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Hornung, Boilermakers head to NCAA Sweet 16

Marissa Hornung ’18, a Purdue University sophomore, is having a great season as libero for the school’s women’s volleyball team. In the final two weeks of the regular season, she repeated as Big Ten Defensive Player of the Week. Her accomplishments over those two weeks included a total 46 digs in one week in wins over No. 22 Michigan and Michigan State, including a career high 29 in the Michigan matchup. She also was named to the Academic All-Big Ten.

The team earned a Top 16-seed for the NCAA Tournament, giving Purdue the opportunity to host the opening round, during which the No. 14 Boilermakers beat Wright State and No. 16 Marquette. On Friday, Hornung and her team head to Texas to face No. 1 Baylor at noon on ESPNU.

We caught up with Hornung before the first two rounds of the tournament last weekend:

Question: What has been the highlight of the season so far?
Answer: Two of the games that stick out to me as turning points in our season are the Nebraska game (at home) and the Michigan game (at home). The Nebraska game was a big momentum changer for us because taking down a Top 5 team drew a lot of national attention towards our program. We didn’t like how we felt when we left their place a couple weeks earlier with a 1-3 loss, so when we won that game, it gave my teammates and me confidence that we could compete with any team in the country. Not to mention, the atmosphere in our gym was CRAZY because we had a sold-out crowd and the five-set match was filled with amazing plays. Also, our Michigan game was a highlight of the season for me because it was senior day, and we hadn’t beat Michigan in 3 years. It was evident through our play that we were competing for Blake Mohler and Shavona Cuttino (our two seniors), and the win speaks to the level of respect and chemistry this team has for each other. We weren’t willing to lose to Michigan again, especially on senior day when we were honoring two people who have given so much to the program.

Q: What do you like about being a Boilermaker?
A: Right now, I like being a Boilermaker because I believe there are so many positive things happening on our campus. Since I stepped foot on campus in June 2018, I have witnessed and been a part of so many great moments. Some of these things include: Meeting Tyler Trent and getting to hear his life story through his perspective, being a student when Purdue celebrated 150 years of excellence as a university, playing on a team that just finished with the second most wins in the Big 10 at Purdue (14) in 32 years, witnessing amazing sports upsets and runs in the tournament such as Purdue football vs. Ohio State last year or our men’s basketball team making it to the Elite 8, watching any of our sports teams succeed because our athletic program is very successful right now, and being a part of a new major (Human Resources Development) (also my major) that the university has implemented, so I can earn the best degree possible. I could go on and on, but at the end of the day, I am proud to be a Boilermaker right now because I am fortunate enough to be surrounded by so many amazing people.

Q: What did you think when you heard you were Big Ten Defensive Player of the Week – twice?
A: Honestly, I didn’t think much about the award itself but more about how happy I was with the wins the following weeks. Those recognitions came after some very emotional, intense, and crucial matches so it was nice to reflect on those. Besides, everyone knows that in a team sport you don’t receive individual accolades without the help of your teammates and coaches. I am just grateful to still be playing at this point, to be surrounded by an amazing volleyball family, and the fact that I still have time to keep learning about the game I love.

Q: What’s your goal going into each game?
A: I have two goals going into each game that have helped me throughout this year.

1) Give it my all so I don’t have regrets. There is no feeling worse than going back and watching film and realizing that I didn’t try hard enough on a play. I have a lot of passion for the game, and my years left of playing are starting to shorten, so I want to make sure I give it everything I have while I still can.

2) Remember that volleyball is just a game and I am here to have fun. Playing in the Big 10 is one of the hardest things I have ever experienced. It is the toughest league by far, and there is NO game that I feel comfortable going into. Every team is capable of beating you, if you don’t show up. To take away from some of that pressure, I try to remind myself that competing is fun. I tell myself that I have been playing competitively since I was 8 years old, and it helps me not to overthink things.

Q: What is the team looking forward to in the tournament? 
A: Our team is most looking forward to hosting the first and second rounds of the tournament. It has been a long time since our program has hosted, and we are excited to show teams what Holloway is all about. Our gym is truly one of the hardest places to play in the country, and our fanbase has continued to grow throughout the past couple of years. Our tickets for the games sold out within the first couple of hours, and our website even shut down from so much activity at one point. We are motivated to give the Boilermaker community our best effort to say “thank you” for all the love and support they have shown us.

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