Mikaela Purnell

Meet Mikaela Purnell: The Summit League’s Top Defensive Player

Senior Mikaela Purnell is the reigning Summit League Defensive Volleyball Player of the Year and likes where this Bison team is headed with interim head coach Jennifer Lopez.

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Photo by Hillary Ehlen

The start to Mikaela Purnell’s junior season last year did not go as planned. Knee surgery sidelined her during the preseason and for the first 10 matches of the season. By the end of the season, though, Purnell was recognized as the Summit League’s Defensive Player of the Year after racking up 479 digs.


Her average of 5.7 digs per set led the conference and ranked third nationally as she climbed to No. 18 in NDSU school history in career digs with 1,088.

Now as a senior, Purnell looks to continue polishing her game while leading a young team under new interim head coach Jennifer Lopez.


You missed practice right away and the first three weeks of matches last season. Is it a breath of fresh air to be out there right away with your team?

Mikaela Purnell: “Oh yeah, definitely, especially with such a young team. It’s really important for them to have those leaders on the court that have experience. Being able to be out there instead of on the sidelines helping is really big.”

After playing a ton of matches since your true freshman season, what part of your game do you want to see improve the most?

MP: “I would say serve-receive. I’ve always been someone who hasn’t loved serve-receive. But it’s really a team part of the game. Moving together is really important to get good passes and run our offense.”

What are the expectations for the team this year?

MP: “We talk about our goals a lot during the preseason. Our biggest goal is to win the Summit League. We talk about all the things that go into that and it comes out of our culture–how we’re going to do it and work hard in practice to accomplish that.”

Is winning the Summit League Defensive Player of the Year award again a goal of yours?

MP: “Oh yeah. It’s a great honor to get that. It’s what every defensive player wants to get. It’s not just about me, though. It’s about helping the other players coming after me and helping them accomplish the same things.”

Meet Mikaela Purnell: The Summit League’s Top Defensive Player
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