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Marquette Volleyball Clinches Big East Tournament Berth

Although it took longer to achieve than maybe expected this weekend....

Jenna Rosenthal's 14 kills against Providence propelled MU into the Big East tournament.
Jenna Rosenthal's 14 kills against Providence propelled MU into the Big East tournament.

Marquette came into the weekend needing one win to clinch a Big East tournament spot.  They didn't get it on Saturday afternoon, as the Golden Eagles fell in five sets (25-15, 13-25, 28-30, 25-19, 11-15) to St. John's, but they did get it on Sunday via a three set sweep (25-12, 25-18, 25-18) over Providence.

Saturday's contest against St. John's was a weird one, with each team dominating one of the first two sets followed by things getting pushed to 30 points by the Red Storm before they secured the win.  After Meghan Niemann broke a tie at 11-all in the first set, MU held St. John's to just four points for the rest of the set, and two of those came on attack errors by Marquette.  Meanwhile, SJU committed three unforced errors of their own on top of two blocks by Marquette to allow MU to run away with the first set.  In the second set, St. John's used a 12-3 run in the middle of the action to blow that one wide open and knot things at a set each.

Early in the third set, it looked like Marquette was going to seize control of the game, taking a 13-6 lead on a kill from Taylor Louis, one of 15 on the day for her.  St. John's came exploding back, though, taking 10 of the next 12 points to stake themselves to a 16-15 lead.  It was back and forth and back and forth the rest of the frame until each team started taking turns sitting on set point before the other team would wipe out the advantage.  St. John's would have the last furious rally, fending off set point at 28-27 before taking the next three points and a 2-1 lead.

The Red Storm used that momentum to jump out to a 7-3 lead early in the fourth before Marquette bounced back with a 9-3 run to take the lead.  They kept building that lead from there and forced a fifth and decisive set.  St. John's took a decisive lead in that final frame, going up 4-1 early and then 10-5 before coasting to the five set win.

St. John's overcame a lousy hitting day to pick up the win, as MU posted a hitting percentage of .233 against just .166 for the Johnnies.  Four Red Storm players ended up in double digits in kills, led by 19 from Yaidy Santiago.  The most impressive number in the box score is the 50 assists from Shawna-Lei Santos, as she's traditionally the libero for SJU.  Louis' 15 kills was tied for the MU team high with Niemann providing the match.

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The big story of Marquette's relatively easy tournament clinching win over the Friars was the hitting by the Golden Eagles.  They didn't dip below .360 in any of the three frames, which is absolutely nuts.  That's the kind of thing that's possible when Jenna Rosenthal provides 14 kills in the match on just 18 swings.  Rosenthal committed just one error on the day, and thus finished with a hitting percentage of .722.  Really!  This happened!

Fellow middle hitter Meghan Niemann added nine kills of her own to Rosenthal's team high in strikes, while Joy Miley came off the bench to match Niemann's total.  It was a very diverse offense against the Friars, with five different Golden Eagles providing at least 12 attacks on the day.

The first and third sets were mostly the same, with Marquette taking early leads (8-0 in the first & 15-8 in the third) on their way to victory.  The middle stanza was a little bit tighter, as Providence was able to stay right with Marquette through the first 23 points.  A 5-0 run from MU capped off by a kill from Rosenthal gave them the space they needed to get comfortable with the lead and ride it out to the win.

Up Next: With Marquette (20-9, 11-5 Big East) clinching a spot in the Big East tournament, all four spots are now filled.  Creighton has already locked up the regular season title heading into the final weekend of the regular season, but spots 2-4 are still to be determined between Marquette, Villanova, and Xavier.  Conveniently, Marquette wraps up the regular season with a trip to visit the Musketeers (16-11, 12-4 Big East) coming up on Saturday, but they'll have to visit Butler (11-18, 7-9 Big East) on Friday on their way to Cincinnati.