The schedule makers can be funny some times and, perhaps because they are still adjusting to conference expansion, to some this season in B1G volleyball has been especially humorous. The Terps left Tuesday embarking on a 630 mile trip west to take on #16 Purdue (19-7 overall 9-5 B1G). Maryland has to travel to Lincoln to face Nebraska on Saturday and because of budget limitations won't return to College Park in between. While I'm sure the Terps are not taking the bus to Indiana, a mid-week road trip of this length can be grueling.
Regardless of the travel, the Boilermakers will be a tough test for the Terps on Wednesday night. The two teams faced off at Maryland on October fifth with Purdue winning in four sets. Senior Ashleigh Crutcher led Maryland that night with 15 kills while hitting .273. Freshman middle Hailey Murray had a solid outing as well with nine kills on .389 efficiency. Crutcher had solid outings last weekend at Ohio State and Penn State while Murray will look to regain her early season form.
Overall, though, Purdue won every statistical category except aces and after dropping the first set 26-24, controlled the final three. Five weeks have passed since the first meeting and the Boilermakers have been through the heart of the B1G. Over their last five matches, Purdue has lost four including a stunning four set loss to Iowa.
Facing the train
On the court, Purdue presents numerous problems offensively with a dangerous (3rd in the B1G in kills) and balanced (4 starters with 2 plus kills per set) attack. Junior lefty Annie Drews leads the team in kills and is tied with Crutcher for third in the B1G with 4.00 kills per set in conference play. In the match at Maryland, Drews led all players with 17 kills and hit an impressive .419.
Senior Kierra Jones is one of the top middles in the conference and is 13th in hitting percentage at .291. Another senior, setter Val Nichol, is a bit cursed to play in a conference with numerous All American level setters but she can hold her own with anyone nationally. Nichol had 36 assists in the first match and was effective playing the second ball picking up seven kills without an error on just ten attempts.
One area where Purdue struggles is serving. Ranked last in the B1G at 0.76 aces per set, Coach Dave Shondell must believe he can rely on the strngth of players like Crews and Nichol and not feel the need to stress serving aggressively.
Maryland has the talent and has demonstrated in the past that they have the ability to play point by point with Purdue. However, when you factor in the travel and a hungry Boilermaker squad, the Terps look to be on the short end on Wednesday. The match starts at 7:00pm EST and can be seen on BTN2GO.