Game Notes 16: NCAA Regionals

PURDUESPORTSDOTCOM The No. 22 Boilermakers are looking to advance to the Elite Eight for the second time in three seasons with a win over Minnesota on Friday evening.
PURDUESPORTSDOTCOM
The No. 22 Boilermakers are looking to advance to the Elite Eight for the second time in three seasons with a win over Minnesota on Friday evening.
PURDUESPORTSDOTCOM

Dec. 6, 2012

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The Slate
Friday, Dec. 7:
5 p.m. Kentucky vs. Penn State
TV: ESPN3.com

7 p.m. Purdue vs. Minnesota
TV: ESPN3.com
Audio: purduesports.com

Saturday, Dec. 8: 4 p.m. Winner of Match 1 vs. Winner of Match 2 TV: ESPNU
Talent: Pam Ward, Krista Blunk

The Book on the Boilermakers
At First Glance: The No. 22 Boilermakers (23-10, 12-8 Big Ten) are making the program's eighth NCAA Tournament appearance in the last nine seasons and sixth Sweet 16 showing in the last eight seasons. The team, which finished fifth in Big Ten play, brings a four-match win streak into the regionals. Purdue's roster features 12 players, including five starters, from the 2011 team which advanced to the NCAA Sweet 16. Head coach Dave Shondell is in his 10th season with the team, which was picked third in the 2012 Big Ten preseason poll.

Last Time Out: Purdue advanced to the Sweet 16 after sweeping Colorado State in the NCAA first round and posting a five-set win over No. 12 Florida State in Tallahassee, Fla.

Statistically Speaking: Outside hitter Ariel Turner paces the Boilermakers with 4.42 kills and 2.71 digs per set, while also serving up 28 aces. Outside hitters Catherine Rebarchak (2.20) and Annie Drews (2.14), middle blocker Kiki Jones (1.87), outside hitter Val Nichol (1.74) and middle blocker Anna Drewry (1.64) also contribute offensively. Jones is hitting a team-best .372 clip.

Defensively, libero Carly Cramer has posted 4.18 digs per set, while Turner (2.71), setter Rachel Davis (2.34), and defensive specialists Amanda Neill (2.19) and Hilliary Fox (1.87) follow. Cramer has served up a team-leading 36 aces, while defensive specialist Amanda Miller, Jones and Neill each have added 12. At the net, Drewry and Jones pace the team with 1.02 and 0.97 stuffs per set. As a team, Purdue is hitting .248 and has served up 127 aces.

Series Information
Minnesota (Minnesota leads the series 44-28): Purdue dominated the early part of the series with the Golden Gophers, which began on Oct. 11, 1975, posting 18 wins in the first 20 meetings. Minnesota won 19 of the next 25, though Purdue swept the 1990 series. The Boilermakers took the 1998 series in a pair of five set matches, but the Gophers won 22 of the next 24. Purdue took a 3-1 win in the lone 2011 meeting, snapping an 11-match UM win streak and marking the first Purdue win since 2005. The Gophers won a 3-1 decision in the Oct. 20 meeting in Minneapolis.

Kentucky (Purdue leads the series 10-8): The Boilermakers won the first two meetings in the series with the Wildcats, which began on Sept. 22, 1978. The teams split the next six contests from 1980 to 1985. Kentucky won three straight from 1986 to 1990. Purdue answered with three in a row from 1994 to 1998. The teams have split the last four contests, with the Boilermakers taking the most recent meeting on Dec. 3, 2010 in the NCAA first round in West Lafayette.

Penn State (PSU leads the series 48-6): The Boilermakers won five of the first six contests with the Nittany Lions in the series which began on Nov. 7, 1981. Since 1988, Penn State had won 42 straight, including 36 in 3-0 sweeps, before Purdue took a five-set decision on Oct 8, 2010. The win marked the first time the Boilermakers had taken two sets from the Nittany Lions since a 2005 meeting in University Park and the first Purdue win over PSU since Dec. 4, 1987. PSU has won the last five contests, including season sweeps in 2011 and 2012. Penn State won the most recent meeting via a 3-1 win in Mackey Arena on Nov. 17.

What a Difference a Win Makes...
If the Boilermakers top Minnesota on Friday

• They will advance to the NCAA Regional Final for the third time in program history and second time in the 64-team era (also 2010).

• They will move to 24-10 on the season and extend their current win streak to five matches.

• They will improve to 22-14 all-time in NCAA Tournament matches, including a 16-7 mark under Coach Shondell.

• They will move to 23-19 all-time in the month of December, including a 3-4 mark on Dec. 7.

Getting a Grip on the Gophers
At First Glance: The No. 11 Minnesota Golden Gophers (26-7, 15-5 Big Ten) are making their 14th-consecutive NCAA Tournament appearance and 18th in program history after earning an at-large berth. Minnesota returns nine letterwinners, including four starters from the 2011 team which went 20-12 and advanced to the NCAA Sweet 16. The Gophers are coached by Hugh McCutcheon, who is in his first year with the team.

Last Time Out: Minnesota advanced to the Sweet 16 by sweeping Liberty and topping #21 Creighton in four sets at home in Minneapolis.

Statistically Speaking: Outside hitter Katherine Harms leads a group of four hitters with more than two kills per set. Harms has posted 4.10 kills per set, while hitting at a .317 clip, adding 2.49 digs per set and 0.75 blocks per set. Middle blocker Tori Dixon (3.08) and outside hitters Ashley Wittman (2.87) and Daly Santana (2.35) round out the group. Dixon is hitting a team-best .441 clip and adds a team-leading 1.03 blocks per set, while Santana has served up 56 aces.

Defensively, Wittman (2.82), defensive specialist Lindsey Lawmaster (2.52), Harms (2.49) and Santana (2.49) have split the load, each averaging more than two digs per set. Setter Alexandra Palmer (1.75) has also aided the defense. As a team, Minnesota is hitting .301 and has served up 192 aces, including 20 or more by four different players.

Words about the Wildcats
At First Glance: The Kentucky Wildcats (22-10, 14-6 SEC) are making their eighth straight NCAA Tournament appearance and the 14th in program history after finishing third in the SEC Eastern division and earning an at-large berth. Kentucky returns nine letterwinners, including five starters, from its 2011 team which posted a 28-6 record and advanced to the NCAA Regionals. The Wildcats are coached by Craig Skinner, who is in his eighth year with the team.

Last Time Out: The Wildcats advanced to the Sweet 16 by sweeping East Tennessee State and topping Ohio State in four sets at home in Lexington, Ky., last weekend.

Statistically Speaking: Outside hitter Whitney Billings leads a group of four Wildcats that are averaging more than two kills per set. Billings turned in 3.00 kills per set, while also adding 35 aces, 2.74 digs per set and 0.81 blocks per stanza. Outside hitters Ashley Frazier (2.92) and Lauren O'Conner (2.69) and middle blocker Alexandra Morgan (2.32) round out the group. Morgan hits at a team-best .351 clip, leads the team in blocks with 1.08 per set and adds 29 aces. Frazier and O'Connor chip in 26 and 23 aces respectively.

Defensively, libero Stephanie Klefot leads the way with 3.92 digs per set, while also adding 25 aces. Billings (2.74), defensive specialist Jackie Napper (2.26) and setter Christine Hartmann (2.06) also contribute. As a team, Kentucky is hitting .255 and has served up 176 aces.

Prepping for Penn State
At First Glance: The No. 1 Penn State Nittany Lions (31-2, 19-1 Big Ten) bring a 10-match win streak into Friday's match with Kentucky. The Nittany Lions are making their 32nd straight NCAA Tournament appearance, and are one of just two teams to be selected to every NCAA event since its inception in 1981. Penn State returns 13 letterwinners, including six starters, from the 2011 squad which posted a 25-8 record, finished second in the Big Ten and advanced to the Sweet 16. The Nittany Lions are coached by Russ Rose, who is in his 34th year with the team.

Last Time Out: Penn State adcanced to the Sweet 16 with sweeps of Binghamton and Bowling Green at home in University Park, Pa., last weekend.

Statistically Speaking: Right side hitter Ariel Scott and outside hitter Deja McClendon lead the Nittany Lion offense with 3.64 and 3.25 kills per set respectively, while middle blocker Katie Slay adds 2.34 kills per set. Slay is hitting at a team-best .430 clip and has put up a team-leading 1.35 blocks per set. McClendon adds 2.73 digs per set, while Scott chips in 0.81 blocks per set. Setter Micha Hancock dishes out 11.26 assists per set and has served up a team-best 74 aces, while also adding 2.33 digs and 0.62 blocks per set to the team's tallies.

Defensively, defensive specialist Dominique Gonzalez paces the team with 3.54 digs per set, followed by McClendon (2.73), Hancock (2.33) and setter/outside hitter Megan Courtney (1.89). As a team, PSU is hitting .310 and has served up 180 aces.