up 170 aces, including double-digit efforts by six different players. Senior outside hitter/defensive specialist Brittany Dildine leads Purdue with 37 perfect serves followed by freshman setter Sam Gray (36), sophomore outside hitter Danita Merlau (31), sophomore outside hitter/defensive specialist Kelli Miller (25), sophomore middle hitter Stephanie Lynch (17) and redshirt senior setter Lindsay Shondell (11). Merlau and Lynch each accounted for just three aces in their rookie campaigns.

Purdue players served up 11 aces against No. 13 Ohio State Sept. 29, including a career-best six by Merlau, marking the first time a Purdue player had accounted for six aces in a match since Dildine did so on Sept. 17, 2004 against Central Michigan.

Quick Sets
Freshman Sam Gray and senior Lindsay Shondell have split time at the setter position. Gray has handed out 888 assists thus far in her rookie campaign, while also adding 36 aces and 1.45 digs per game. Shondell, who played behind All-American Renata Dargan for two years since transferring to Purdue from Cal State Fullerton, has dished out 404 assists, while also accounting for 75 digs and 11 aces.

Preseason Predictions
Sophomore Stephanie Lynch was listed among the best volleyball players in the Big Ten as the league announced its Preseason All-Conference team. The 6-3 middle hitter was one of 12 players named to the preseason list as voted on by the league's coaches. The honor is just the latest conference accolade for the team's top blocker, who is looking to build on her rookie success, which brought All-Big Ten Freshman Team honors and honorable mention All-Big Ten and All-Mideast Region accolades.

The Boilermakers were picked to finish fifth in the conference in the preseason coaches' poll.

On the Honor Roll
In addition to posting a perfect 7-0 record and bringing home the event titles at their two non-conference tournaments, several individual players were honored. Senior defensive specialist Brittany Dildine was named MVP of the Mortar Board Purdue Premier Aug. 26, while sophomores Stephanie Lynch and Danita Merlau were named to the seven person all-tournament team. At the Mizuno Challenge in Auburn, Ala., sophomore Kelli Miller was named MVP, while Merlau also garnered all-tournament team honors.

On the Small Screen
The Boilermakers will make three appearances on national and regional television during the 2006 season as part of the Big Ten Conference's 14-match broadcasting package with ESPN2, CSTV and Comcast Sports Chicago. Two of the Boilermakers' matches will air on ESPN2, while a third will put the team on Comcast Sports Chicago.

Purdue's Sept. 29 match with Ohio State begins ESPN2's coverage of Big Ten volleyball. The Boilermakers' first Big Ten home contest of the season will air tape-delayed at 2:30 p.m. ET on Sunday, Oct. 1. The Boilermakers return to ESPN2 on Oct. 14 for a match at Minnesota. The contest with the Golden Gophers will be broadcast at 2 p.m. ET on Sunday, Oct. 15. The Purdue squad also will hit the small screen on Sunday, Nov. 19 as its road match with Illinois is set to air on CSN Chicago. The Boilermakers take on the Illini in Champaign, Ill., on Nov. 18.

Home Sweet Home
The Boilermakers are playing their home matches in the newly renovated Intercollegiate Athletic Facility. As part of a $750,000 renovation, the original playing surface was removed and replaced with a playing floor specifically designed for volleyball. The new shock-absorbing court will be named Belin Court in honor of the Belin family which gave the lead gift toward the renovations.

In addition to the new floor, the installation of new bleachers, including a number of seat-back chairs, increased the seating capacity from 1,696 to 2,288. New scoreboards, team banners and other aesthetic changes also were included in the renovation. The court was dedicated on Oct. 21.