Things were looking good for Marquette on Friday night when they made relatively quick work of Georgetown in four sets, 25-13, 24-26, 25-10, & 25-16. That got turned around on them less than 24 hours later when Villanova came into the Al McGuire Center on Saturday and beat MU in a really great four set match, 25-17, 25-22, 21-25, & 27-25.
The weekend home split drops Marquette to 2-2 in Big East play and 12-4 overall on the season. This isn’t bad, by any stretch. It’s also not terrifically great for Marquette’s shot at the Big East regular season title.
We talked about it in the preview, but the short version is thus: Creighton’s the clear favorite to win the league. Marquette opened up the season with a loss to the Jays. In order to have a chance at surpassing Creighton for the title, MU has to stay even with Creighton at least until the rematch back in Milwaukee later this season. Losing to a pretty good team like Villanova isn’t bad, other than it knocks MU off that “even with CU” track.
The match against Georgetown was pretty much a one-sided affair, other than the second set when GU hit over .190 for the only time in the match. Marquette had a clear advantage on the Hoyas just in terms of height as none of the Georgetown regulars cleared 6 feet, while MU regularly had the 6’5” Allie Barber out on the floor with the 6’6” Jenna Rosenthal. This was made ridiculously obvious by the Golden Eagles recorded 13 blocks in the match against just 2 for Georgetown.
On the topic of blocks, Meghan Niemann became MU’s all time assisted block leader when she partnered up with Sara Blasier to put Marquette up 16-7 in the first set. That gave Niemann 365 assisted blocks for her career, surpassing the record jointly held by Martha Meyer and Rabbecka Gonyo.
Three Golden Eagles tallied double digit kills in the match, led by 18 from Taylor Louis. All three double digit killers - Louis, Niemann, and Rosenthall - all hit over .350 on the night, including a ridiculous .778 from Niemann, who landed 15 kills on just 18 swings with one error. As a team, Marquette hit .402 and held Georgetown to just .115, including a .000 in the first set and a -.185 in the third.
Highlights, courtesy of GoMarquette.com:
Things went a little differently against Villanova. Jenna Rosenthal did an amazing Energizer Bunny impression for the Golden Eagles, recording a career best 19 kills while hitting .600, which was also a career best. Her cross-court strike from the right pin was nearly unstoppable against the Wildcats, and Rosenthal used her height and pogo-stick like jumping ability to repeatedly stuff Villanova attacks back on their side of the net.
While that was working great for Marquette, pretty much everything else wasn’t. Both Meghan Niemann and Taylor Louis hit below .150 while mounting 17 and 61 attacks respectively. Lauren Houg had an outstanding match high 22 digs, but she couldn’t get to everything by herself. Marquette is usually an outstanding defensive team, as opponents were hitting just .174 against them coming into this match. Villanova’s worst hitting set was the one Marquette grabbed a win in, as the Wildcats hit .175 as their low point. When your “low point” is still above your opponent’s average for the season, you’re probably going to win.
Even though there were all these downsides for the Golden Eagles, it was still a fantastic high quality match to watch. The final three sets were decided by a total of nine points, and after Nova ran away with the first set by closing on a 13-5 run, neither team managed a lead bigger than five points. Even that lead was brief and fleeting when MU took a 9-4 and then 10-5 lead in the third set. Villanova bounced back with a 4-1 mini-run to make it 11-9, and the final margin in the third was because MU recorded the final three points to close it out. The fourth and ultimately final set was a thriller, with both teams trading the lead back and forth. Nova took a 9-5 lead on a Claire Crutchfield kill, but Marquette took the lead from them courtesy of an 8-2 run capped off by a Louis kill. Things stayed tight from there before Villanova put Marquette away in extra points, first with a Crutchfield kill, then finally, with a service ace from Regan Lough.
Highlights, courtesy of GoMarquette.com:
Up Next: AFTERNOON VOLLEYBALL! No, I really don’t know why Marquette is hosting Xavier at noon on Wednesday. It might have something to do with men’s soccer playing Wisconsin at home that night and it’s Homecoming Week so they didn’t want competing events. But who knows. The Musketeers are 8-9 overall on the season and 2-2 in the Big East after splitting a home weekend against Creighton and Providence.