After dropping just one set in three matches on Friday and Saturday, Marquette volleyball left the Commonwealth of Kentucky as the champions of the 2016 Bluegrass Battle. The Golden Eagles made quick work of Saint Louis on Friday and Virginia on Saturday, and in between those two, they knocked off a Kentucky team that was looking to get back into the national rankings after falling out this past weekend.
Redshirt sophomore outside hitter Taylor Louis was named MVP of the event after averaging 5.10 kills and 2.9 digs while hitting a robust .361 in the three contests. Louis was joined on the all-tournament team by three of her senior teammates: setter Sara Blasier, middle hitter Meghan Niemann, and libero Lauren Houg.
Things got off to a hot start on Friday morning, as MU ripped through Saint Louis 25-16 in the first set and 25-17 in the third on their way to a 3-0 victory. Marquette hit .350 as a team in the match, but had to fend off an early 6-0 run and a late 4-0 run from the Billikens in the second set in order to preserve the sweep. Louis tied with SLU’s Danielle Rygelski for a game high 17 kills, but Saint Louis committed twice as many hitting errors as the Golden Eagles to seal their fate.
Marquette’s big test of the weekend was on Friday night when they squared off with a Kentucky squad that was looking for a notable win to get themselves back into the AVCA top 25 poll. What the Wildcats got was a Marquette squad that was on fire, hitting .303 while holding down UK to a measly .193. MU’s big defensive effort game in the last two sets, bouncing back from Kentucky taking the second frame to hold the Wildcats to hitting just .093 in the third and .128 in the fourth.
Louis set a season high in kills with 20 and then matched her career best in digs with 16 for her third double-double of the season. She also hit an absurd .385 in the match, which had the Golden Eagles using a 7-3 run in the fourth set to gain separation and slip away with their second biggest win of the season.
Marquette’s biggest problem in the first two weeks of the season is closing out their tournaments. They’ve lost the third match of each weekend, albeit for pretty solid reasons (3 matches in 24 hours, then the best opponent of the tournament), but it still leaves a bad taste in your mouth. With neither fatigue nor opponent strength presenting an issue for the Golden Eagles, they zipped past Virginia in straight sets, 25-19, 25-22, and 25-12. Things got a little dicey in the second set as the Cavaliers took an early lead, but two challenges won by head coach Ryan Theis and three straight service aces from little used reserve Nikki Barnes swung what was a 16-10 score into a 17-16 score. Louis gave the Golden Eagles the lead late and Blasier closed it out. The third set was mostly an academic affair as MU steamrolled to a big lead and coasted it in for the three set win.
Up Next: HOME OPENER! The Golden Eagles get to play at the Al McGuire Center for the first time all season when they host the Marquette Invitational next weekend. It’s probably not a coincidence that Theis lined up two quality opponents to challenge his squad. MU will christen their brand new NCAA Appearances banner on Friday night against Iowa State (6-2, won 12 straight sets) before coming back on Saturday against UW-Milwaukee (6-3) and Missouri State (7-3).