Marquette volleyball moved to 6-5 on the season after picking up a 3-0 (25-23, 25-21, 25-22) win over Southern Miss on Friday night. It was the final non-conference match of the year for the Golden Eagles, who will begin Big East action this coming Wednesday against Butler.
In terms of what you might want to see from a team wrapping up a tough non-conference slate, Friday’s contest was pretty solid. Marquette didn’t really have their hitting going very well, recording a .274 mark for the match. Instead, they let their defense carry the day. MU held the Golden Eagles from down south to just .164 hitting and never let them break past .200 in any of the three sets. Even though it was just a three set match, three different MU players tallied double digit digs, led by 17 from Martha Konovodoff.
MU got pushed a little bit by Southern Miss in this one. In the first set, no one had more than a one point lead until three straight blocks put USM up 13-10. That was as big as the lead would get, though, and MU eventually tied it at 18 each as part of a 4-0 burst that had Marquette up 20-18. Things stayed tight, including another tie at 22-all, but kills from Anna Haak and Elizabeth Orf had MU at set point before a Southern Miss error wrapped it up.
The second set was more of the same, except this time a kill from Chandler Marshall had Southern Miss up 10-7 for the first three point lead of the frame. Coincidentally, it would be an attacking error by Marshall that gave MU their first three-point lead of the set at 15-12. That would be the only edge that Ryan Theis’ team needed, extending it to 19-14 thanks to another attack error before closing out the game on a kill from Allie Barber.
Southern Miss did not wilt in the face of a 2-0 hole, and in fact found themselves with an 11-8 lead in the third thanks to a kill from Catherine Repsher. Jenna Rosenthal would quickly knot the set at 11 each, and Southern Miss would not lead again. Oh, they came close, tying things at 21 and they definitely tried, but they missed their chance as Hope Werch delivered the victory thanks to a kill and a partner block with Orf.
Allie Barber’s 14 kills were good enough for match high on this particular night, as the sophomore outside hitter connected for a hitting percentage of .257. Anna Haak’s 11 kills were a career best and her 10 digs gave her the first double double as a Golden Eagle. Lauren Speckman was on FIRE with her passing on this night, dishing 41 assists and boosting her already very great season average in that department.
The 6-5 record heading to league play is a bit of a mixed bag. On one hand, it means that Marquette stole one of the six matches against teams getting AVCA top 25 votes in the preseason poll, which they did by beating Hawaii in the opener. It also means that Marquette nailed down all five of their remaining matches, which was pretty much a requirement given the other contests on the slate.
However, there’s real reason to believe that Marquette let at least two wins slip through their hands — Wichita State and Kentucky -- and if you wanted to argue that the same could be said for Thursday’s Wisconsin match after the Golden Eagles handed the Badgers their first set loss of the season, I wouldn’t argue with you very hard. Those matches feel like an even bigger missed opportunity when you realize that Hawaii is 4-5 and nowhere near the top 25 any more.
This all matters because the Big East, at least historically, has been a lousy volleyball conference. I don’t know what Marquette’s strength of schedule is at the moment, but if 2017 goes like 2016 went, MU’s SOS is going to start wandering backwards pretty quickly over the next few weeks.
Up Next: Marquette makes their first foray into league action when they visit Butler on Wednesday night. The Bulldogs are 8-2 on the season with Duquesne and Ball State on the schedule for Saturday and Sunday. First serve is scheduled for 6pm Central time.