It was the best of times. It was the worst of times. It just kinda sucked.
Marquette got off to a promising start as they looked to advance to a program first NCAA Sweet Sixteen on Saturday evening in Huff Hall. This was MU's second try at a Sweet 16 bid in the last three seasons, and oddly, both have come in Champaign against the Illini. Illinois took the match's first point, but Marquette responded by taking 4 of the next 5 and never looked back. The Golden Eagles took the first set 25-19, led by Autumn Bailey and Megan Niemann's 5 kills apiece.
Illinois took the momentum back in the second set: with the teams tied at 2 each, the Illini went on a 8-2 run and claimed the set 25-17. The bloodbath continued in the third set as another early streak by Illinois put Marquette in a huge hole and the Illini won the set 25-13. The final for the fourth was the same, but Marquette was still within reach down 9-12. But then Illini won the next six points and Marquette's fate was essentially sealed.
The Golden Eagles offense sputtered in the last three sets as they finished the night hitting .163 after hitting .325 in the first set. Kill leaders Niemann (11) and Bailey (10) only matched their output from the first by combining the last three frames together.
It was a disappointing night for Marquette, but still a spectacular season for Bond Shymansky's squad. The Golden Eagles close the season out 26-6 overall and 15-1 in conference. The ladies dominated the Big East claiming the regular season and tournament championships. With this year's strong freshman class of Bailey, Niemann, Nele Barber, and Teal Schnurr working alongside veterans Ellie Rauch and Lindsey Gosh, the program's future looks quite bright.
This is just Marquette's third appearance in the NCAA tournament, yet it was the squad third consecutive trip. Friday's win over Louisville got this year's senior class to 100 wins in their careers. THANK YOU to Elizabeth Koberstein, Julie Jeziorowski, Catherine Mayer, Courtney Mrotek, Casey Read, and Rachel Stier. You've been a delight to cheer for, and it's because of your hard work and determination that this program has gotten to this point, where only bigger and better things are in the future.