Purdue Calumet and Purdue North Central combined for 21 wins last season as separate volleyball entities. As one unit this season, the Pride already has 19 victories, the most for either campus since the mid-1990s.
“It’s kind of unbelievable,” PNW coach Julie Wiejak said. “There could’ve been lot of things that could go wrong, but we’re a team that has done nothing but benefit from the merger.”
Entering tonight’s regular-season finale, PNW has clinched a berth and the seventh seed in the Chicagoland Collegiate Athletic Conference tourney, the first Purdue-centric berth in the CCAC tourney since its formation. The Pride (18-14, 10-8) will travel to face the yet-to-be-determined No. 2 seed in the eight-team field.
The Pride clinched the berth with a five-game win over Roosevelt on Saturday morning.
The top-nine players in usage consist of a trio of Purdue Calumet holdovers, a triad of Purdue North Central incumbents and three freshmen.
The top player for the Pride is Gabrielle Martin, a Kankakee Valley grad who already has more than 1,000 kills with time to spare in her junior season.
She has 413 kills this season, an average of 3.69 per set, which leads the CCAC.
Martin, who was a two-time all-CCAC outside hitter at PUC, is reunited with fellow K.V. alum Cami Webster, a senior who played at PNC.
T.F. South grads Abbe Mullen and Jenna Pasko also became college teammates for the first time via the merger. Pasko had a team-best 14 kills Tuesday in the regular-season home finale, a four-game loss to Trinity Christian.
Michigan City grad Casey Neulieb has 416 digs, 3.71 per set. Freshman Eudora Negri (Munster) is also excelling on defense and from the service line.
Freshman setter Brooke Ahrens out of Covington is on pace for several assist records.
Regardless of the outcome of the first trip to the CCAC, PNW will be in NCAA Division II next season, but the roots are in place for success at the next level.
“When my assistant (Cory Sackett) and I started, we focused on the process, not the product — establishing a good foundation and culture,” Wiejak said. “We made sure the fundamentals of the program were put into place early enough, and the program had a good identity.”
South Suburban men ranked third nationally: Despite losing the national player of the year to graduation, the South Suburban men’s basketball team is ranked third nationally coming off a third-place finish at last spring’s national tournament.
The Bulldogs, who started the season Tuesday and play again tonight, are the only NJCAA Division II team to place in the national tournament seven of the last 10 years.
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The one thing this team will do well right away is rebound. Shakur Pinder, cousin of Bulls standout Taj Gibson, was second in the nation in rebounding last season at 12.4 per game despite starting fewer than half of SSC’s games.
Griffith grad Anthony Harris is one of two returning starters, and the sophomore wing will be asked to lead and shoulder some of the scoring load left by national player of the year Jovan Mooring, who is at UNLV this fall after leading the nation in scoring at 26.6 points per game.
“We expect really good things from both (Harris and Pinder),” SSC coach John Pigatti said. “When you lose the national player of the year and three other starters, you’ve got to find that next prolific scorer.”
Before Mooring, Michael Harris (E.C. Central) won national player of the year after prodigious scoring runs.
SSC is 155-11 all-time at home, including wins in its last 20.
West Side product Phazon Calhoun took a voluntary redshirt to bulk up and will be a freshman post presence. Ehab Eltayeb is a 6-foot-9 center from Dubai and will provide frontline skills.
Lansing native and former Simeon standout Armon Bedford should start this season.
Devon Mingo (Morton) walked on last season and earned a scholarship. He’ll be asked to step up at the 3-point line.
Bishop Noll grad Lee Howard went to school at Southern Illinois last season but missed basketball and came back to the area.
“He’s going to be really good,” Pigatti said. “He’s been a pleasant surprise.”
Final home game for Pumas football team: After snapping a two-game skid with a 24-20 win that included a 14-point fourth-quarter comeback win at Davenport, the Saint Joseph’s College football team hosts its final home game of the season at noon Saturday against Truman State.
Although true freshman running back Ike James (Lowell) is battling injury issues, several local players are playing big-time roles on defense for the Pumas.
Chesterton grad Evan Gill leads the team in sacks with 7.5 and has 10.5 tackles for loss among his 42 total. The junior defensive end has two fumble recoveries, as well.
True freshman Anthony Tucker (Merrillville) is tied for seventh on the team with 35 tackles, two of which went for loss. The defensive back also has seven pass breakups, an interception and a forced fumble.