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No. 2 Nebraska goes the distance to beat Purdue in first B1G road match

WEST LAFAYETTE, Indiana — Things learned Friday at Purdue:

— The Nebraska freshmen, talented as they are, probably now believe people when they say how tough it is on the road in the Big Ten.

— Purdue is scrappy as ever.

— There are simply so many outstanding freshmen in NCAA women’s volleyball and seven of them started here in Nebraska’s 23-25, 25-22, 25-18, 19-25, 15-12 victory.

— Two of those kids were simply fantastic as Harper Murray led Nebraska with a career-high 21 kills, three assists, two blocks and 10 digs; and Chloe Chicoine, generously listed at 5-foot-10, had 18 kills for Purdue while hitting .359 to go with an ace, a block and seven digs.

“We’re both really young teams but we’re both pretty good,” Chicoine said. “It’s really fun playing against each other.”

— John Shondell has left the Purdue program after 20-plus years.

The crowd of 2,415 inside cozy and uber-loud Holloway Gym had plenty to cheer about from the get-go as AVCA No. 17 Purdue (8-4, 2-1 Big Ten) took it right to the unbeaten Huskers (12-0, 3-0), the No. 2 team in the Super 16 Media Poll. Purdue, which squandered a five-point second-set lead, rallied from a 19-16 deficit in the fourth by scoring the last 10 points of the set.

“We were out of sorts tonight,” Nebraska coach John Cook said. “We’ve no rhythm offensively like we’ve had … But Purdue played really, really well and those two left-side hitters (Chicoine and Eva Hudson, who had 19 kills) did a really nice job. 

“But we found a way to win. We haven’t been in a five-gamer all year and I really like how we responded in game five.”

Not only had the Huskers not gone the distance, they’d only lost sets to Creighton, Stanford and Kentucky, and never the first of a match. Nebbraska swept Ohio State and Minnesota to open Big Ten play.

Against Purdue, junior Merritt Beason led with 19 kills while hitting .368 to go with five blocks and nine digs. Another freshman, Andi Jackson, had 12 kills, an assist and seven blocks. Freshman DS Laney Choboy had 14 digs and two assists and freshman setter Reilly Bergen had five kills in nine errorless tries, 54 assists, an ace, a block and 12 digs. Sophomore middle Bekka Allick had nine kills with two errors in 14 attacks, two digs and eight blocks, four solo.

There’s one rotation where the Huskers’ front line consists of Jackson, Reilly and Murray, whose last of her 21 kills was the match ender.

“The Big Ten season is the Big Ten season. Every team is going to put up their best fight against us, and that’s exactly what they did,” Murray said. “You know, you’ve just got to learn to fight through the bad and that’s what we did. That wasn’t our best match and we fought through it and that’s what you’re going to have to do in the Big Ten.”

Hudson, the sophomore outside, had two blocks and three digs to go with her 19 kills. Raven Colvin had seven kills but hit negative but had seven blocks. Freshman setter Taylor Anderson, who later was rotated with graduate transfer Lorrin Poulter, a kill in her only try, 37 assists, three blocks and six digs. The other Purdue freshman, outside Kenna Wollard, struggled with six kills but five errors, but had she had four blocks. And senior libero Maddie Schermerhorn had 19 digs, three assists and two aces.

Nebraska hit .311; Purdue .229. Purdue held a 15-12 blocks advantage.

“I thought we would play hard, I thought we would really compete and felt like we would play pretty well,” Purdue coach Dave Shondell said. “I just didn’t know if we would have enough to beat this team, which most people consider the first or second best team in America.

“We could be a lot better.”

Murray, who is from Ann Arbor, Michigan, and Chicoine, from the next town over from here, Lafayette, are old friends who have played on USA teams together and gone at it at the highest levels in club.

Nebraska goes to Indiana on Saturday, while Purdue is home Sunday for Northwestern.

“We were so close, we were right there, especially in that second set,” said Chicoine, recalling that the Boilermakers were up 15-10. “We didn’t capitalize when we were up … That could have been the difference maker, but it just shows we can hang with anybody.”


John Shondell left the team last week. He’d been his brother’s assistant coach for two decades.

“John resigned for personal reasons and as he told me he was really looking forward to spending a lot more time with his family,” Dave Shondell said. “I don’t think there’s ever been a coach, an assistant coach at Purdue, who’s given more to the university and to the players than what John has.

“So we’ll have to regroup, we’ll have to move on and so far our players are responding very well to the new situation.”

Kathy Jewell, also in her 21st season with Shondell, remains the assistant head coach and recruiting coordinator. Michael Bouril is in his fourth season as a Purdue assistant.