So there we were, reveling in the glow of a win over #7 Florida, the first win over a top 10 team in program history. Less than 20 hours later, Marquette was a slight bit down the road in Orlando, squaring off with UCF. The Knights took the first set, 25-19. Well, okay, these things happen. I'm sure UCF coach Todd Dagenais told his women about MU's big win the night before and had them charged up, plus the Knights hadn't played the night before.
No big deal, let's get a rally going, knot this up, go from there.... UCF won the second set, 25-21, while hitting .394. That's... not good, especially since Marquette did carry a four point lead in the middle of the frame. A seven point Knights run made it 22-18, and they held on from there, led by seven kills from Jale Hervey.
Ok, this is bad. With a win over the Gators, Marquette was almost assured of a spot in the AVCA top 25 on Monday, but that would require not tossing all of their goodwill in the nearest recycling bin by losing to Central Florida. I'm not demeaning UCF here, but you don't get to be ranked when you lose matches to them, that's all.
Coming out of intermission, Marquette had their backs against the wall. They outhit the Knights for the first time all match, .275 to .179, and came away with a 25-23 win. The fourth set did not go as well. Marquette found themselves down 21-15 after a Delaina Sarden kill, and things looked dire. Jackie Kocken broke UCF's serve, and then Autumn Bailey went to town. Three aces from the sophomore from Burlington, Ontario, powered a 8-0 Marquette run which put the Golden Eagles up 23-21. Another kill from the little used Kocken moved Marquette to set point, and Nele Barber forced a fifth set with one of her 12 kills in the match.
For the second time in a row and the third time this season, Marquette was headed to the absurdly short fifth set. The Golden Eagles would jump out to a 5-1 lead, but UCF wasn't going to go quietly and took a 13-11 lead on a block by Kia Bright. When things look the worst, that's when you turn to your star. Marquette took the next four points of the match, three of them on kills from Bailey, and came away with the five set win.
Bailey led Marquette with 19 kills on the day, but was bested for the match high by Hervey. Bailey also chipped in 12 digs and finished with six service aces. Freshman Gabby Benda took most of the action at setter against the Knights, recording a career high 46 assists. Kocken was key off the bench for the Golden Eagles, registering eight kills on 18 swings.
Up Next: As I type this, Marquette's just 65 minutes away from squaring off with Jacksonville at Oviedo High School in Florida. The Dolphins are 8-5 on the season after going 2-1 at home over the last two days.