WEST LAFAYETTE, Indiana — It was a back-and-forth battle between IU volleyball and No. 13 Purdue, but ultimately the home team pulled away Saturday to win the match in the fifth set.
The match was the 45th edition of the Monon Spike, and Purdue was able to pick up its 33rd win in the series and its 11th in a row.
“I wouldn’t go as far as saying it’s a rivalry because Indiana hasn’t been able to beat them in decades,” IU Coach Steve Aird said. “Rivalries become rivalries when both teams are excellent. We have a long way to go.”
Despite the usual result, IU’s battle was different than in years past. This was the first time since November 2016 that the Hoosiers won a set against the Boilermakers.
“I don’t know if our program deserves to win this match yet, but we battled,” Aird said. “The kids are learning really important lessons, and hopefully this is a sign of our program taking this a little bit more seriously.”
IU gave itself a chance to win by jumping out to a 4-1 lead in the fifth set, but Purdue senior outside hitter Sherridan Atkinson picked up four of her 23 kills in the final frame to lead her team to the win.
“I thought we had some control early, but we made a lot of errors down the stretch,” Aird said. “We took some brave swings, but at the end of the day they found a way to win.”
On a few occasions throughout the match, IU appeared to lack strong communication as the ball dropped after players seemed unsure of who should be going after it.
“They probably have to address some communication issues that have been long standing,” Aird said. “That’s on the staff. We’ve got to get them to communicate better. Those are things that can be fixed.”
In the match, sophomore libero Bayli Lebo set a career-high with 28 digs. Her season total is now 423 and ranks eighth all-time for the IU single-season record.
Caitlin Cox set the record in 2010 with 513 digs, and that number still ranks first in IU program history. Lebo will need 15 digs per match in IU’s final six regular season matches to tie the record. She has reached 15 digs in a match on 16 occasions this season.
Her first opportunity to get closer to the record will be Friday at No. 3 Minnesota. That game will be followed up by a matchup with No. 5 Wisconsin on Saturday.
The Hoosiers will get another chance to defeat the Boilermakers on Nov. 21 in the final regular season home game at University Gym.