Jockeying for position in the four team draw for the Big East tournament, Marquette knocked Butler and Xavier down a few pegs in straight set wins on Friday and Saturday evening at the McGuire Center.
Early in the first on Halloween, it seemed no fluke that Butler had defeated Marquette when the two teams met on the Bulldogs' court a few weeks ago. The visitors jumped out to a 8-4 lead forcing the Golden Eagles to take a time out. The break was exactly the reset button that Marquette needed: Butler only managed to win 6 more points in the set finishing with a big fat zero in hitting percentage. After the rough start, Marquette easily claimed the first 25-14.
Initially the Golden Eagles trailed again in the second set, but the Bulldogs shot themselves in the foot leading 11-8. Four errors by Butler gave Marquette the lead. A Nele Barber service ace and Erin Lehman kill later, the wheels were officially off the bus and the Bulldogs never got closer than 2 again with Marquette winning the set 25-19.
Butler suddenly remembered their promising start and the teams essentially traded points when the third set got underway. Once again Marquette pulled away, going on 6-1 run to reach 20 first, but this time the Bulldogs refused to go quietly eventually tying it back up at 21. But their own service error broke the spell and two more attack errors put the Golden Eagles at set point. Lindsey Gosh closed it out, for the 25-21 win and match sweep, on her team leading 13th kill of the match. Also in double digit kills was Autumn Bailey with 11 while Lehman, making the most of her first start since August, notched 9.
The following night on All Saints Day started out with some good old fashioned Jesuit on Jesuit violence with the Golden Eagles leaping out to a 7-1 lead in the first. Xavier could not recover from the early blow and Marquette cruised to a 25-17 win. Bailey technically led the Golden Eagles with 7 kills, but Barber and Meghan Niemann killed it with efficiency: neither had an error while hitting .667 and .600 respectively in the set.
Having finally awoken, the Musketeers proved to be a tougher opponent: Marquette won the first three points of the second, but Xavier then kept nipping at their heels before tying the set at 11. The Golden Eagles responded with a 8-0 run in which the Musketeers burned both of their timeouts to no avail. Somehow Xavier not only stopped the bloodbath, but reeled off their own 7-0 run to pull within striking distance. Marquette called their second timeout leading 23-21 and it did the trick: a block got them to set point and they held on for a 25-22 win.
The Golden Eagles had the advantage for most of the third but couldn't quite shake the Musketeers. Instead of a big push to pull away, Marquette used two smaller runs to power them to the win. When tied at 13, Marquette won 3 in a row before the teams resumed trading points and a 4-0 run at the end resulted in a 25-18 win. Bailey finished with 15 kills while Barber's 13 kills and digs gave her a double-double.
The pair of victories put Marquette at 10-3 in conference and in a tie for second place in the standings.
A notable absence in the Golden Eagles lineup over the weekend was Ellie Rauch who did not dress to play in either match: it's unknown if the defensive specialist is injured. Meanwhile, Courtney Kintzel is on the mend: she did dress and participated in warm-ups, but did not play given that it's hard to slide about while wearing a hard plastic knee brace.
Up next: Marquette takes a break from Big East action to take on cross town rival UW-Milwaukee at the Klotschke Center today at 7:00 pm.