Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Beginning to move on from Purdue

As I write this post, a countdown on my computer reminds me that I have only 80 more days until I graduate from Purdue University. In 80 days, I will no longer be a Purdue student, but rather a Purdue Alum. It's scary to think and it's now starting to hit me.

When you are in your last semester as a senior, things begin to slow down, showing you that the end is near. This past January, I stepped down as the Parish Council President at St. Tom's; this weekend will be my last ever Boiler Awakening retreat, and even my course load has been reduced to classes that have pointed me towards my future in graduate school. It's just scary to think that 1275 days ago, I took my first class at Purdue, and now I am only 80 days away from walking across the stage at Elliott Hall of Music.

I never once doubted the people who told me 4 years ago that college would move by quickly, but I didn't think it would move by this quickly. Though I am not ready at the moment to say goodbye to Purdue, God is showing me my path for the future. As most of you know, I have been accepted into Michigan's Ph.D. program for Atmospheric Science. Though I have had a great relation with Michigan since my REU back in 2011, I'm still finding it a bit difficult to call myself a Wolverine over a Boilermaker, and part of me wants to stay.

However, Purdue is showing me that my time in West Lafayette is done.

Two weekends ago, our department (Earth, Atmospheric and Planetary Sciences (EAPS)) held its annual Graduate Expo for most of students who applied to the EAPS Graduate Program. Though I was certain I was going to Michigan for graduate school, I still applied to Purdue because I have worked with the department through research and extracurricular during my undergraduate career and I still felt that connection to Purdue. Everyone who applied to Purdue's program who was in my class received an invitation to attend.

Except for me.

It had seemed that since the professors in EAPS knew my connection with Michigan, they just assumed I was going there. They had seemed to overlook the fact that I took the time to apply to Purdue and pay $60 out of my own pocket to send in the application, but they just put my application to the side. I was extremely bitter. I felt that my last 4 years at Purdue meant nothing to my department. I talked about this with my mother, who I have been close to for almost my whole life, and she said that this was God's way of showing me that my time at Purdue is coming to an end and I must go. I was too bitter at the time to acknowledge that, but like most mothers, she was right.

Personally, I think the professors at Purdue did not just throw me to the side. Perhaps they believed I had better potential at Michigan or elsewhere, and that students from other universities deserve the chance to call themselves Boilermakers. Whatever their reasoning was, this was Purdue saying "we had a great four years together, and I have given you great potential, but it is time for you to use your potential elsewhere as a Boilermaker."

Before the end of the month, and probably before this Friday, I will officially accept my offer from the University of Michigan. In the words of LeBron James, I'll be taking my talents to Ann Arbor.

I hold nothing against Purdue for most likely not accepting me into the graduate program (I haven't received any notice from Purdue that I have been denied, but it seems likely). My time at Purdue has come and gone, and we all must face the day when we leave Purdue for the last time as a student and enter into a new world beyond the valley of the Wabash.

It isn't going to be easy. After all, I am quite comfortable here at Purdue. I have an amazing girlfriend who I see everyday, a great group friends through St. Tom's, PUMA, and other places, and in general a community that I fell in love with after my first visit to Purdue in November 2007. But just as the cliche states, all good things must come to an end.

As I look back on my 4 years at Purdue, there are some things I wish I could have done differently. However, if I had to graduate right now, I would look back and have no regrets.

In a couple years, very few people at Purdue will know who I am, and in just 5-7 years, no one will even know me, and the same is probably true for most of us. Despite that, I know I have made an impact here at Purdue that will impact someone in a few years that I will never meet, and for me that is enough to make me say I have no regrets being a Purdue student.

The same is true for our time on Earth. We do not have a long time living on this planet. Unless we are one of the very few that become a very historical person, we will be forgotten about just a few decades after our death. It can be a sad thing to think sometimes, but it really isn't. Just like our years in college, we make decisions during our lives that will affect at least one person down the line that we will never meet. Some say that you should live life like it is your last day on Earth, but if that were true we would do a lot of stupid things, like saying YOLO.

In reality, we do need to look at life as if we were going to die tomorrow, but mainly look back on our own lives and say "I have no regrets." Then, you will know you have lived a great life, and I can personally tell you that I have no regrets.

I do not know how my quick discussion on leaving Purdue has led to me talking about our lives and death, but there is a small connection there. We have to be able to live our lives in a way where we will have no regrets. Sure, I may put the pro in procrastination, but I still try not to waste a day, even if I do spend most of it on the internet. We can only do so much in so little time, the question is how we spend our time and how do we prioritize our life events. All I can really do now is to just say again that I have no regrets from my time at Purdue.

Purdue, we had a great run over the last 4 years, and you have a special place in my heart that no one else can replace. However, we both know that we must part our separate ways, but know that the last 4 years have been life changing and will impact the way I live my life in the future. We will both change after we part ways in 80 days, but we both must move on and reach even great potential that we didn't know was possible.

Let's make these last 80 days awesome.

Thursday, August 2, 2012

My complete interview with Coach Shondell

Since I posted the shortened version of my interview with Coach Shondell on Hammer and Rails, I decided to post the entire interview here in order to not jam H&R. Enjoy.


Since James and I are one of the few dedicated volleyball writers in the Big Ten, we take our jobs seriously. At times, we are the main, and sometimes the only, voice outside the Athletic Department promoting not only the Purdue program, but Big Ten volleyball as a whole. With Purdue Volleyball entering this season with what could described as their own “Dream Team”, as many players are coming in with 4 years of experience, covering the squad during the season will become an important task, much like H&R’s coverage of the baseball team this year. My interview with Coach Shondell Wednesday morning gave me a chance to view the program through the eyes of an experienced coach and player, something that most fans cannot see. Coach Shondell also gave me a tour of the new volleyball facilities that was part of the Mackey Renovation project. Pictures of the facilities, as well as the newly painted Belin Court will be featured below.
Since this was a lengthy interview, I am only posting the abridge version on Hammer and Rails. For my complete interview with Coach Shondell, visit my personal blog: The Juan, The Only.
Juan Crespo: Before the Big Ten/Big East Challenge last season, you discovered libero Carly Cramer had what seemed to be a stress fracture and ended up redshirting the remainder of the season. How has she progressed in her recovery, especially since she sat out of most of the spring games? Is she projected to be the libero at the beginning of the season, or will that title be given to someone else and who will have to step up to fill in that void? (Partial credit to JAZ1142)
Dave Shondell: Doctors told us there is probably a 50% chance she can play in the Gold and Black match (August 18th), and 75% chance for opening night after she re-hurt her shoulder during camps. It is frustrating for her…after sitting out for the year, but she has been handling it pretty well. The million dollar question is who is going to fill in that void. We have a lot of good candidates for the position. We played all of last spring with Cramer after she got hurt again in the first game. We did very well with Amanda Miller and Hillary Fox doing a lot of our ball control. Of course Ariel Turner had to step in and do a lot more passing than she had done in the past, and did a remarkable job; that is one person who you will see do more serve receive. [Turner] will have to become a complete player this year. Hillary and Amanda have done a nice job last spring and have gained experience and confidence that will help them have the edge that will help them going into the start of the season.
Others include Gosewich, who we hope is healthy for the first time in her final season. We also have a plethora of new kids: Amanda Neil, who is a quality player, very good athlete, and very solid emotionally. Kate Workman is quick and feisty, and brings a lot of emotion to the floor. Bridget Powell may not be as vocal or outgoing as others, but she quietly gets the job done as anyone else. Sam Empaneza will also be competing for that back court time, which may be an outside hitter, but has ball control experience as much as the other players listed.
We normally play a libero and 2 defensive specialists. We look to be doing the same thing, but also have some of the front court players that may be able to go all the way around as well as play a 2 setter offense (6-2). We played this during the spring games where Val Nichol would set 3 rotations and Rachel Davis would set 3 rotations so she could come out of the front row. This does limit the amount of substitutions since there are only 15 per game, and only let use 1 libero and 1 DS. The great thing about this team is that it has great versatility; we can do some different things. We want to have the option of going very quickly from a 5-1 offense, which we normally use with 1 setter who stays in the whole time, to a 2 setter offense. Teams cannot get locked in preparation to play Purdue…to where they don’t know if we will play a 5-1 or a 6-2 offense. That can make you better by being more diverse, but you have to have an experienced team in order to do that.
JC: Amanda Miller was the libero during the spring games as Cramer sat out. I also noticed that she is no longer wearing her protective helmet due to her previous accidents. How has she progressed not only in her vital roles during the 2011 season but also during the spring games?
DS: She has progressed better than we expected, we didn’t know if she would ever play and at times advised her to not continue to play due to the risk factors involved. She has been a great player for us, and in the gym she is the most positive player we’ve ever had. But as a coach we don’t want to put that player at risk at banging her head again after her multiple concussions. The doctors have said she is fine, that there is nothing to be concerned about and that she didn’t even have to wear the helmet last season. She wore the helmet more for comfort feeling so she wouldn’t worry about things and would be able to focus on playing. Yet it hindered her vision, because if the ball went up and back, she couldn’t find it because of the padding of the helmet. She started to wean herself away from the helmet during the spring and now feels totally comfortable playing without it. Our trainers and doctors have done a great job with that situation and weren’t going to put her into a situation that would put her at risk.
JC: After Anna Drewry tore her ACL against Louisville in the 2010 NCAA Tournament, she didn’t seem to have fully recovered during the 2011 season. How has she progressed from her injury during the offseason and do you think she will perform at the same level she did before her tear in 2010?
DS: Much of that is up to her mentally. I thought she had an outstanding spring season for us. When she came in she was a middle attacker, but with Fisher and Arthurs in the middle, we had to find some place for “Boom.” We then groomed her and developed her as an outside hitter, which started late in her freshman year but certainly in her sophomore year. She had some big matches on the outside her sophomore year and we thought that worked out really well. That was until the match against Louisville where she lands awkwardly and tears her ACL, and then we go to the Sweet 16 without our 6’3” bomber on the outside. When we got her back, we wanted to put her in a position that would make her feel comfortable where she didn’t have to judge a lot of outside sets, which is my opinion on why she got hurt because the ball was set over her shoulder, she didn’t adjust to it real well, and then landed really awkwardly on her left leg. We want to get her out of that situation and put her back in the middle. During the spring, especially during the last 2 tournaments, she was back to the “Boom” that we knew and loved. After working really hard in spring, she feels really good about herself with great confidence, and I think there is no bigger key to our success this season than to how she responds this fall. I feel really good about our season because I can’t see her not responding very well. When she came in, I thought she was the best volleyball athlete we ever recruited. She doesn’t have the “typical” volleyball body, but she is dynamic, jumps well, hits the ball harder than anybody we’ve ever had, competes and has huge hands. She moved great laterally at one point in time, and she lost most of that as much mentally as she did physically, just not having that confidence to move quickly from one direction to another, but we noticed she did gain some of that back during the spring. Her continued development and confidence will pay dividends for us this fall.
JC: Ariel Turner, Val Nichol, and Kierra “Kiki” Jones are coming off their experience with Team USA A2 Volleyball this summer. How will their experience, especially for Val and Kiki, be beneficial for them as they return this fall? How will Kiki help fill in Fisher’s absence? Is she to stay strictly a blocker? Does Nichol get a larger role this year? (Kudos to Boiler Bandsman)
DS: Kierra has really developed the ability to go off one foot. When she came to Purdue she was strictly a 2 foot jumper, meaning she stayed in front of the setter when she attacked. Tiffany Fisher’s strength was going behind the setter and going off one foot, and that’s how she got a majority of her kills. Kierra has developed that ability, and so she will probably move into the M1 position (middle 1st position), which lines up next to the setter. That way it opens the door up to go behind the setter more often, do more things and she will be a much more offensive weapon than she was a year ago. Kiki will have to get to ball more to fill in Fisher’s void, and Anna will help with the middle as well. I don’t think Drewry will be unanimous Big Ten like Fisher, but she will be every bit as dangerous in the front row just like Tiffany was.
Regarding the experience, it motivated them to have their game at a high level. They didn’t want to go into that event and embarrass themselves. It was a shot of confidence that they were selected to play on that team, the fact that all of them played well and that it wasn’t a fluke that they were on that team as they all started for their respective teams. It gave Val quality setting experience as she was a setter the entire time, which will transfer well into the fall when she is going to be somebody we lean on more as a setter. Val has a real challenge ahead of her because she has got to be good in a lot of things, a hitter, blocker, setter, good server, defender and a good leader. It’s not like last year where she came in and was a hitter/blocker, which was basically what she did. She did a good job with that, but now she goes from that to being a hitter/blocker/setter, hitter/blocker/setter/server, or hitter/blocker/setter/server/defender.
JC: Ariel Turner was named 1st team All-American, Academic All American, and Big Ten Player of the Year after finishing the season with 586 kills, and was a big reason why Purdue was so successful last year. However, it seemed as if the teammates became dependant on Turner, and when she did not have her best performance, like against Florida State, the rest of the team would try to fill in the void but would ultimately fall. This season, Ariel will have the spotlight on her, but how are you helping develop your other outside hitters and middle blockers to relieve Turner when she does not have a good game?
DS: You don’t want to lean on one person that heavily. Yet there were very few times last season where I thought Rachel should have set the ball to someone else. When you have an outside hitter like Turner, they get a lot of sets. There’s always going to be one player that is going to be the outlet player that gets a lot of sets. When you’re out of system, that person gets the ball because she is the most effective at getting something out of nothing, which is Turner for us right now. Some of the sets aren’t by design, because if the ball is passed 15 feet off the net and if Turner is in the back row, we throw the ball to her opposed to a 6 foot freshman. There are many situations in volleyball where your only options are the left side or the back row, and Turner is always an option in those situations. When we get in system, so when the pass goes straight to the setter, we’ll go away from the left side and establish our middle hitters and right side attack. However, you don’t want to get to the point where all you are doing is giving Turner your out of system sets all the time, she’s also got to get some sets when the ball is right there to the setter to help build some confidence. I sure hope we don’t lean on Turner as much as we did last year. You’ve got Val Nichol and Kierra Jones back for their second year, Anna Drewry, Catherine Rebarchak, Katie Griffin, as well as the incoming freshmen. We’re hoping that we don’t get into the mindset where any time we’re out of system we’ve got to give every ball to Ariel.
The thing is the pass or the dig dictates what your options are, and too often in volleyball those options are predetermined. What people need to know is that Turner developed a sore shoulder as the season when on, and that’s obviously a result of hitting a lot of balls. She did not have as much left down the stretch as she had mid-season; Ariel was not the same player when we played Florida State as she was when we played Nebraska here, through no fault of her own. She just did not have enough pop in the arm, which made it easier for Florida State to look good defending her because she did not have as much pop in her arm. You’ve got to have other players step up in order to defend against that and become more viable option. We did many things last year to keep her fresh, such as not practicing her hitting 2 days a week, just to make sure her arm stayed healthy. It did for the most part, but it didn’t have the same pop at the end of the season.
JC: How is the team adjusting to the loss of Ehlers, Bashen, and T. Fisher to graduation?
DS: Though they will still be around Purdue, they won’t be part of the team but still visible to the program. Things evolve and people have to step up to be a new core leadership, but we already have those leaders with Carly Cramer, Rachel Davis, Ariel Turner, and Anna Drewry. We are going to miss the ball control, quickness and defense of those 3 great athletes. My biggest concern is how we replace the quickness that the defense provided, as well as the experience Bashen and Ehlers had passing, serving and playing defense. We may have lost Tiffany Fisher, and though she is a valuable lose, as I mentioned earlier I think Drewry is going to hold her own in that spot.
We may have to be better in other areas, it is possible we may not be as good defensively when you lose those kind of players, so you have get better somewhere else, like blocking, setting and most of our offense, which will be better. You are not going to be the same team every year, but we have to get better in other areas since we may not be as good defensively.
JC: Purdue’s incoming freshman class is ranked in the Top 15 nationwide. How do you plan on integrating this freshman class with the current team made up mostly of veterans? It may be too early to tell now, but do you see a few of the freshmen being part of the main rotation later on this year, and maybe even starting a few matches during Big Ten play?
DS: It is difficult to say as we sit here today. It is going to be very important how well those 6 freshmen are integrated into our program; volleyball is a chemistry sport, especially women’s volleyball. It’s huge to make sure you have everyone on the same page, and to make sure the chemistry is really good. There are some things a coach can do, but on the college level you rely on your players to incorporate those young people and get them on board and make sure they are a part of the team. You have to have quality veterans on your team that are going to pull those players in, which we’ve always done a good job of here at Purdue.
In terms of performance on the floor, we talked about the need for ball control, which 4 of the freshmen are going to be competing for that floor time with the great opening and gap that we need to fill. I think one of the players, Faye Adelaja from Baton Rouge, will be our redshirt. She was the MVP of our camp here this past summer, but we are going to have enough depth in the middle with Drewry, Kiki, and Kaisley Fisher so that we aren’t going to have to play Faye a whole lot. Though she is a definite red shirt candidate, but it’s hard to say outside of that. Annie Drews is a hitting machine that just loves to hit the ball, so she will be difficult to keep off the floor. However, she has to compete with 2 year starter Catherine Rebarchak. She is very good, especially against our best competition, but she does take some nights off. If she wants to own that spot, she is not going to be able to take nights off.
JC: Coming into this season, who do you see as the most improved player?
DS: I think Kierra Jones would have to fit in that category; her offense has blossomed a lot during the spring. Val Nichol has become more diverse and is a natural setter; she is a terrific athlete and can do so many things. Those two have improved quite a bit. Though Turner didn’t play a lot during the spring, her ball control improved a bunch and her passing too, which is something that we are going to need. Our staff was discussing the other day that Turner’s back court play may be more valuable than her front court play, and here is a kid who was Big Ten Player of the Year for her front court play rather than her back court play. But we did have many players who were healing over the spring and could not make visible improvements on the court, like Kaisley Fisher, Gosewisch, Davis, and Cramer all having surgeries. I think we’ll see some kids surprise us once we get started this year.
JC: What do you think is Purdue’s greatest strength/advantage over most teams?
DS: I’ve always felt like our team played with great purpose and that there is an understanding is what we have to accomplish to be successful; they understand the game plan and who we are. Right now I’m not sure that we know who we are yet, that’s something that comes together. Former Minnesota head coach, Mike Hebert, was the best that I ever watched from year to year taking a team, looking at their talents, strengths and weaknesses and figuring out what kind of team they had to be. I have taken some pride in the ability to do the same thing throughout my career, whether it was coaching 14 and under teams, high school, or now here at Purdue. We haven’t been like some of these programs that just reload; we have to take advantage of what we have and hide what we don’t have. Every coach will probably tell you that they’re in the same boat. We have more talent on this team than we’ve had since I’ve been here, we’ve had some talented teams but I think as far as shear athletic ability, we probably have more than what we’ve had since I’ve been here. That doesn’t mean we’re going to be better, than means we have more talent. We have to continue to develop volleyball skills. Ball control has been big in our program but that is something that is going to be a challenge this year to get to that level we like to be at. We also compete; when people play us they know that Purdue’s going to compete and you aren’t going to get ahead of Purdue and think that they’re going to back down. Every year is different and this year’s team is going to have to establish who they are.
JC: What’s Purdue’s greatest weakness?
DS: I don’t think we have a lot of them, or that there are any glaring weaknesses on this team. I think until Cramer returns we are going to be a little weak in our ball control. Yet, we are putting the same people on the floor that we put last spring and they did a terrific job. One will be out of the gate, one will be a 5th year senior and one will be a junior when you look at Miller and Fox (respectively).
JC: The Big Ten Conference is considered one of the best, if not the best, conference in the nation, and is always competitive. How do you view the conference this year, and do you think that the champion of the Big Ten will go on to the Final Four and win the National Title in December?
DS: I think you are going to see some Big Ten teams in the Final Four; I would be very surprised if there is a Final Four sometime soon that doesn’t have a Big Ten team in it. I think our conference has become the best volleyball conference in the country, with the Pac-12 close behind. Clearly our 2 conferences have become the meat and potatoes of college volleyball. Everybody in the conference worries me, as a coach that is a strength and weakness of mine, the fact that we work our tails off to be prepared for everybody. We certainly respect everybody and this year will be no different; it’s not going to be a patsy in this league. When you look last year, the two worst teams on paper in the league (Indiana and Iowa) gave us the toughest matches on our home court, and we were lucky to survive. You have to be prepared when you play everybody in this league and I think it will be very tough again this year. I think there are teams that are angry after things went out in the end last year, like Penn State, Nebraska, as well as Purdue. There are some teams that have an agenda, which sometimes it’s good, but I don’t think it is necessary though it does keep your players focused. A majority would place Penn State and Nebraska in that upper echelon, and they’re going to put Purdue in the next group with 3-4 other teams, but that grouping could be as large as 7-8 teams. I know we’re going to have a good team. Some teams that will improve will be Minnesota since they had their interim coach last year. Ohio State and Wisconsin are ready to make a move, especially Wisconsin who has been out of the NCAA tournament 3-4 years in a row. Northwestern had a lot of young players last year and they feel good coming into this year. Michigan and Michigan State are two totally different types of teams yet always in the NCAA Tournament and competing. Michigan may have lost key players but they have an excellent coaching staff and do a good job getting their people ready. Michigan State had a good fortune getting the MAC MVP to transfer to MSU, which filled a huge void on their team. Indiana will be better this year after losing players the year before to graduation and an ACL injury last season. Iowa will keep plugging along and will eventually start beating people.
JC: Other than Purdue, what are your favorite Big Ten and other college venues to play at?
DS: I don’t like any of them! None of them are fun places to go just because of the stress you have to deal with playing on the road in the Big Ten. To answer the question, the two that I like the most mainly because of history would be St. John’s Arena (Ohio State) because I’ve been going there since I’ve been old enough to walk. My dad coached Ball State Men’s Team, and Ball State and Ohio State had one of the greatest rivalries of all time. He would take me over there and I would walk to the top of St. John’s Arena when I was a young kid and I thought this was the most amazing place in the world. It has gotten a lot older since then, and as have I, but there are a lot of memories over there and we have played very well over there and won many matches over there. I also like Badger Field House in Madison, a lot of history there with many National Championships played there. It is a rickety old field house that reminds me a lot of the one I used to coach high school volleyball in (Muncie Central). Iowa’s arena (Carver-Hawkeye) is not designed well for volleyball; they have tried a lot of different things to make it more suitable. They have gone from using the whole court to only using one half, which makes it a tough fit to make that a volleyball place. It is a tough place to play; it’s tough to play well when you’re the visiting team.
Outside the Big Ten: We don’t play much outside the Big Ten, but there are some neat places that we have played at, like Duke. As a coach I want to go to places that I’ve watched all my life. I’d like to get out to Pauley Pavilion and play UCLA, they just don’t host tournaments at a convenient time due to their school starting later with the quarter system. But most places that are packed are great places to play in. I think your great players play best when the TV lights are on and the place in packed, it doesn’t matter if it is home or away. I think our venue is the best in the Big Ten because the size is perfect. Some schools lose a lot of their crowd effect because they’re in such a huge place (Wisconsin, Ohio State, Iowa), even with over 1,500 in attendance. It’s not the same effect as walking into [Holloway Gymnasium] and packing 2,500, making it is one of the toughest places to play in America. We have officials from across the country that walk up after a big match and say that that’s the best environment they’ve ever seen in college volleyball.
JC: Going off a tangent from the previous question, a few games are going to played in Mackey Arena during the regular season (Active Ankle Challenge and vs Penn State), so how do you think that’s going to affect the home court advantage?
DS: We have played 2 matches since I’ve been here and we’ve won them both (Northwestern (Pack Mackey Night, ~9000) and Wisconsin (Midnight Madness, ~12,000)). Both were great matches, were great fun, and our kids love the opportunity to play in there in front of that kind of a crowd. Now the Active Ankle Classic, we’re not going to have 10,000 people to watch the game, I hope we have our usual good crowd, but I think for the Penn State match we are going to try and make it a huge event. If we’re both Penn State and Purdue are playing well, there would be no reason why we can’t pack that place.

Thursday, July 26, 2012

Remember to always check your spelling

I goofed earlier today if you didn't notice. My previous blog was my prediction for 2012 Purdue Football, but in the title, I missed the C in prediction and instead had "predition." Since the title for blogger doesn't fit within Chrome's spell checker, I didn't even notice it until Jacob George pointed it out. So Jacob, I'd like to thank you for pointing out my error that may catch the attention of a few IU fans who will use to it make fun of me. The error has been fixed, so hopefully I don't get as embarrassed about my mistake (which is still visible on Facebook).

Oops...

My Realistic Purdue Football Prediction

When you are featured on the front page of the Purdue website as a "Spirit Maker" who bleeds black and gold, people tend to come to you asking about your thoughts on Purdue Athletics; one of those has been my prediction for football season. Since today is B1G Media Day, I figured today would be a good day to post my predictions on my blog since no one reads it any way (seriously, why are you still reading this?).

Any way, I have 3 different predictions, a realistic one, an optimistic one, and a pessimistic one. The most important one is the realistic one, since you can probably guess what the other 2 look like. The other 2 I'll publish another time for times sake. In the mean time, here is my realistic prediction:

Eastern Kentucky: Win
@Notre Dame: Lose
Eastern Michigan: Win
Marshall: Win
Michigan: Lose
Wisconsin: Lose
@Ohio State: Lose
@Minnesota: Win
Penn State: Win
@Iowa: Lose
@Illinois: Win
Indiana: Win
Final Record: 7-5 (4-4)
Bowl Game: Buffalo Wild Wings Bowl vs Big 12 #4 December 29th

Teams that we should beat easily are Eastern Kentucky, Eastern Michigan, and Indiana. For the first 2, if you have a direction plus your state name in your school's name, you should be easily beaten by a major conference school. End of discussion. As for Indiana, well, in the words of IU fans, it's Because It's Indiana! Teams that we should beat but not as easily include Marshall, Minnesota and Illinois. Danny Hope is bound to goof in non-con play, and Marshall can be that trap for him. Minnesota and Illinois are on the road, and though Purdue was able to beat them well last year (despite Illinois' small comeback), the road has not been kind to Danny Hope.

The toss-up win for me is Penn State. I think Purdue can beat a worn down PSU team after all their sanctions, especially if they get beat by Ohio State the week before with some of their players already talking about transferring. If Penn State does play well this year and trolls the Big Ten along with Ohio State, the Purdue game will be a trap game as it is the week before they head out to Lincoln, Nebraska. We'll have to see what Penn State looks like by the end of October first though.

The rest are for sure loses: Notre Dame, Michigan, Wisconsin, Ohio State and Iowa. We can never win in South Bend, and our dominance over Ohio State is only limited to the city limits of West Lafayette. Though Michigan is a home game with a late kick off, it is over fall break, meaning the student section will be obsolete. The "Ross-Ade Brigade" may be weak, but it is at least much better than having no fans. I expect there to be more Maize and Blue than Black and Gold at this game. As for Wisconsin, ever since The Fumble, Purdue has been bullied by the Badgers. If Purdue can come into Homecoming with only 2 loses, they can put up a fight. But if Purdue goofs an extra game before hand, expect some Badger dominance like the last couple of years. Also, with Ohio State and Penn State ineligible to play in the B1G Championship Game and since both are in the same division as Purdue and Wisconsin, expect the Badgers to take us seriously. They know that we are literally the only thing standing between Madison and Indy, if they beat us, they can confirm their hotel rooms.

As for Iowa, we just can't play well against them. In 2011, all Purdue had to do on Senior Day, a week after beating Ohio State in overtime, was beat Iowa and be eligible for a bowl game. I don't know what happened, but both teams played like crap, but Iowa had better crap. Considering the forced fierce rivalry between the 2 school now thanks to Dr. Sir Saint Jim Delany the Great Esquire, Our Most Hated Rival will be looking to crush us in some way with that frickin' water tower that looms over their stadium.

After all of that, Purdue should finish 7-5 this year. Not pretty, and sadly not that much of an improvement, but this may be the norm in West Lafayette. This should land us into the BDubs bowl (or similar) if we finish 7th in the B1G, but with Penn State and Ohio State on Bowl Bans, we move up to wing night (an improvement from pizza).

I may post my optimistic and pessimistic predictions later, but I think you can guess what those would look like based off what I have already posted.

Until next time, Boiler Up and Hail Purdue.

Monday, June 25, 2012

Campus Ministry Leadership Institute: CMLI 2012

Back in April as the semester was coming to a close, Fr. Patrick approached me and asked what I was doing this summer. I told him that I was planning on being back at home working on research and then come back to Purdue in July to be a camp counselor for Academic Boot Camp. He then proceeded to ask me if I was available in June, I said yes, which then of course led me to ask why he was so curious about my summer schedule.

Fr. Pat then asked if I was willing to go to Columbia, Missouri with 3 other students from St. Tom's for the Campus Ministry Leadership Institute (CMLI) from June 20-24, all expenses paid. I almost blurted out YES right there on the spot, but I told him that, like any good son, I would talk with my parents first. They were on board with it after a short phone call, I told Fr. Pat, and soon my excitement began for a trip to Missouri (not many people can say that).

A great representation of the 4 Boiler Awakening retreats
I was told our project was going to focus on Campus RENEW, which caused me to feel a little guilty. I was a RENEW leader my sophomore year, but I wasn't on board with the new "Peer Minister" deal that would be implemented for the 2011 leaders due to the extra commitments that I didn't think I would have time for. Then I was asked to help RENEW in January, but I was only able to show up for 1 week and then had to drop, again. So here I was, meeting with all the Campus RENEW leaders before finals week at the Dominicans House, asking THEM, the committed ones, what we needed to do at CMLI to help Campus RENEW. Part of me thought that they should be the ones going to CMLI, not me. But Fr. Patrick chose me and the other 3 (Michael, Marie and Claire) to go to Mizzou for a reason, so I went with a committed heart and mind.

In the preparation leading up to CMLI, I was still a little confused on what we were doing for Campus RENEW. We still wanted to keep the same structure of Campus RENEW, but we wanted to get more people to come to RENEW that would eventually lead to more people coming into St. Tom's and the Church instead of just waiting until Boiler Awakening in November. It wasn't until we sat down for our first project session when we knew exactly what to do: form a retreat at the beginning of the year to excite the Campus RENEW leaders.

When Campus RENEW started back in 2008, they had 12 excited and passionate leaders who were ready to spread out throughout Purdue's campus ready to bring people into St. Tom's. It worked the first year, but it slowly began to die down and plateaued to 9 groups with low attendance in 2012, whereas the expected goal for this year was 20 groups. The RENEW leaders didn't have that same passion like the original 12 did, frustrating the current leadership. Also, RENEW use to be THE thing to do at St. Tom's and was always the focus of recruitment. Now it has blended into just another group. Our CMLI group knew what we had to do: form a retreat just for the leaders to get the leaders excited, make monthly meetings more engaging, and to get Campus RENEW to be a focus of recruitment efforts.

CMLI 2012 at the University of Missouri
Through 3 days of planning, little breaks and going crazy by being part of floor staff, our group formed a retreat and expectations for the leaders and then presented the idea to the other Campus Ministries at CMLI. Our project had great reception and we received plenty of other ideas from the other groups as well. After discussing our idea with Fr. Patrick, he seemed to approve of our project and is excited to implement it this fall.

Other highlights from CMLI include getting to bond not only with our Purdue group, but also with students from other universities across the country through socials and small group time. We began and ended each day with morning and evening prayers focusing on the different aspects of Empowered by the Spirit, which showed us that no matter what our project is, we must continued to be focused on Christ and the sacraments. CMLI also showed us that we were chosen to come here for a reason, and that we were called to be leaders not only of our local campus ministries, but also of The Church as a whole.

No matter the success of our projects, we are all called to guide the Church and be Its leaders into the future.

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Separation between Church and State is a Two Way Street

I'm sure by now you have heard that multiple Catholic dioceses (including my home diocese of Ft. Wayne-South Bend), charities, and universities (like Notre Dame) are suing the Obama Administration that the HHS mandate violates many religious institutions their right to religious liberty, which I agree with. As Cardinal Dolan has pointed out, Quakers are not required to fight in wars, even if drafted, Amish can opt out of health care requirements, etc., showing that in the past, the government has allowed for religious exemptions for items that are very vital and shape the political spectrum in the US. So why are religious institutions, like the Catholic Church, being forced to pay for contraception, even though it violates their own beliefs? I am not hear to call any body evil, but it just boils down to politicians being stuck up and wanting their way to be the only way, no exceptions. This is true for many important topics that span beyond the Obama Administration and into the Bush and Clinton years. But to me, the HHS mandate has reached too far when it comes to the "my way is the only way" view.

Many, especially those in favor of the HHS mandate, don't understand the Catholic Church's stance on the HHS Mandate. They see it as the Catholic Church trying to block contraception in general, but their views are misguided by their general political views shaped by today's society and media. Rather, this is about the fact that these religious institutions are being forced to do something that goes against their views, a violation of the First Amendment and its statement on Freedom of Religion. The Catholic Church especially was not pleased with the mandate, but the Obama Administration decided to make a compromise that stated that the insurance company used by the institution would have to pay for the contraception and not the institution itself. Though they thought it was enough, the Church still did not see eye to eye with it. Obviously, this has confused pro-HHS'ers, so let me put it this way in an example I heard.

We all know the Judaism does not allow its followers to eat pork, whether we agree with it or not, but now everyone is being forced to sell bacon by the government (I know this is a ridiculous example, but bear with me). The Jews said no, we refuse to sell bacon as it goes against our views. The government says fine, pay this Gentile to set up a bacon cart in your synagogue and he will sell the bacon. So though the Jews and Rabbi of the synagogue aren't selling the pork and bacon directly, they are still paying a gentile to sell the bacon under their roof and supervision, which is still wrong in Jewish eyes. Okay, that example just made you and I hungry, so let's try another one. Let's say I really hate this person (probably a random annoying student from IU simply because I go to Purdue), and I just want to kill them, but my views tell me murder is wrong. I still want them dead, but I don't want to murder them because of my views, so I hire a hitman to do the job, and he does so successfully. Who's guilty for the crime? If you answered "All of the above", you're correct! Though I didn't physically commit the crime, I am still guilty of it because I still supported it with my own money and consent. The same thing with the HHS Mandate, though the religious institutions would not be forced to pay for contraception directly, they are being forced to pay someone else to sell it for them, and that is where the problem arises.

The HHS Mandate is perhaps one of the most hypocritical laws to ever be passed. As someone who is pro-life, I have heard many comebacks against my views, such as "get your rosaries off my ovaries", but of course, we always hear, "don't shove your morals down our throats." This is where the hypocrisy comes in. Those in favor of abortion and contraception do not want us to impose our views on them as well as influence the government because of the separation between Church and State. I usually then back off and say "Fine, agree to disagree." Yet here they come in 2012, shoving their own views "down our throats" because they view it as right, even though we disagree with it. Does anyone else see the hypocrisy? Though they don't want us forcing our morals on them, they are willing to turn around and force us to follow their own morals that we extremely disagree with. Had the HHS mandate excluded ALL religious institutions from the start, we would not be in this mess. But as Obama and his administration cross the line, his mandate has now back-fired and even caused him to lose support for the election this year, especially amongst Catholics.

To Mr. Obama and other government officials, let me state this clearly: Separation of Church and State is a 2 way street. Just as religious institutions cannot force their own beliefs on this country and government, the government cannot and shall not force religious institutions to practice the administration's beliefs. The fight against HHS is not a question of the morality of contraception. Rather, as Fr. John Jenkins, President of University of Notre Dame, stated Monday, it is about religious institutions being forced to practice something against their beliefs, going against the fundamental values of religious liberty, one of the vital liberties the United States of America was founded on.

My not as Exciting Summer Blog

I have officially lost track of all my friends who have blogs this May and summer, talking about their exciting adventures. Meanwhile, what am I up to? Research, Facebook, and discussing Purdue athletics for Hammer and Rails (hence why I haven't posted much on here in awhile). Totally exciting and blog worthy, right? Though I'm not discovering places in Europe, Asia, or in the United States, I can't complain. I am getting paid to do research and will hopefully be a published author by the end of the summer. And if I save this money, I can maybe have my own exciting adventure after I graduate in May 2013!

Luckily, this summer will have its exciting moments that I surely cannot wait for. This Saturday, I have the chance to travel down to Fort Wayne for the Ordination of Jacob Meyer and Ben Muhlenkamp into the priesthood. Both of them are my friends, and I have gotten to know them through my involvement at my home parish of St. Pius X in Granger (where Jacob is from and where Ben stayed for the summer). They are both going to be great priests, and I ask that you pray for them as they are ordained this weekend and that they can be a prime example for anyone discerning the call to religious life.

A month from now, I will be heading to Columbia, Missouri for the Campus Ministry Leadership Institute (CMLI) with 3 other amazing people from St. Tom's at Purdue (Liz Schwartz, Michael Kaiser, and Marie Keller). We were selected by Fr. Patrick this year to attend CMLI and work on a specific project, which this year happens to be improving Campus Renew. I am always looking for ways to become more involved with my Catholic faith, like Boiler Awakening and Parish Council, and it is an honor to have been selected. Though I may be discussing my summer plans, I'd also like to add in this part that I will be taking part in the ESTEEM program this year at St. Tom's. ESTEEM (Engaging Students To Enliven the Ecclesial Mission) began at Yale University to help students (mostly juniors and seniors) learn how to become active in their faith beyond their college years. This may give me material for my blog to become more active during the upcoming school year. But back to summer!

Did I mention I'm an uncle?! :)

After I return from Missouri, I will have 1 week off before I return to Purdue for my senior year on June 30th. No, I'm not taking summer courses, instead, I am going to be a camp counselor for Academic Boot Camp until August 3rd. For those who don't know what Academic Boot Camp is (ABC for short), it's meant for incoming multicultural students at Purdue who will begin taking classes in the fall. It's a 5 week intensive program where students take their freshman year courses, but at a much more accelerated rate and more difficult. Though no credit is given, it is meant for students to break out of any bad habits and learn how to overcome any troubles they will eventually face in college. I was a Boot Camper back in 2009, and though it was tough, I would do it again any day, hence why I am going to be a counselor this year. I see this as my way of giving back, as well as getting a few kinks out before I become an RA.

August 3rd will be an interesting day, I have to move out of Earhart for ABC and move to Hilltop to begin RA training, all before 5pm. How am I going to manage it? I have no idea, but I'll figure it out by August 2nd. I am excited to be an RA this coming school year. I've wanted to be an RA ever since freshman year, mainly because I had an awesome RA (shout out to you, Marky Mark!), and now it is finally reality. Though Hilltop will pose unique challenges (like being on top of a hill, in Indiana!), I am ready to tackle them head on and get to know my awesome residents. I will have many things to balance next year, but many things involve doing what I love, and I can't complain if I am doing things I love all the time.

So there you have it, my first blog post since January. Though I may not leave the Midwest this summer, it does have its exciting moment. Granted much of that is filled with work for the University of Michigan, but I am enjoying this summer as I have more liberty than someone with an actual internship, and I have exciting opportunities down the road. Maybe I can make this blog more active as my other blog responsibilities (PUMA and Hammer and Rails) die down a little bit.

Until next time, God Bless and Hail Purdue.

Friday, January 27, 2012

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Juan more update from the Big Easy

So after I posted my last post Sunday night, I actually went to Bourbon Street (yeah, so much for just chilling in the hotel). I always heard Bourbon Street was a crazy place, but when I got there, it was rather mundane, well, for Bourbon Street that is. Even with not that many people, Bourbon Street is...unique. I wouldn't mind if it was all bars, but it was rather disturbing the amount of strip clubs there were. But now I can say I've been on Bourbon Street, but I would only go back with a bunch of friends, not a place I'd go by myself.

After figuring out a few things with my hotel Monday morning, I made my way to the conference for various talks. I won't bore you with details, as most of them were rather mundane and not what I expected. However, Monday did end on an exciting note with the Exhibit Hall opening and the GOES Party. For those who haven't been to an AMS conference, the Exhibit Hall is full of companies like NASA, Lockheed Martin, NCAR, etc., just giving out free stuff! I had to grab an extra bag because my bag couldn't hold anymore!

Later that night, GOES Satellite sponsors held their annual reception for all AMS Conference attendees. We were immediately greeted with boas, beads and masks. The place was crazy, with delicious gumbo and beverages! (That is up to your own interpretation.) With a live band play classic hits, surrounded by good friends, it has probably been one of the best parties I've been too. I was even able to dance to the music because well, it was actual music! It was a really good time, definitely the highlight of the conference so far, and I think I have most of my hearing again...wait, what was that?!

I slept in for a little bit this morning, but then made my way to the French Quarter about 9am local time. I got to go inside the St. Louis Cathedral-Basilica which was absolutely beautiful! However, they were setting up for some choir concert, so sadly it was a bit noisy and not as sacred. Plus I got in the way of the guys setting the stage when taking pictures, so I couldn't get pictures I wanted. I wanted to also sit in Cafe du Monde, but they were actually filming a movie there and used water machines for fake rain. Because of this, I just had to have take out, but I enjoyed my coffee and beignet in Jackson Square instead.

I finally made my way back to the convention center, and what I thought would be enjoyable talks were rather mundane, again. However, there was one talk that was interesting regarding people's perceptions of meteorologists, in reference to an episode from the Beverly Hillbillies. After taking a break, I went to the Purdue and Michigan receptions, followed by the Oklahoma reception. I went to the OU reception with people from Michigan, but I have to admit they were rather lame and left early, leaving me alone at the reception. I just took the shuttle back to my hotel and I have been here ever since.

Tomorrow is my last full day here in NOLA, but I may get it started early with a discussion on La NiƱa at 7am. My decision is still up in the air if I will really get up that early, but not even my classes start that early. However, my shuttle leaves at 6am Thursday, so maybe it will help me get to sleep early. Tomorrow is also the final banquet, which means more food. I also need to finish up many things before Friday, so I may not post again until I am back at Purdue.