When, on consecutive days, there's a soccer match, two volleyball matches, and two volleyball matches and a soccer match, sometimes stuff slides through the cracks around here. In this case, it was Friday's volleyball contest against Rice. Since MU had the first match of the day and ran through James Madison in just 69 minutes, I would have figured that they would be at a slight advantage over Rice. The Owls roared through UW-Green Bay in just 78 minutes, but that left them less than five hours between matches.
Instead, Marquette was the team that looked wiped by the earlier match, even though they had a slight advantage on rest time. Rice defeated MU, 25-19, 25-19, 20-25, 25-15. Autumn Bailey had a match high 15 kills to lead the Golden Eagles, but her performance was a microcosm of the match. Bailey hit just .137 for the match, as MU hit .134 as a team and only managed to break .160 in the third set, which was their lone win of the match. Marquette handed point after point to Rice during the match, not only on the 23 attacking errors, but also on the 11 service errors in the match. If you find yourself evenly matched with a team (Rice only hit .200 as a team), the last thing you can do is hand a team four points a set by not even landing the ball inbounds on your serves.
On Saturday afternoon, Marquette got off to a poor start, losing 28-26 to Green Bay in the first set. It was just the ninth set that the Phoenix had won in nine matches so far this season, and that includes two wins. The good news was that MU outhit UWGB in the opener, .182 to .123, and Green Bay wouldn't hit that well again in the match. Marquette took the next two sets with relative simplicity, 25-14 and 25-17, before having to battle with the Phoenix to win the fourth, 25-22. Three Golden Eagles cracked into double digit kills, led by 15 each from Meghan Niemann and Nele Barber. The service error bug bit Marquette again, as they committed 12 errors from the line this time around. Mary Nilles and Lauren Houg set new career bests in this one, with 32 assists from Nilles and 21 digs from the gold-shirted Houg.
After a few hours off, MU returned to the court for the final match of the Marquette Invitational against UT-San Antonio. Speaking of returns, all-Conference USA outside hitter Dajana Boskovic returned to the court for the Roadrunners on their trip to Milwaukee for the first time since their opener, and she was a terror against the Golden Eagles. Boskovic had 22 kills while hitting .292, but it wasn't enough for the CUSA preseason favorites. Marquette got double digit kills from Autumn Bailey (16) and Nele Barber (15), and came away with the 3-1 win, 25-12, 25-22, 18-25, 26-24. Six points from Marquette were the key in each of the first two frames, with the Golden Eagles jumping out to a 6-1 lead in the first to take that win, and then scoring the last six points of the second to take a 2-0 lead. UTSA hit .548 in the third to cut the lead in half, and MU had to dodge set point in the fourth before Teal Schnurr and Lindsey Gosh scored kills and partnered on a block to earn Marquette their sixth win of the season. Marquette flipped the script from the service stripe, recording 10 aces against eight errors.
Marquette finishes as the runner-up in their own tournament, as Rice was declared the champions by going 3-0. Rice setter Sara Blasier was named MVP of the tournament, while Marquette's Nele Barber (2.80 kills/set, .211) and Lauren Houg (5.33 digs/set) were named to the all-tournament team.
Up Next: Well, it's time for some fun. Marquette is heading down to Florida for next weekend for three matches in three days, starting with #10 Florida on Friday. The Gators are 5-2 on the season, and just beat #6 USC in their most recent contest.