Purdue 3, Virgina Commonwealth 0

Dec. 2, 2005

CHAPEL HILL, N.C. -- Virginia Commonwealth University junior outside hitter Ludmila Francescatto (Fraiburga, Brazil) smashed 14 kills and junior middle blocker Melissa Peterson had 12 kills and hit .375, but it couldn't keep 21st-ranked Purdue from downing the Rams in three games, 30-27, 30-24, 30-21, Friday in the first round of the NCAA Tournament at the Dean E. Smith Center.

VCU (22-12) concludes a season which saw it engineer the second largest turnaround in the country this season behind first-year coach James Finley. The Rams won their first Colonial Athletic Association title on Nov. 20, by defeating Towson, 3-2, and reached the NCAA's for the first time in school history. However, Friday the Black and Gold ran into a tough, athletic Purdue team.

"We're really fortunate to have such a great season," said Finley. "I'm really proud of the effort our team put fourth. Obviously we'd like a different outcome, but I'm proud of these girls."

Purdue out hit the Rams, .193-.115 and had eight service aces, compared to VCU's two. Danita Merlau led the Boilermakers with 16 kills and 10 digs, while Lynch tossed in 12 kills and hit .476. Purdue advances to the second round, where it will meet the winner of The College of Charleston at 6 p.m. on Saturday.

VCU battled through the first two games, nearly tilting the match in their favor several times. Trailing in Game One, 24-21, the Rams got an ace and a kill from freshman outside hitter Elisa Kuehnel (Dresden, Germany), followed by a kill by junior outside hitter Renata Salvatori (Londrina, Brazil) to pull even at 24-24. The teams traded the next four points, making it 26-26, but VCU made a pair of ball handling errors and Purdue's Stephanie Lynch ripped a kill to give three straight points to the Boilermakers. After Salvatori spiked a kill cut the lead to two, Lynch put the game away off an assist from Renata Dargan.

Francescatto had eight kills and senior libero Griselle Lopez Pereira (Caguas, Puerto Rico) had eight digs in the first game for the Rams.

VCU came out strong in Game Two, rushing to a 19-15 advantage, but Purdue would not go away. The Boilermakers used a 9-3 burst, including a game-tying kill by Elizabeth Jacques, to take a 24-22 lead. The Rams could not recover. Purdue would control the momentum in the match the rest of the way, rushing out to a 16-6 lead in Game Three before salting away the victory.

Still, VCU gained the respect of one of the country's best programs.

"We knew they had some outstanding players, and I thought in the first two games they played very well," Purdue head coach Dave Shondell said. "We were fortunate to win those games."

Also for VCU, Lopez Pereira had 22 digs and junior middle blocker Jaclyn Orlando (Clinton Twp., Mich.) added five kills and six blocks.

The loss ends VCU's comeback season and ends the careers of two seniors, Lopez Pereira, who finishes as the school's all-time digs leader (2,088), and setter Shahrzad Firouzabadian, who saw the program go from the lowest point to the highest in just two seasons.

"(Lopez Pereira and Firouzabadian) have done a tremendous job this year," Finley said of his seniors. "I came in and changed their whole world and really made some big adjustments. They made a huge impact for us. They"re irreplaceable."

Quotes

Virginia Commonwealth University head coach James Finley

Opening statement:
We were really fortunate to have had the season that we did. We had some great leadership and great play from our kids. We're a little disappointed in the outcome, obviously, because we felt like we've played better than what we did tonight. But we're really proud of the effort the team made, and they fought hard at the end and tried to work hard to come back and to get a game where we could continue the match. So I'm really proud of my team's effort and the heart with which they played.

On his seniors:
These two young ladies have done a tremendous job. I came in this spring and changed their whole world everything, technique, fundamentals, what our goals were, how we were going to get everything accomplished. These two young ladies really got on board, and it's a unique situation to have two seniors in that scenario that our willing to make the adjustments and make the changes. They really made our team better. They grew, they improved technique-wise, they improved their leadership, and they were a huge impact on the success we had. We're going to miss them a lot they are irreplaceable.

Griselle Lopez Pereira on the substitution mix-up in game two:
I thought it was the rotation before, but it was the rotation where I have to get out. And the middle comes in to serve, and I was still in while she served, and I didn't get out in time.

Shahrzad Firouzabadian on the momentum changes:
There were just a couple little mistakes that happened that we could have obviously done differently. As coach said, we know we can play better than what happened. But in volleyball it's back and forth, back and forth and it just happened that it was on their side, the momentum, when it was 26-26 and it could have just as easily been on our side.

Purdue head coach Dave Shondell

Opening Statement:
We're really excited to win our first match of the tournament. It's been a nervous week trying to prepare for a good VCU team that we were not real familiar with. We knew they had some outstanding players and good athletes, and we hadn't seen them. But they had a great season, and we knew that they would come out and compete very very hard against us. I thought for the first two games they played at a very very high level and competed and played with intensity and intelligence and made it very difficult. I felt we were fortunate to win the first two games. And then I thought we loosened up a little bit after the first two and played pretty well in game number three. We are playing three freshmen quite a bit that played in their first NCAA tournament match. I thought that they fared pretty well in that one. Overall, we are excited to win. It's never easy to win in the NCAA tournament, and we knew that VCU was going to come out and really really play tough volleyball. I was impressed with their defense, I was impressed with their outside hitting, and yet their middles, who we really weren't overly concerned about coming in, were the players who really played well against us at times. We're just excited to win and be able to move on and look forward to playing tomorrow night.

On his team's nerves:
I think we got a little more comfortable with the match. The longer it goes, the more you should begin to relax and play. Our passing was pretty solid all night long. And if we can get the ball to Renata, then she normally makes good decisions and gives our kids good balls to hit. I think we did relax a little bit as the match wore on, which allowed us to get into the flow.

On the quick turnaround:
The good thing is it's equally tough on everybody, so it's not like you're behind the eight ball and the other team's been preparing all week. We have not done anything in practice for anybody but VCU. We were feeling like we had to prepare 100 percent for them. We looked at a little bit of tape on some of the other teams, and I don't know, I couldn't guess who's going to win this match tonight. But we'll have one person scout one team tonight and the other watch the other, and then we'll go back and watch tape well into the evening and come up with a game plan. And we'll practice tomorrow and go out and play. I think sometimes there's too much put into scouting and preparing and putting a game plan together at this level. The most important thing is making sure your team can go out into the match and make adjustments as the match is going on. You have to have that kind of team that has the ability can see things, recognize things, take coaching from the bench, but more importantly, do things on their own on the floor. I think that will be the key to tomorrow night's match.

Danita Merlau on her first game:
I definitely was nervous just because it was my first NCAA tournament, and playing a team that wasn't in our league, we really didn't know what to expect. They kind of played a different style of ball, but after the first couple of points my team took control and took care of me and made me feel at ease. Once you get playing, that's all you really think about, so the nerves wore off. Renata Dargan on VCU:
I give props to VCU. They came out and played with everything they had. They were really tough in the first two games. You could tell we were a bit nervous. A couple mistakes that we made we wouldn't really make normally during the season. At the same time, we built on what we were doing well. Our passing was great tonight. That's one of the strong points of our team. I think overall we played solid, but we know that tomorrow night is going to be pretty tough. It's going to be two possibly really tough teams that we could play.



-- Courtesy Virginia Commonwealth