By Lincoln Arneal
Nestled between Ross-Ade Stadium and Mackey Arena sits Holloway Gymnasium.
The gym is home to the Purdue volleyball team, and capacity is listed at 2,288, but the crowd can swell to nearly 2,500. The two largest attendance marks (2,961 and 2,939) in Holloway history witnessed Nebraska matches in 2011 and 2012.
The third-ranked Huskers will return to the sold-out gym in West Lafayette, Indiana, as Nebraska faces No. 12 Purdue Wednesday night.
While some teams might wilt in front of a hostile environment, the Huskers (16-1, 8-0 Big Ten) relish the opportunity. They are used to playing in front of large crowds and feed off the atmosphere and don’t have to create energy themselves.
Kenzie Knuckles said the intimate environment helps them with depth perception, serving and attacking. The senior defensive specialist said she is also excited to go to Purdue (15-3, 6-2) because the Yorktown, Indiana, native will have a lot of family in attendance.
“It’s sometimes hard when we play in huge buildings that don’t have a lot of people in them because it’s just very different from what we’re used to,” Knuckles said. “Being in gyms where the fans are kind of close to you and there’s a lot of fans there, I think that’s where we thrive environment-wise.”
NU coach John Cook said the gym reminds him of a small high school gym in Nebraska. One of the other differences the Huskers will have to adjust to is playing on a wood floor instead of a sports court that Nebraska uses.
“There’s a great energy in there, which helps us feed off of that. I think we like playing there,” Cook said. “I think our players are so used to Devaney and have big crowds anytime there’s high energy. I think it helps us.”
While Cook said he likes Holloway, he wonders if Purdue could draw 5,000 fans to matches, and perhaps the small gym is limiting their potential. He’s seen other Big Ten programs – like Ohio State – build new, bigger arenas while others, such as Minnesota and Wisconsin, expand their home venues. Michigan State moved all its matches to Breslin Center, the school’s basketball arena.
“In some ways, they are limiting their growth,” Cook said. “A lot of other Big Ten schools are building arenas to draw more people.”
While the Boilermakers have won two-thirds of their matches in the venue’s 40 years, they’ve dropped the last two matches there. Purdue lost to Wisconsin on Oct. 8, and then Maryland pulled a big upset against the Boilermakers on Sunday, earning a sweep – the first time Purdue had lost in straight sets since falling to Wisconsin in 2018.
Cook said he wasn’t surprised by Maryland’s victory because of their blocking and serving prowess. The Huskers will also try to get the Boilermakers out of their comfort zone when they meet.
Purdue is led by freshman Eva Hudson, who leads the Big Ten with 4.68 kills per set this season. She is hitting .285 with 309 kills on 765 attacks, which are more than twice those of her teammates.
Knuckles said she expects a tough fight from the Boilermakers and the key will be winning long rallies.
“Purdue has always been great at just being really scrappy and defensively always keeping the ball up,” she said. “They have a freshman outside that’s been really good this year, and all the other attackers have been good in the past as well.”
ALLICK WINS FRESHMAN AWARD — Nebraska middle blocker Bekka Allick was named the Big Ten freshman of the week on Monday.
The Waverly graduate recorded 15 kills on a .481 hitting percentage to go with eight blocks, four digs and an ace last week in sweeps over Penn State and Northwestern.
McCUTCHEN TO STEP DOWN — Minnesota coach Hugh McCutcheon announced Monday night that he would step down at the end of the season.
McCutcheon went 265-71 in 11 years and led the Gophers to final four appearances in 2015, 2016 and 2019. In addition, Minnesota won Big Ten titles in 2015 and 2018. He also led the United States men’s national team to a gold medal in the 2008 Olympics and the women’s national team to a silver medal in 2012.
Cook said he was surprised by the news and hoped the best for McCutcheon.
“He’s a Hall of Fame coach,” Cook said. “Minnesota is a great program. It is a top-five program. Their teams are fun to play. They run really fast and you always learn something when you play them. The guy’s one of the best.”