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Volleyball: Marquette 3, Xavier 1

Comebacks in opening and closing sets propel Marquette past Xavier for win and first Big East championship

Marquette players pose with the Big East trophy after claiming the program's first conference championship ever
Marquette players pose with the Big East trophy after claiming the program's first conference championship ever

With the Golden Eagles' families on hand to watch (they were recognized on the court before play) in the McGuire Center on Friday night, Xavier attempted to play spoiler as Marquette aimed to win the Big East regular season championship outright and earn the top seed in next weekend's conference tournament.

The Golden Eagles did themselves no favors: their first three serves of the match were errors and paved the way for the Musketeers to go up early. Down as many as five, Marquette slowly chipped away at Xavier's lead led by Autumn Bailey, who tallied nine kills in the set on her way to 26 for the night.  A Bailey kill pushed Marquette ahead 23-22 and then the teams traded points until the Golden Eagles strung two together to close out the hard fought set 26-24.

It seemed that Marquette had momentum back on their side: after the second set was tied at 6 all, the Golden Eagles pulled away for good.  The Musketeers got within a pair, but the Golden Eagles then finished on a 10-2 run to decisively take the second 25-15.

Xavier got the pep talk of their lives during intermission and came out looking more like the team in the first set.  The score stayed close until Xavier, already with a slight 2 point advantage, reeled off 4 unanswered points. The Golden Eagles pulled within a pair, but the Musketeers recovered out of a time out and took the third 25-20 which snapped Marquette's win streak at home at 24 sets.

The Musketeers looked as though they would make it two in a row at the Al as they took the first point and eventually opened up a 15-10 advantage on the home team, but as in the first, the Golden Eagles were not impressed.  Megan Niemann and Nele Barber tallied 3 kills and a block between them to pull Marquette within three then Lindsey Gosh got to work.  She scored four straight to for the tie to get Marquette it's first lead of the set.  Xavier managed to tie it again at 21, but then Bailey finished them off.  The Musketeers staved off a match point after 3 Bailey kills, but made a net violation defending another bullet from the freshman to end the match.

Four Marquette players tallied double digit kills: Bailey (26), Gosh (13), Niemann (13), and Barber (11) while Elizabeth Koberstein made 5 kills alongside her 60 assists.  A special shout out goes out to defensive specialist Rachel Stier who broke the 1,000 career digs barrier during the fourth set.

Up Next: Marquette finishes up the regular season against Butler in the McGuire Center tonight at 7 pm.  Julie Jeziorowski, Casey Read, Courtney Mrotek, Catherine Mayer, Koberstein, and Stier will be honored during Senior Night festivities.

Below: Coach Bond Shymansky's post game commentary.