Powered by double digit kills from four players, #2 seed Marquette defeated #3 seed Butler 3-1 (25-15, 26-24, 25-17, 25-20) in the Big East volleyball tournament semifinals on Friday afternoon.
With the win, the Golden Eagles advance to Saturday afternoon’s championship match, where they will square off with #1 seed Creighton, who defeated Villanova in the other semifinal. It will be a rubber match, as the two teams split their regular season meetings.
While Marquette got offensive contributions from across the board, the big star of the day was Anna Haak. The junior transfer from Miami posted 20 kills while hitting .450 right through the heart of the Butler defense. Big East Player of the Year Allie Barber added 16 kills, but hit just .189 as the Butler defense keyed on stopping her. Hope Werch made her first appearance in the lineup since November 5th and tallied 13 kills and hit .320 while showing no ill effects from the splint on her left calf. Jenna Rosenthal had 10 kills and chipped in a match high five blocks as well. With all five of her stuffs being of the assisted variety, Rosenthal is now at 365 career assisted blocks, giving her the second highest total in program history, trailing only Meghan Niemann’s record that was set last season.
The match looked like it was going to turn into a runaway for the Golden Eagles at the start. MU jumped out to a 9-3 advantage and never looked back in the first set, winning by 10 points. While it was one-sided, Butler probably wasn’t going to hit .000 the whole match, so when the Bulldogs pulled it together and won the second set, it wasn’t terribly surprising. The second frame was a tightly contested affair, with Marquette having a three point lead in the early going, and Butler taking the advantage late. It looked for a moment that the Golden Eagles might yank it back when Werch staved off set point to knot the frame at 24 all, but a service error from Martha Konovodoff and an attack error from Haak - one of only two on the day for the Swede - gave BU the final two points that they needed.
Marquette came out of the intermission on a mission, starting off hot with the first three points of the third set and building themselves a 15-10 lead on an ace by Rosenthal. An error by Rosenthal added some drama to the proceedings as Butler pulled within three at 19-16, but the Golden Eagles snapped off six of the next seven points to take the set. Maybe “take the set” is a bit strong, as Butler had three errors — a block by Rosenthal and Lauren Speckman, a service error, and an attack error by Anna Logan -- in MU’s final run.
It seemed that the fourth set was due for the same kind of outcome as the third as MU went up 5-2 early on a kill by Haak, and 10-6 on a kill by Werch. A 5-1 explosion by the Bulldogs tied things up at 11, and they knotted it at 13 again on an error by Rosenthal and at 14 on a kill by Makayla Ferguson. That kill was followed up by three Golden Eagle errors as Butler took a 17-13 lead, but Marquette answered with three straight points of their own capped by a kill from Barber to level it at 17.
Even at 18.
Even at 19.
Then the dam broke. Haak and Elizabeth Orf stuffed Bri Lilly, Orf smashed one of her five kills in the match, and Manon Geoffroy tacked on a service ace. After Butler got one final point from a kill by Whitney Beck, Haak hammered down her final two kills of the match and Rosenthal sent everyone home with her 10th of the match.
Up Next: Marquette is back out on the court at the McGuire Center at 1:30pm Central on Saturday afternoon to take on #17 Creighton to decide who gets the Big East’s automatic bid to the NCAA tournament. The match will be broadcast on FS2 and streamed on Fox Sports Go, but if you’re in Milwaukee, you should definitely make your way down to campus and cheer for the Golden Eagles to hoist their second ever Big East tournament trophy.