WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. (WLFI) - The No. 24 Purdue volleyball team gave No. 5 Penn State nearly all it could handle, but fell just short in a five-set loss Saturday night. The Nittany Lions won the match 16-25, 25-21, 25-16, 22-25, 15-8.
Sophomore Sam Epenesa led all hitters with 16 kills. Five other players added six kills or more for the Boilers: junior KiKi Jones (9), redshirt senior Catherine Rebarchak (8), junior Val Nichol (7), sophomore Annie Drews (6) and redshirt freshman Faye Adelaja (6). The two middles – Jones and Adelaja – combined for 15 kills with just one error on the night. The pair also led Purdue at the net, where Adelaja posted seven stuffs and Jones chipped in four. Rebarchak and Drews also contributed four blocks each as Purdue outblocked PSU 13-12.
Defensively, redshirt senior Carly Cramer pulled up a match-high 16 digs, while senior Hilliary Fox added 13. Nichol and sophomore Amanda Neill managed nine saves apiece as Purdue outdug the Nittany Lions 61-60.
The Nittany Lions were nearly perfect in the decisive fifth set, hitting at a .615 clip with eight kills in 13 swings with no errors, while Purdue managed just a .111 hitting effort due in part to three PSU blocks. The Nittany Lions jumped out to a 7-2 lead. The Boilermakers cut the margin to four at 7-3 and again at 10-6, but couldn’t stop the PSU attack. Kills by Epenesa and redshirt senior Katie Griffin kept the set going at 14-7, but a DejaMcClendon putaway ended the Purdue upset bid.
The Boilermakers started the match with guns blazing, hitting at a .433 clip with six players getting in on the offensive action. Nichol and Rebarchak each chipped in four kills in the 25-16 win. Purdue scored three of the first four points, including kills by Rebarchak and Jones. After a tie at 3-3, the Boilers pulled ahead 9-6 on an Adelaja putaway. PSU tied it up at 10, but Purdue would not relinquish control, instead boosting the edge to six at 19-13 with four PSU miscues coupled with two kills by Epenesa. The Boilermakers outscored Penn State 6-3 down the stretch care of kills by five different players. Purdue ended the set with a 4-0 run, including a pair of kills by Rebarchak. A putaway by Jones ended the stanza.
Penn State bounced back in Set 2, jumping ahead by five at 10-5 and again at 13-8. Purdue narrowed the gap to three at 13-10 and 14-11 on putaways by Drews and Rebarchak, but could not break through. Down 19-12, Purdue rallied to score five of the next seven to make it 21-17 PSU. Epenesa pounded down two kills and Drews and Adelaja combined for a block in the rally. Penn State had its first shot at the set at 24-18, but the Boilers thwarted three efforts with a kill by Rebarchak and back-to-back stuffs by Jones and Rebarchak. A Katie Slay kill wrapped up the 25-21 PSU win. Purdue outblocked Penn State 5-1 in the set, but hit just .032 to PSU’s .214 effort.
The Nittany Lions led Set 3 from start to finish and held Purdue to a .033 hitting percentage with five blocks. Trailing 4-0, Purdue scored four straight, including kills by Adelaja, Drews and Rebarchak to tie it at 4-4. PSU pulled away to take a 12-6 lead and kept the Boilers at bay, holding at least a four-point edge the rest of the way.
Penn State took the early lead again in Set 4, but Purdue turned things around after trailing 3-10 and never looked back. A kill by Jones sparked a 7-2 Boilermaker rally that put the Boilers on top 17-15. Adelaja had a kill and two blocks during as Purdue scored five straight during the stretch. The teams split the next six points, but an ace by Cramer made it 21-18 and forced a PSU timeout. Kills by Jones and Epenesa coupled with a Penn State miscue put Purdue on the hill at 24-21. A Nittany Lion service error clinched the set at 25-22 to extend the match.
The Boilermakers (10-5, 1-3 Big Ten) return to action at 7 p.m. Friday when they take on Illinois in Mackey Arena as part of the Operation 14K promotion.
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