It may be Badger Hate Week, but Marquette volleyball faced off against a different, but all too familiar red menace at the Huff Center this afternoon and emerged the straight set victor over Louisville in the opening round of the NCAA tournament. After two tense sets Marquette held a 2-0 lead over Louisville going into intermission, but I still couldn't breathe easily. The Golden Eagles had eked out 25-23 and 25-22 victories over their old conference rivals, but the Cardinals had proved that they would not go down without a fight.
Marquette managed to build a 4 point lead in the first set before Louisville called an early time out and then committed an attack error out of the break to give the Golden Eagles a 12-7 advantage. The Cardinals cleaned up their act to pull within one at 20-19 and then took 4 of 5 to tie it up at 23. An Autumn Bailey kill got Marquette to set point and then Maya McClendon, who struggled for Louisville, put the ball out of bounds for her team's 5th attack error of the set and the Marquette win.
The second was a nail biter from start to finish: neither team managed to build a lead larger than a pair. The Cardinals were the first to 20 and Marquette then called timeout down 19-21. The Golden Eagles finished on a 6-1 tear getting points from four different players to win the set 25-22.
Even though it was Louisville that had its back to the wall and season on the line, it was Marquette who came out with all cylinders firing in the third set. Marquette opened up with a Lindsey Gosh kill then never surrendered the lead. When a Gosh ace put the Golden Eagles up 15-10 forcing the Cardinals to use their last time out, it was clear that the cheering section could drop the "I believe that" and simply chant "WE WILL WIN." My heart started racing from excitement rather than terror as Marquette cruised to a 25-19 win to take the match in three sets for just the second NCAA tournament win in program history. Both of those wins have come inside the last three seasons under head coach Bond Shymansky.
Marquette was led by Bailey and Meghan Niemann who both scored 13 kills. Gosh was just shy of double digits with 9 kills. Bailey also finished with a pair of aces as did Julie Jeziorowski, while Teal Schnurr added 5 blocks. If the Golden Eagles' numbers seem less gaudy than usual, but Marquette made a team effort to shut down Louisville in the final set. The Cardinals also did themselves no favors committing 10 attack errors to Marquette's 3 in the match.
Up Next: Marquette faces off against host Illinois, who topped Morehead State in straight sets to advance, at 7 pm on Saturday night. The contest will be a re-match of the round of 32 from 2011 when Illinois bounced Marquette out of the tournament. You can find FREE VIDEO STREAMING of the match here, and live stats will be over here.