Purdue women’s basketball coach Katie Gearlds discusses the Boilers with a group of John Purdue Club members Thursday at Parkview Field.

Purdue women’s basketball reached the WNIT last year in its first season under former Boilermakers All-American Katie Gearlds.

On Thursday, speaking to a crowd of Purdue supporters at Parkview Field during a Boilermakers On the Road event, the Boilers’ coach insisted that would be the final WNIT for the team in the foreseeable future.

“It’s NCAA Tournament or bust this season,” said Gearlds, the fourth-leading scorer in Purdue program history.

Gearlds was joined at the gathering by Purdue men’s volleyball coach Dave Shondell, who is fresh off leading Purdue to its third Elite Eight under his stewardship and first since 2013.

Shondell made the case that Fort Wayne and northeast Indiana are Boiler territory.

“You think of all the great players in all sports that have come to Purdue, we’ve had some great ones come out of this area,” said Shondell, whose son, Kyle Shondell, is the men’s volleyball coach at Indiana Tech. “We need to come out here and show our support for Fort Wayne. … It’s got great schools, it’s a city that’s moving in the right direction and because of that a lot of people are moving here.

“It’s one of the biggest cities in our state and it’s certainly one of the ones that really pushes Purdue. Because of that, it’s a place we have to own.”

In the fall, Shondell’s program will add one of the best volleyball players to come out of Fort Wayne in recent years: Bishop Dwenger product Eva Hudson, whose mother, Stacey, also played volleyball for the Boilers.

The younger Hudson is the only three-time winner of The Journal Gazette’s Glass Spike Award. Shondell says she has a path to playing time as a freshman.

“She’s one of the top 15 kids in the country in her class,” Shondell said. “She’s a baller. The difference-maker on a volleyball team is having people that compete like crazy and believe in themselves and they can play the whole game. She can play the entire game.”

While Shondell has been Purdue’s coach since 2003, Gearlds still does not have a year on the job, having taken over officially in September.

The 2003 Indiana Miss Basketball out of Beech Grove led the Boilers to a 17-15 mark, and, heading into year 2, she is beginning to assemble a team that fits her style. The three-year WNBA veteran brings in three freshmen, including Crown Point native Lilly Stoddard, and a pair of transfers to bolster a cadre of returners.

“You look at our roster, most of our production is back,” said Gearlds, whose sister Amy played basketball at IPFW from 2000 to 2004 and is in the school’s Hall of Fame. “I’m just excited having an entire summer with this team. We get started next week and we’ll see what happens.”

The event at Parkview Field was one of three Boilermakers On the Road outings this summer.

College Sportswriter

Dylan Sinn is a College Sportswriter, covering mainly Indiana, Purdue and Notre Dame, as well local colleges in northeast Indiana and Fort Wayne TinCaps baseball. He is a graduate of Indiana University and an AP Top 25 football voter.