Upset bid falls apart for Flyers volleyball against No. 6 Purdue in NCAA second round

The Flyers (pictured Oct. 10) won the first two sets over the Boilermakers, but saw their upset bid collapse as they were outscored 65-26 in the final three sets on Friday. Photo courtesy of Keegan Gupta, Flyer News.

Peter Burtnett | Sports Editor

Facing No. 6 Purdue, the Dayton Flyers volleyball team’s upset bid slipped away as the Boilermakers dominated the final three sets in a 3-2 win Friday evening at their home gym, Holloway Gymnasium in West Lafayette, Ind.

With the win, Purdue advances to the Sweet 16 of the NCAA Tournament.

In the first set, the Flyers took an early 5-4 lead before the Boilermakers answered with a 6-1 run to push ahead 10-6.

But the Flyers steadily fought back with kills from graduate outside hitter Mahalia Swink and redshirt freshman middle blocker Alayna Yates, along with a block by Swink assisted by redshirt sophomore middle blocker Amelia Moore to tie the first set at 14-all.

Errors piled up for Purdue (10 attacking errors in the first set), and a service ace by senior outside hitter Alli Papesh gave the Flyers a 20-17 lead, forcing a timeout by Purdue.

After the timeout, the Boilermakers went on a 4-0 run to take a one-point lead. The Flyers were forced to use a timeout, and then another after falling behind 24-22 and facing set point.

An attacking error by Purdue and a block by Swink tied the match at 24. Another attack error went out to the right to put Dayton ahead by one, but Purdue responded with a drop kill to even the score again.

Swink got her third kill of the set to put the Flyers up one, and redshirt freshman Lexie Almodovar provided the set-winning kill after a 21-kill performance in a 3-1 win over Marquette in the first round.

Through the first ten points of the second half, the two teams went point-for-point. Purdue then opened up an 8-5 lead, but Dayton responded with a 6-1 run, of which five points were kills by Peterson, to take a 12-9 lead and result in a timeout by Purdue.

Errors by Purdue persisted and Dayton got kills from Swink and Peterson, along with a key block by Moore and Peterson to give the Flyers a 19-13 lead and force the Boilermakers to call another timeout.

The Flyers seemed poised to cruise to a second-set win, leading 24-16, but allowed the Boilermakers back into the match with a 3-0 and called a timeout leading by five on set point. After the timeout, Yates put the set away for the Flyers with a kill off the hands of a Purdue blocker, giving the Flyers a surprising 2-0 lead over the No. 6 Boilermakers.

In the beginning of the third set, the Boilermakers had one of the most dominant runs of the game by bursting out to a 7-2 lead before the Flyers called a timeout.

Purdue pushed their lead up to 11-3, but Dayton made a comeback to cut that deficit to five before back-to-back kills by Purdue gave them a 17-10 lead and forced another Dayton timeout.

The Boilermakers cruised through the rest of the set and won 25-15. Although both teams were even with 13 kills, the Flyers made four attacking errors and the Boilermakers consistently blocked the Flyers to stay alive for at least one more set.

Unable to stop the attack and blocking of the Boilermakers, the Flyers fell into an early 6-1 hole and used a timeout. After back-to-back attacking errors by Peterson, Purdue held an 11-4 lead and Dayton used their second timeout of the fourth set.

Momentum remained completely with the Boilermakers, who finished a dominant 25-6 win in the fourth set with a service ace.

Over the third and fourth sets, Purdue outscored Dayton 50-21, and tallied 26 kills and nine blocks, while the Flyers racked up 10 attacking errors. The Flyers hit just .132 percent in the third set and -.150 in the fourth, while the Boilermakers were .464 and .500 in hitting percentage in each set.

With all the momentum on their side, the Boilermakers held a big advantage over the Flyers heading into fifth set. A service error to start the set was an indication of the prevailing issues, and a block and kill saw Purdue jump out to a 3-0 lead. The advantage stretched to 5-1 when the Flyers called a timeout.

The blocks continued to pile up for Purdue (15), and Dayton fell behind 9-3 before calling another timeout, needing to outscore the Boilermakers 12-4 or better to earn a win.

Instead, the Flyers were outscored 6-2 and lost the fifth set 15-5 on the 16th block of the match by the Boilermakers.

Issues with hitting percentages (.108) and a major differential in blocks (16-5 in favor of Purdue) proved to be too much to overcome for Dayton, even after winning the first two sets.

For the second straight season, the Flyers’ season comes to an end with a five-set loss to the No. 6 team in the country (Washington in April 2021). The Flyers finish 26-6 and will go into the offseason facing the losses of key seniors Swink, Peterson, Papesh, and libero Maura Collins.

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