Marquette survived a set and a half of lousy volleyball on Saturday afternoon to come away with a 3-1 (25-13, 25-19, 17-25, 25-22) win over Seton Hall, but on Sunday, things were different. The Golden Eagles couldn’t get their business sorted out for any real stretch of time and suffered a 3-2 (30-32, 25-23, 25-19, 16-25, 10-15) loss to St. John’s in the 2016 home finale.
With the weekend split, Marquette is now 22-6 on the season and 12-4 in Big East matches. A couple of things happened after this weekend’s results. First: Creighton clinched the Big East regular season title, as they remained undefeated and there’s no longer a mathematical chance that they could lose enough times to come back down to Marquette. In addition to that, the Golden Eagles clinched a Big East tournament berth of their own with Saturday’s win over Seton Hall. With Villanova’s loss dropping them out of the #4 slot, the Pirates are the new #4 team and thus, Marquette is locked into the 2-3 game in the conference tournament and locked into Xavier as their opponent in that game.
Things seemed to start out okay for the Golden Eagles on Saturday afternoon. They hit .500 while holding Seton Hall to just -.043 while running away with the easy first set win. Obviously those hitting percentages wouldn’t hold for the entire match, but once MU went up 9-4 early in the second, they never trailed by fewer than three on their way to a 2-0 lead at intermission.
Seton Hall started out with the lead in the third, but hey, 4-2, that’s not an advantage in volleyball. Things just kept getting worse for Marquette as they played maybe their worst set of the season. Disorganized, receptions going every which way, bumping into each other trying to make a play, just a total mess. Believe it or not, the 25-17 final was more respectable than it should have been as the Pirates led 19-8 at one point.
Their struggles continued into the fourth as Seton Hall jumped out to an 8-3 lead on an attack error by Jenna Rosenthal. The two teams traded points out to 14-9 and it seemed like Marquette wasn’t going to be able to hack into the lead. Then, like tumblers in a lock snapping into place, *click* and Marquette had a 15-14 lead. That 6-0 run capped by a block from Rosenthal and Allie Barber didn’t mean Marquette had this thing won, though, not by a long shot. SHU rebounded and held a 21-20 lead before MU scored five of the final six points in impressive and dominant fashion to rip away the faint chance of a fifth set from the Pirates.
So, y’know that horrible third set and bad start to the fourth I just mentioned? Well, that pretty much infected Marquette for the full five sets against St. John’s on Sunday. Marquette never managed to hit better than .297 in any of the five frames while allowing SJU to hit better than .250 in three of the sets, including going over .350 in both the fourth and the fifth.
A first set that got out to a good start with a 12-6 Marquette lead rapidly twisted in favor of the Red Storm, at least to the point where neither team had an advantage. SJU eventually got enough space for set point at 24-21, but Marquette staved that off and forced extra points. Seven more times, one of the two teams had a chance to close out the match, but were foiled. Eventually it was a service error by Marquette’s Meghan Niemann followed by a kill from St. John’s Gaia Traballi that gave the visitors a 1-0 lead.
Marquette edged out wins in the next two sets, going point for point with SJU in the second before scoring the last three to rally from a 23-22 deficit and get the win. The third set was more of the same, at least up til St. John’s taking a 17-16 lead on a kill from Traballi. From there, Marquette outplayed the Johnnies in a big way, outscoring them 9-2 for the relatively simple victory.
The fourth set was the epitome of relatively simple victories, except it went in favor of St. John’s. There was never a big run by the Red Storm, but they just slowly outpaced Marquette, growing their margin before finally winning by nine. That set the stage for the fifth set, and it was all over the map. St. John’s went up 6-3 early before Marquette rallied for a 9-7 advantage. That’s a lot of real estate for the Golden Eagles to deal with to get to 15 first, but they couldn’t find it. Marquette would score just one more point, on a kill from Rosenthal, as the Red Storm scored eight of the final nine points to complete the upset.
While we’re left with a disappointing taste in our mouths after Sunday’s loss, there were some smiles to be had after the weekend’s events. Taylor Louis recorded 36 kills in the two matches, which moves her into 10th place on the single season kills list. She’s up to 1,067 kills in her career, which is the ninth best total in program history, and yes, she has not finished her sophomore season yet. Meghan Niemann broke through the 1,000 kill plateau for her career on Saturday against Seton Hall and currently stands on 1,011. Jenna Rosenthal needed just two blocks to tie the fifth most assisted blocks in a season in MU history, and she got 12 in the two matches. Her 119 assisted blocks are the third most in program history, leaving only her freshman campaign (133) and Niemann’s sophomore year (135) in front of her. At this pace, Rosenthal is easily on pace to shatter Niemann’s career records for assisted and total blocks, like, maybe next year depending on how long Marquette can keep their season going into the postseason.
Up Next: Marquette heads out on the road to wrap up the regular season. They’ll be in Indianapolis on Friday night to face off with Butler (19-13, 8-8 Big East) before heading to Cincinnati the next night to wrap things up against Xavier (17-12, 11-5 Big East). One way or another, that’ll be the first of two straight matches against the Musketeers, as Marquette and Xavier will be the #2 and #3 seeds in the Big East tournament the following weekend in Indianapolis.