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Gold and Black Illustrated, Vol 27, Digital 1

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Page 75 of 78

GOLD AND BLACK ILLUSTRATED VOLUME 27, ISSUE 1 76 been on where we've had 18 or 19 people. It's worked out for the best, because I know more about these girls than others that I've played with before. It works in our favor to have less, even though we don't have enough bodies to take reps." Purdue's success likely will hinge on a few of its key components, including Danielle Cuttino. The Boilermakers, based on a suggestion by assistant John Shondell, moved the 6-foot-4 Indianapolis native from the middle, where she had been All-Big Ten last season, to left-side hitter. The move was made because, as Dave Shondell points out, that's where about 75 per- cent of a team's offense originates. And with All-Amer- ican Annie Drews graduated and Smith gone, Purdue needed to pair an impact player with Stahl. But moving Cuttino was a risk, because she'd been great in the middle. Adding to the consternation, Cut- tino's transition was rough: Shaky in the spring but better in the summer (when she played for a junior na- tional team). "But something happened, because she's really good right now. She's got to be one of the top six players in the league right now, with the way she's played for us, how hard she's played," Dave Shondell said. "When I talk about the maturity and evolution of this team, I start with her. She's always somebody that we knew had that elite athletic ability — I'm talking national team, Olympic-type of talent — but she just wanted to let the talent do the work for her, wasn't ma- ture enough yet to understand. I don't blame her for that, I would have been the same way. "But then all of a sudden, I think that we did a lot of things to try to help her understand what she needed to do and then she realized that on the surface some other players from other programs were passing her by, because she was just doing OK. But she's been a beast in our gym so far this year." The Boilermakers will need her to be. Purdue is young, with only a senior and four juniors, with the rest of the roster being underclass- men, including three true freshmen, a transfer and two second-year players. The inexperience could cause Purdue to take its lumps at times, particularly considering the sched- ule. The Boilermakers will face 13 NCAA Tournament teams, including seven that advanced to the Sweet 16 and three to the Final Four. Nine of the opponents were ranked in the final top- 25. The Big Ten is, of course, stacked, including reigning national champion Nebraska. But it's not only the con- ference slate that is stacked, Purdue also plays Kansas, a Final Four entrant last season, Stanford and Kentucky. "There are going to be nights this year where we're not going to look very good," Shondell said. "Because teams are so good, they're going to take advantage of everything that we give them and magnify every error that you make." The Boilermakers, ranked No. 20 in the Preseason AVCA Poll, are a lower-division Big Ten team, according to the league's coaches. In their poll, released Aug. 23, Purdue is projected to finish ninth. But Cuttino says Purdue's not focusing on the results, at least early on. "We're focusing on the pro- cess of things," she said. "So we just want to make sure we come in the gym every day and have that mindset. "Our motto is high expecta- tions demand tremendous re- sponsibilities, something Dave came up with, but it's about the process. (The poll) really does hype us up because it's a slap in the face. But we've tried to ignore it and tried to focus on everything we have going on, on our team." j When I say "good," you say "neighbor." P097313.1 State Farm, Home Office, Bloomington, IL Call me for your insurance needs and see how it feels to be on a #1 team. Like a good neighbor, State Farm is there. ® CALL ME TODAY. Now that's teamwork. Trent B Johnson, Agent 249 E State Street West Lafayette, IN 47906 Bus: 765-743-9595

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