Hawkeye volleyball hits the road for doubleheader with Purdue

The Hawkeyes will play a two-day doubleheader in West Lafayette, Indiana, against an 0-2 Boilermaker team.


Grace Smith

Teammates huddle up during a timeout at the volleyball game against Illinois on Saturday Jan. 23, 2020, at Carver Hawkeye Arena. The Hawkeyes were defeated by the Fighting Illini, 3-1.

Will Fineman, Sports Reporter

Coming off of two four-set losses to Illinois last weekend, Iowa volleyball will hit the road this weekend for a doubleheader against Purdue in West Lafayette, Indiana.

Like the Hawkeyes, the Boilermakers also struggled in their season-openers last week, losing in straight sets in both their games against No. 1 Wisconsin.

According to The Purdue Exponent, the Boilermakers will be without 2019 first-team All-Big Ten outside hitter Grace Cleveland this weekend. Cleveland missed both of Purdue’s games against Wisconsin with a non-COVID-19-related illness and will not be available to play Iowa.

Second-team All-Big Ten outside hitter Caitlyn Newton will be available to play this weekend. Newton led the Boilermakers in kills in both matches against Wisconsin, but she is still recovering from offseason knee surgery, per The Purdue Exponent.

“We look at the years past and the games that they have already played and pay attention to their hitting tendencies,” junior defensive specialist Maddie Slagle said. “We think of the ways we can best set up to defend them off of that.”

Courtney Buzzerio led the Hawkeyes in kills in both matches against Illinois with 12 in the first and 10 in the second last weekend. The six-foot-five junior also tallied a double-double on Saturday, pairing 10 assists with her 10 kills.

Iowa lost both its matches against Purdue last season and has not beaten the Boilermakers since 2016. Purdue leads the all-time series, 57-22.

The doubleheader with the Boilermakers will pit Iowa against an American Volleyball Coaches Association (AVCA) top 25 team for the first time this season.

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The Hawkeyes have not beaten an AVCA top 25 team since they took down No. 22 Washington State in August of 2019.

“Second weekend is about fine-tuning our side of the net and understanding that Purdue will have a different variation than Illinois brought,” head coach Vicki Brown. “We really want to put more emphasis on cleaning up some things on our side from our serve-receive to just growing our offensive branch a bit more.”

Coaching opposite Brown is Boilermaker head coach Dave Shondell, who is currently navigating his 18th season atop Purdue volleyball. Shondell is one of just three active Big Ten coaches to carry a .660 or higher win percentage.

Purdue has made 14 NCAA tournament appearances with Shondell at the helm, including a trip to the Sweet 16 last season.

Both teams have lost key playmakers from last season as first-team All-Big Ten middle blocker Blake Moehler graduated from Purdue last spring, and all three of Iowa’s seniors chose to opt-out of the 2020-21 season.

Iowa’s Bailey Ortega tallied 39 assists in place of senior Brie Orr in the Hawkeyes’ doubleheader against Illinois.

Sophomore Joslyn Boyer filled the hole senior Halle Johnston’s opt-out left the Hawkeyes at libero, registering a career-high 15 digs in game one, then topping that with 17 digs in game two.

Junior Jael Johnson had 10 kills and a block in her first match at Moehler’s starting middle blocker spot for Purdue.

Both teams struggled with attack efficiency in their first doubleheaders, as Iowa is coming into the matchup with an abysmal .097 attack percentage, while Purdue is hitting only .113.

“It is just about understanding that, at the beginning, the first contact might not always be 100 percent perfect,” Brown said. “It is about being able to handle the not perfect situation, and how can we still find ways to score.”

Iowa will face Purdue at Holloway Gymnasium in West Lafayette, Indiana, on Friday at 5 p.m. and 3 p.m Saturday. Both games will be broadcast on BTN+.

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