One day after Marquette persevered through a fifth set to outlast Northern Iowa, the Golden Eagles were eliminated from the 2015 NCAA tournament by Minnesota, the #2 seeded team in the entire tournament, in just three sets, 25-23, 25-13, and 25-21.
It was the third time in Marquette's five straight trips to the NCAA tournament that they've made it to the second round, and it is the third straight time that the Golden Eagles have been knocked out by a Big Ten team. Part of this is merely circumstance: The NCAA has the first two rounds hosted at the top 16 teams in the field, and then they send teams to locations as close to home as possible in order to minimize travel for teams. With Milwaukee being located deep in the heart of Big Ten country and the B1G being a consistently dominant volleyball conference, there's going to be a lot of trips to Big Ten schools for the first two rounds as long as Marquette doesn't earn a seed of their own and those Big Ten teams are going to be favored to emerge from their pod.
The rest of it is merely annoying. At least this time it was Minnesota causing Marquette's elimination this year, as opposed to seeing Illinois on the other side of the net as was the case the first two times.
After a first set that was competitive all the way to the end, Minnesota blasted out to an 8-0 lead in the second set and eventually blew that lead out to 12-1 to take firm and easy control of the frame. The third set started out going the other direction, with Marquette taking the first three points, two of them coming on combo blocks from Teal Schnurr and Jenna Rosenthal. Then Minnesota took seven of the next eight points, and Marquette was kind of in trouble. They kept it together for a bit, even retaking the lead at 14-13 on a kill from Erin Lehman. And then Minnesota scored the next five points. That's how it goes when you're playing the #2 team in the field and the Big Ten champs, I guess. The Golden Eagles had one more rally in them, answering that 5-0 run with a 7-1 run of their own to take a 21-19 lead. Even with a lead at that point, there was very little margin for error, which was made very obvious by Minnesota ending the match with a 6-0 blast to send them on to the Sweet 16.
While we didn't get the historic moment of Marquette advancing to the Sweet 16 for the first time ever, we did see two historic moments in this match. In the first set, Taylor Louis smashed a kill to the floor to register her 600th kill of the season, making her the first player in Marquette history to ever record 600 kills in a season. Louis finished with 18 kills on the night, finishing the season with a new program record of 611 kills. Louis doesn't even get credit for the biggest moment of the night, as she was already MU's single season kills leader. In the third set, Lauren Houg recorded her 15th dig of the match, giving her 639 on the season and breaking the single season record of 638 set by Julie Jeziorowski. Houg finished with 17 on the night and 641 on the season. Jeziorowski and Houg are the only two Marquette players to ever record 600 digs in a single season.
Marquette's season ends on a record of 22-12, and with that, we have to turn our attention to Marquette's two seniors: Mary Nilles and Erin Lehman. THANK YOU so much to these two women for all the work and effort and energy that they've given to Marquette and the volleyball program. They were both part of the MU team that won both the Big East regular season and tournament championship in 2013, and they both helped provide a bridge between the Bond Shymansky era and the current Ryan Theis era. Nilles and Lehman helped continue what is very clearly the best and brightest run in MU volleyball history, and Marquette fans everywhere are thankful for all that they contributed.