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Gold and Black Illustrated, Vol 28 Digital 3

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GOLD AND BLACK ILLUSTRATED VOLUME 28, ISSUE 3 79 tively. And although the Boilermakers battled to fourth games, they exited in the second rounds. Purdue had hoped to avoid a similar NCAA Tournament draw this season and appeared poised to do so after its wins over Minnesota and Wisconsin on Nov. 10-11. The Boilermakers were ranked No. 17 before sweeping Rut- gers in their next game, but saw their RPI fall due to the Knights' 5-17 (0-10 Big Ten) record. Then, Purdue lost back-to-back to Michigan, a top-40-like opponent but one the Boilermakers, especially in the home match, should have been able to handle. And even the win over No. 10 Michigan State on se- nior night couldn't get Purdue back on the right side of the ledger, in the eyes of the NCAA selection committee, which chose 16 others as host schools and sent the Boil- ermakers to Salt Lake City. There, Purdue beat High Point in Round 1, but like the last couple seasons, couldn't overcome the host school in the second round. "It would have been nice to start off in our own gym," middle blocker Blake Mohler said of Holloway, "playing in the Boiler Box is insane because no one understands the amount of support we have. "We started those first two sets slowly against Utah and we wonder if we would have been here, (if) our fans have picked us and brought us back into games. But who knows? We could have had a better start, but that's what good teams are made of, you've got to take a challenge and push through it and still excel. It's something we'll have to learn from." Whether those lessons take hold soon might be dependent on how well Purdue can replace what it lost. But it's not as if the Boilermakers don't have return- ing talent; Sherridan Atkinson, a rising senior, was a third-team All-American in her second year at Purdue. It's deep at middle blocker, with Mohler, Shavona Cuttino and Erin Williams, and it has a rising potential standout in outsider hit- ter Caitlyn Newton, a sophomore-to-be. The ball control should take another tick forward, after it did last season as well, with a veteran group of defensive specialists. Purdue will have to find a setter among op- tions Hayley Bush and Lexi Dorn, to replace longtime starter Evans. And Shondell needs another outside hitter, so seeking an immediate-impact transfer is a spring pri- ority. If he doesn't find one, Garrett Joiner, a 6-foot-3 incom- ing freshman, part of an impressive recruiting class of four top-100 prospects, could be pushed into the rotation even earlier. "We're going to be overlooked badly by anybody who tries to (predict) leagues," Shondell said. "We won't be in the conversation, you look at losing Evans, Cuttino and Stahl. I think that's terrific, because I still think we have some really good volleyball players coming back and we have a good group that's going to arrive in the summer time. It'll be fun to try to piece together a competitive out- fit. "When you lose a Cuttino, as an example, you really feel like you blew an opportunity; you only go to the sec- ond round and you have Danielle Cuttino, a first-team All-American? But then you look at the fact that you lost to some teams that didn't have a Cuttino. There's a lot of ways to skin a cat. So we have to go back and kind of take From Our Window World Family We Love the Boilermakers! Five Indiana Locations Lafayette • Indianapolis Terre Haute • Muncie • Columbus 765-588-9207

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