In a battle of two of the three best hitting percentage offenses and two of the three best hitting percentage defenses in the Big East, something was going to have to give way on Saturday night at the Al McGuire Center.
Turns out, that something was Marquette’s hold on first place in the league.
Butler rallied from down 1-0 and down 2-1 to force a fifth set and ended up defeating Marquette, 3-2 (25-20, 18-25, 30-28, 17-25, 11-15). The loss sends MU to 9-2 on the season, dropping them by percentage points behind 8-1 Creighton, who will play Seton Hall on Sunday afternoon.
Butler’s offense and defense ended up being the winner of the hitting percentage battles. The Bulldogs gave Marquette the business on offense, hitting .304 against a MU defense that has only been allowing opponents to hit .202 against them all season. Marquette had no answer for Bri Lilly, who committed just one error on 25 swings and connected for 17 kills while hitting .640. Going the other direction, Butler’s league best defense (.163) held the best attack in the Big East (.284) to hitting just .258 on the night, including an uncharacteristically low .273 from Jenna Rosenthal and a barely existent .034 from Anna Haak. Even Allie Barber, who finished with a career best 27 kills, was off her .370 pace, but .318 isn’t the end of the world, either.
Set #1 was somewhat reminiscent of Friday night’s win over Xavier, although it didn’t have the mid-game boost from Marquette. Instead, the Golden Eagles opened up a 7-2 lead early, and then just maintained that advantage the rest of the way. Set two is where the problems started to show up, as the Bulldogs ripped off a 5-0 run midway through to take a 14-9 lead and then they fended off a 4-0 Marquette run before closing with the final five points of the frame.
It looked like Marquette was going to assert themselves as the dominant team in the third set. They jumped out to an 8-4 lead early, and a block by Rosenthal and Hope Werch pushed the margin to 16-11 midway through. But the Bulldogs persisted and found themselves, and fended off set point from the Golden Eagles three times to send things to extra points. Butler grabbed an advantage on MU three times, going up 25-24, 26-25, and 27-26, twice on blocks, and once on a kill from Brooke Gregory. Marquette had to answer each and every one of those aggressions before finally grabbing the final two points of the frame on a service error by Butler’s Anna Logan and an attack error by BU’s Brooke Gregory.
A hard fought third set gave Marquette the advantage, but it may have ended up costing them in the long run. From there on out, it seemed like Marquette had nothing left in the tank. The Golden Eagles hit just .250 over the final two frames as the Bulldogs went into high gear. Butler smashed Marquette for a .580 hitting percentage in the fourth set, grabbing a 6-3 lead early and turning that into 16-9 midway through the stanza. MU head coach Ryan Theis essentially threw in the towel on the set after that, sending his bench in to mop up and conserve energy for the readily apparent fifth set.
It didn’t work.
Marquette opened up the final frame with a service error by Martha Konovodoff, got aced by Logan, and then Gregory and Whitney Beck stuffed a Hope Werch attack. Somewhere in there, Ferguson dumped a setter kill on Marquette as well, and the Bulldogs were up 4-0 in a fifth set that was only getting played to 15. Marquette was able to cut the lead to two, sitting as close as 9-7 as things closed in on the two-third pole, but that was about it. Butler snapped off the next four points, with three of them coming on kills. MU presented a challenge, scoring four of the next five points, but Bri Lilly and her apparently unstoppable attack had one more left in the chamber for the Golden Eagles, and the Bulldog bench exploded onto the floor to celebrate their win.
How about some highlights, such as they are, courtesy of GoMarquette.com?
Up Next: After going 1-1 each of the last two weekends, Marquette heads back out on the road for the next two weekends for what could be a defining stretch of their season. They’ll be out east next weekend, to face St. John’s (11-14, 3-7 Big East) and Seton Hall (13-10, 7-3) on back to back days, and the weekend after that has the worst road trip in the league. Creighton (15-5, 8-1) waits at 1pm on Saturday, November 4, followed by Providence (15-9, 4-5) alllll the way over in Rhode Island at 3pm the very next day. Regardless of what happens to the Jays on Sunday afternoon in Omaha, Marquette’s regular season title hopes may rest on going 4-0 in that stretch.