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Gold and Black Illustrated, Vol 28 Digital 3

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GOLD AND BLACK ILLUSTRATED VOLUME 28, ISSUE 3 78 the fourth such award-winner in program history. Setter Ashley Evans, a three-time Academic All-American, was honorable mention, while left-side Azariah Stahl played in 130 matches in a consistently strong career. A fourth senior, Carissa Damler, became a key defensive special- ist this season. But none of the foursome ever reached the beyond the second round of the NCAA Tournament, one of only two Purdue classes to have not done so during the last de- cade-and-a-half. "That's the thing they're going to have to live with and understand moving forward," Shondell said. "They didn't accomplish what they could have, just being hon- est. I think this year, they gave everything they had, but they may have waited too late to really come together and make it happen. So if there's one thing as they go on to do whatever it is that they will do next — and in many cases, that will continue to be volleyball — you can't waste time. You have to do whatever is in the best interest of the en- tire team moving forward. I think that this group is no different, they become seniors and they become terrific and they figure it out, and then they're gone. "And this class is no different than many other classes, they were just more physically gifted and people thought they should do more and I did too. If they don't send us to Utah to play in the second round, the story could have been a lot different, but that's where we went. We had an opportunity to win it, and we didn't." An opportunity lost. But not all was lost. Aside from the individual wins during the season, in- cluding a 12-8 (tie-fifth) finish in the Big Ten, the Boil- ermakers felt they rebuilt a winning culture during the last three seasons. It was in 2014, during the departing seniors' freshman years, that Purdue didn't qualify for the NCAA Tournament, being left out, somewhat contro- versially, of the Field of 64. But the disappointment then was also a wake-up call. Purdue had a couple transfers — those have been a rarity during Shondell's tenure, totaling perhaps a hand- ful at most in 15 years — and so the Boilermakers had to recalibrate. It was a gradual process. Purdue returned to the NCAA Tournament in '15 and '16 but faced difficult second-round competition on the home courts of No. 3 Texas and No. 18 Missouri, respec- From 20 To 18? Coach Dave Shondell would like to see the Big Ten shift to an 18-game conference schedule, down from the current 20. Why? It might help league teams boost their RPIs, a critical component toward the NCAA selection committee deter- mining the Field of 64 and its seeding. As it stands now, Shondell figures, only the top couple teams in the Big Ten benefit from a 20-game schedule. Because the mid- dle of the conference is so competitive, many finish with near-.500 league records, and the wins and losses tend to equal a wash in terms of RPI, keeping it from raising or lowering too extremely. The 20-game schedule has stung Purdue lately, as the Boilermakers have been forced to travel for the first rounds of the NCAA Tournament, rather than the selec- tion committee selecting it as a host school. This season, Purdue's RPI was 25, but perhaps could have been high- er had it been able to play two more out-of-conference games. "The big dogs, the Nebraskas and Penn States and maybe Minnesotas, they want to have 20 matches," Shondell said. "They think they benefit by getting Big ten teams in their gym, and they want to have a true cham- pion. I've never been as overly concerned about the Big Ten as I have been about the NCAA Tournament. That's been the value to me. But that's another discussion we'll have this year, to see if maybe we can go to 18, instead of 20. … I don't know if there's a very good chance we could make that change. But it's about scheduling well." — Kyle Charters

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