For the second straight match, Marquette went to five sets in order to pull out a win. This time, though, instead of MU needing to fight off an 0-2 rally to win, it was the Golden Eagles bouncing back from a two-set hole to get a 3-2 (23-25, 16-25, 27-25, 25-22, 15-11) victory over DePaul on Saturday night. Marquette moves to 17-4 overall and 7-2 in the Big East with the victory, while DePaul drops to 11-10 and 5-4 in the league.
Those league records are the most notable part of MU pulling off the rally. With almost the entire league having finished their first pass through the Big East (Providence and Creighton have yet to play each other), Marquette is a game and a half behind Creighton for the top spot in the league, but MU has a two game lead in the standings on everyone else. There’s a lot of volleyball yet to be played, of course, but that big of a gap with only four teams earning a conference tournament berth is a big plus.
While Marquette was carrying a 16 set winning streak against the Blue Demons coming in, it’s not terribly surprising that MU dropped the first set against DePaul, given their drastic improvement over the past few years. It’s a 25-23 loss where the biggest lead was DePaul up 8-4 early. Eh, things happen. Sure, Marquette hit a woeful -.125 in the opener. Their defense was still outstanding. The second set, though, with DePaul winning 25-16, that was a sign of trouble. MU barely limped their hitting percentage into positive territory while allowing DePaul to hit .312, and that explains the 12-2 run that DePaul used to turn a tie game into a 19-9 lead and then coast to the win.
So there they are, down 2-0, and coming off maybe the two worst consecutive hitting sets all season. Not looking good, right? Well, something got fixed during the intermission as Marquette torched DePaul in the next three sets, hitting .310, .333, and a crazy .458 in the fifth to win the next three sets.
This doesn’t mean it was easy, of course. It looked like MU was going to get to a fourth set comfortably when a block by Meghan Niemann and Sara Blasier made it 24-20. Aaaaand then DePaul ran off the next four points to tie it up. Marquette never trailed, though, and an ace from Blasier sent it on to the fourth set. That one looked like it was going to be easy when Niemann teamed up with Allie Barber to extend her career record for assisted blocks yet again to finish a 7-0 run and put MU up 16-9. Aaaaaaaand then DePaul went on a 5-0 run to make it interesting again. The good news is that MU stopped the bleeding there and maintained their lead for the rest of the set to keep the match going to a fifth set.
Things weren’t exactly fun early on in the fifth set, particularly when DePaul forced the change in sides of the court by taking an 8-7 lead. MU lucked into a DePaul service error on the very next strike, and that jumpstarted a 5-0 run that pretty much ended things for DePaul. Sure, they made it 13-11, but a kill from Jenna Rosenthal and a solo block from Taylor Louis closed things out and led to high fives on the MU side and sad faces on the DePaul side.
Louis led all attackers with 21 kills on the night, and she did it in impressive fashion while hitting .340. Blasier’s 44 assists is a little bit on the low side for her, but freshman Lauren Speckman stepped in to play in three sets, recording five assists along the way, and Marquette threw up points on 15 blocks in the match. You can’t get assists when you’re scoring points on blocks, y’know?
Niemann continues her quest to make her assisted blocks record untouchable by posting another seven in this match. In fact, we can officially start talking about Niemann breaking the total blocks record, because her eight stuffs in this match moved her to 424 in her career. That’s the third most all time in program history, and she needs just 10 more to break Martha Meyer’s record of 433.
Marquette moves to 4-0 in five set matches this season, with wins against Butler, UC-Irvine, and St. John’s. Given the shortened 15 point nature of the fifth frame, this record screams “SUPER LUCKY” at me and I would really appreciate it if all future matches were won in four sets or fewer.
Up Next: Moment of truth time comes up next weekend. No, not because Providence and their lone Big East victory comes to the McGuire Center on Friday night. It’s because Creighton comes in the very next night. A win over the Jays means the door is open for Marquette to have a chance at a regular season title. A loss will all but clinch the title for Creighton.