For two sets on Friday evening, I watched Marquette volleyball play the worst match that I've seen them play. Attacks were going every which way but down onto the Seton Hall side of the floor, nothing that Big East Player of the Year Autumn Bailey did seemed to go right for her, and the Pirates kept winning every long rally through a mixture of guile and luck.
That's how Marquette found themselves in an 0-2 hole after two sets, having dropped the first two by scores of 25-23 and 25-12. That 12 point second set was the lowest non-fifth set total put up in any set by Marquette this season. Things looked dire to say the least.
When Marquette returned from the intermission, they had changed from their short sleeved gold trimmed jerseys to their long sleeve blue & white jerseys. It was a visual representation of what head coach Ryan Theis must have said in the locker room: It's time for a fresh start. Marquette looked much crisper in sets three and four as they never let Seton Hall reach the 20 point barrier en route to knotting the match at two sets apiece.
So on to a fifth set we went. Buoyed by two kills from Courtney Kintzel and another from Nele Barber, Marquette found themselves with a 3-2 lead in the early going. The Pirates rallied to take a lead, but an attack error by Ashani Rubin gave Marquette the point they needed to tie it at five a side. A kill by Molly Grammer and a block by Grammer and Rubin gave SHU a two point lead, and that's all the space they needed. Marquette never got closer than just one point again, and slowly Seton Hall created even more space, eventually wrapping up the match on one final kill by Grammer.
Courtney Kintzel led Marquette with a surprising 19 kills and a .444 hitting percentage. Bailey recorded 14 kills, but had to hit .076 on 66 attacks to get there. Lauren Houg had a career and match high 35 digs on the back line for Marquette. Seton Hall was led by 17 kills from Grammer, and they also got 14 from Stacey Manthorpe and 11 from Amanda Hansen. Shelbey Manthorpe recorded 44 assists and kept busy on defense with 27 digs, too.
It's the first time in three years that Marquette will not appear in the Big East's championship game. But even with that, the season is not over. The Golden Eagle have a top 30 RPI in the most recent update, and as such, they can reasonably expect to get an at-large bid to the NCAA tournament when the field is announced on Sunday night. Nothing is guaranteed, of course, so we'll have to wait and see...