She knew it was coming, but not that day.
The last time IU played Purdue, junior Madison Appel was on the bus riding to West Lafayette, Indiana, when she found out her great-grandmother, “Babci,” had died.
Fast-forward a few hours, and Appel was deciding the outcome of the match between IU and Purdue at the No. 1 singles position.
“It was a crazy time,” Appel said. “My great-grandma passed away the night before. Emotionally, I was unstable.”
IU Coach Ramiro Azcui told her the day before she did not have to play in the match given the circumstances, but Appel knew how important it was for her team.
Appel won the first set, and she was up in the second set, describing it as a breeze match for her. Then, momentum shifted. Purdue then-freshman Alex Sabe won a second set tiebreaker and forced a third set.
The third set was back-and-fourth and wound up being tied at 5. Appel went up 6-5, until things were all tied up at 40. Appel was serving for match point, where she would either take the victory, or go to another tiebreaker, in which Sabe won 3-7 the previous set.
Sabe returned Appel's serve, but Appel responded with a rare drop shot, causing Sabe to scramble and just barely get it over to Appel. Appel then came up to the net and hit it where Sabe wasn't, clinching the match.
“I was all over the place,” Appel said. “I was so happy I clinched, but I was crying because I had held in so many emotions during the match.”
IU is 52-6 all-time against Purdue, and that last Appel victory gave Azcui his first road win as head coach.
Azcui said he wants his players to understand the excitement that comes with playing Purdue. He said it is a special week preparing for the Boilermakers.
“You have to throw any records away,” Azcui said. “Who they beat, who we beat, it doesn’t matter. Anything could happen on Saturday.”
Purdue comes to Bloomington with a 10-8 (3-3) record, beating Iowa, then-No. 36 Nebraska and Wisconsin in conference play.
Both Purdue and IU have lost to Notre Dame, Northwestern and Illinois, while each team defeated Cincinnati and Butler earlier in the season.
Azcui said he doesn’t want to make the matchup too big in the sense that nerves will get in the way, but if you cannot get excited to compete against your rival school, you shouldn’t be in your sport.
“As always, we are focusing on what we need to do better as a team in practice this week” Azcui said. “Individually, some areas we are focusing on improving is consistency and coming up to the net more.”
IU has won one doubles point in its six conference matches this season, and Azcui is looking for tandems that will bring high intensity and get the doubles point.
As for the players, they know the level of intensity this match will bring.
“This is why you play college tennis,” Appel said. “You have to feel that pressure. You have to want that pressure.
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