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Gold and Black Illustrated, Vol 27, Digital 1

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Page 73 of 78

GOLD AND BLACK ILLUSTRATED VOLUME 27, ISSUE 1 74 band together to make things work. Only in the third week of August did Purdue return to Belin Court, but by then the maturity gained by hav- ing to deal with unusual circumstances had taken hold. "These guys like each other, you can see it," Shondell said. "The freshmen who have come in, they don't let anything bother them. They're all about winning. And then people have grown up a lot. Some of that adver- sity has pulled the team together." Purdue's roster might be at only 13, but it's a talented 13, maybe more so than what others are acknowledging. Junior Danielle Cutti- no is one of the best in the Big Ten, an honorable-mention All-Ameri- can at middle blocker last season who could dominate even at a new position now. Fellow All-American Faye Adelaja, Purdue's lone senior, is a blocking machine in the middle. They'll lead what could be a strength in the front, with players like Aza- riah Stahl, Blake Mohler, Shavona Cuttino and Sherridan Atkinson, a 6-foot-5 transfer from Long Beach State. Purdue's defense will be an- chored by libero Brook Peters, along with Carissa Damler and Na- talie Haben. Junior Ashley Evans is a veteran setter, although she's been pushed in the preseason by freshman Lexi Dorn. "That's kind of the nucleus," Shondell said of Purdue's lineup. But two components of last sea- son's team are gone. Outside hit- ter Alexa Smith decided to transfer to be closer to her Colorado home, while Lydia Dimke wanted an op- portunity to be an everyday setter, which was unlikely to happen at Purdue. They were only the fourth and fifth transfers during Shondell's 14-year tenure at Purdue, yet they gave him pause. "You do a lot of self evaluation when that happens," he said, "and at the end of the day, you come up with a few things you might want to do better but also you recognize that the landscape is such that ev- eryone has transfers. It's not nec- essarily a bad thing. "… (But) you don't like it, be- cause you take it personally." The Boilermakers did, especially in the spring when they felt reject- ed by those who left. It didn't help that the departures left Purdue with only seven returning players who saw action in '15, when the Boilermakers finished 23-10, in- cluding an NCAA Tournament win. But Purdue has adjusted in the months since, starting to focus on who it has, not who it does not. "We've had a deeper relation- ship as a team and a deeper con- nection as a team," Adelaja said. "Compared to other teams I've Purdue Junior Danielle Cuttino leads an impressive front line for the Boilermakers, but will move from the middle to the outside this season. The experienced players will have to come through if Purdue is going to win big in 2016.

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