By Lincoln Arneal
In a battle of two of the best freshmen in the country, Harper Murray had the last word.
The Nebraska outside hitter, the No. 1 2023 recruit by PrepVolleyball.com, recorded a career-high 21 kills at Purdue, including four kills over the final six rallies, to go with 10 digs.
Meanwhile, Purdue’s Chloe Chicoine, who PrepDig labeled as the top recruit in the nation, finished with 18 kills on a .359 hitting percentage.
Murray tallied six kills in the decisive set to help the second-ranked Huskers earn a 23-25, 25-22, 25-18, 19-25, 15-12 victory Friday night over the No. 17 Boilermakers at sold-out Holloway Gymnasium in West Lafayette, Indiana.
It was Nebraska’s fifth win over a ranked team in its last five matches.
Murray tallied six kills in the decisive set to help the second-ranked Huskers earn a 23-25, 25-22, 25-18, 19-25, 15-12 victory Friday night at Holloway Gymnasium in West Lafayette, Indiana.
“As the match went on, we got better, and then we got to Game 5, and this is what you see in the Big Ten,” NU coach John Cook said on his postgame radio show. “You got to win matches like this. We found a way to win.”
Cook said he thought Chicoine played her best match of the season. She terminated from all corners of the court and kept the NU defense on its toes.
“Chloe was very effective on the back row, which normally we can shut that down and dig it, but we didn’t do a very good job on her tonight,” he said.
Purdue controlled the action early and only trailed 6-5 in the opening set. After winning the first set, the Boilermakers appeared to be on the verge of taking the second with a 19-15 lead
Purdue controlled the action early and only trailed 6-5 in the opening set. After winning the first set, the 17th-ranked Boilermakers appeared to be on the verge of taking the second with a 19-15 lead.
However, the Huskers came alive, sparked by Murray and sophomore middle blocker Bekka Allick. NU went on a 9-2 run to pull out the set as Murray recorded three kills late and Allick added two kills and three blocks, including one with Murray.
Allick finished with nine kills on a .500 hitting percentage to go with eight blocks, including four solo stuffs.
“I didn’t realize she had that many blocks, but she brings energy. She loves to compete,” Cook said. “She had a great match here last year too. And so she must like this gym.”
The Huskers (12-0, 3-0) took control in the middle of the third set as it turned a 9-6 deficit into a 21-14 lead behind long service runs from Laney Choboy (4-0 run), Bergen Reilly (4-0) and Murray (6-0).
Nebraska looked poised to close out the match in the fourth set with a 19-16 lead, but the Boilermakers stayed alive and scored the final nine points to force a fifth set.
Chicoine didn’t record a kill in the fourth set, but sophomore Eva Hudson stepped up. The reigning Big Ten Freshman of the Year tallied five of her team-high 19 kills during the set.
The Boilermakers (8-4, 2-1 Big Ten) hit .229 for the match. Lourdes Myers added nine kills, and Raven Colvin finished with seven kills and eight errors to go with seven blocks.
After giving up the first two points of the fifth set, NU responded by jumping out to an 8-4 lead. Purdue recorded three blocks in the set to keep it close before Murray took over late.
“We haven’t been in a five-gamer. This is good for us,” Cook said. “We definitely got punched in the mouth several times tonight. And sometimes we responded but we responded when it mattered most.”
One of the critical calls of the game came after Murray made it 13-10. Purdue challenged the call, saying the ball was wide, but the initial call was upheld. That was one of 10 replay reviews during the match. Cook went 5-1 on challenges, with the one he lost acting as a de facto timeout late in the fourth set. Purdue coach Dave Shondell went 2-2 on green card reviews.
“That had to be a record for green cards,” Cook said. “The biggest one was Harper’s hit, and it was close. It was really close. That was a big play. I thought it was good, but you never know those dang cameras.”
Andi Jackson added 12 kills on 25 attacks to go with seven blocks. Lindsay Krause replaced Ally Batenhorst in the first set and finished with eight kills and a .412 hitting percentage.
Choboy led Nebraska with 13 digs, while Reilly added 12 digs, 54 assists and five kills. The Boilermakers tried to take Lexi Rodriguez out of the game by hitting away from her. The junior libero finished with just six digs but added six assists.
While NU won the blocking battle 15-12, Purdue libero Maddie Schermerhorn recorded 19 digs. Murray said she was impressed with the Boilermakers’ defense.
“We knew coming into this game that they’re a scrappy team,” Murray said during a television interview. “Our game plan was to kill balls and make them work and that’s what we did. But they also scrapped just as much as us.”
The Huskers won’t have much time to celebrate the victory as they play at Indiana on Saturday at 6 p.m. The Hoosiers also played Friday and earned a sweep over Iowa to improve to 12-4 on the season.
“This is life in the Big Ten,” Cook said. “We’ve been talking about back-to-back and I said, ‘We’re at halftime right now. That’s just the first half. The second half is tomorrow night, and we’re going to have to rally, recover and all the things we talked about and come out and play another great match tomorrow night.’”