It was a relatively uncomplicated weekend for #20 Marquette volleyball, as the Golden Eagles picked up two 3-0 victories in their first home dates in the Big East calendar. On Friday, they topped Georgetown (25-18, 25-13, 25-20) with relative ease before getting a fight in the second two sets from Villanova (25-10, 25-23, 25-19) before prevailing. With the pair of home wins, Marquette moves to 3-1 in Big East play after two weeks, with the only blemish coming on the road against #10 Creighton.
We got a bit of history on Friday night as well. Redshirt senior middle hitter Jenna Rosenthal came into the match already holding Marquette’s total blocks record, but she was tied with Meghan Niemann for the assisted blocks record. In the second set, with Marquette up 10-4 on the Hoyas, Rosenthal paired up with Madeline Mosher to stuff an attack from Alyssa Sinnette. That stuff dropped to the floor, thus recording Rosenthal’s 413th career assisted block and pushed her past Niemann for the record all to herself. She would record three more assisted blocks over the weekend to push the record to 416. Rosenthal’s total blocks record is up to 468, well past Niemann’s mark of 454. If Rosenthal maintains her current pace of 0.92 blocks per set this season, she’ll become the first Golden Eagle to record 500 total blocks. With 14 guaranteed matches remaining giving her 42 guaranteed sets, Rosenthal is on pace to reach 506 blocks.
The story of Friday’s contest against Georgetown is a fairly simple one. A clearly superior team beat a team that was already having their best season since 2011. The Hoyas were 10-5 coming into the weekend, and they haven’t surpassed 10 wins in a season since 2011 when they were 14-13. They’re much improved under first year head coach Toby Rens, but that didn’t really stop Marquette showing why they’re the #20 team in the country and Georgetown isn’t.
The first set was the most cleanly played by both sides, as Marquette hit .364 against Georgetown’s .294. As you can tell, that hitting advantage had the Golden Eagles controlling most of the action, and that was evident early as they went up 11-5 on a kill by Hope Werch. That lead would eventually balloon to seven at 17-10 after a kill by Allie Barber, and while Georgetown would trim the margin to four at 20-16, it was mostly a case of math working against the Hoyas the rest of the way.
The final margin might look a little lopsided in the second set, but it was one of those “grind ‘em out” kind of 12 point wins. Marquette never scored more than five points in a row, and that run came off the top in a 5-0 start to the frame. Only three times did they allow Georgetown to score consecutive points, whereas Marquette only scored one point before being cut off twice. Two late 4-0 bursts made the difference, with Marquette taking the lead from 14-9 to 18-9 and then scoring the final four points of the set, capped by a kill from Anna Haak. MU held Georgetown underwater in the hitting department in this stanza, forcing the Hoyas to hit -.026 and inducing them into a match high nine hitting errors.
Neither team hit better than .170 in the third and ultimately final set, which led to a much tighter contest. Marquette had a small lead for much of the early section before a 5-1 burst from the Hoyas capped by back to back errors by Rosenthal and Werch knotted the match up at 15. That prompted a timeout from head coach Ryan Theis, and that timeout prompted a 5-0 run from the Golden Eagles with kills from Barber, Werch, Rosenthal, and a solo block from Rosenthal to put a punctuation mark on it. It was 20-15 at that point, and while the Hoyas fended off match point three times, it was finally a Georgetown service error that sent the MU fans home happy.
Allie Barber was MU’s lead attacker on the night with 13 kills. Jenna Rosenthal and Elizabeth Orf did damage going both ways at the net, with both women recording six kills and five blocks.
As noted in our preview of the weekend, Villanova has caused some problems for Marquette in the past couple of years. The Golden Eagles are just 3-3 in their last six against the Wildcats, splitting each year’s season series. Twice it was both teams winning at home, but in 2016, it was each team winning on the road. So we knew that Josh Steinbach’s team was capable of winning in the McGuire Center.
It just didn’t look like it through the first 35 points of the night as MU rolled straight through Villanova. Marquette hit .417 in the first frame and held Nova to just .154, while never leading by fewer than five points once MU broke into double digits. Villanova never scored consecutive points the entire set and a handling error by Emma Decker gave the Golden Eagles the rapid fire first set win.
Everything flipped up completely in the second set as neither side had more than a two point lead the entire time. It was a case of solid offensive execution on both sides of the net, with Marquette hitting .317 against Villanova’s .265, and as a result, neither side was able to put together any kind of a margin. Marquette was on the verge of the set’s first three point lead when Anna Haak’s kill made it 24-22, but Villanova got a kill from Mallory Potts to prolong things one more point before Allie Barber gave MU the two point win.
Because volleyball is funny that way, Villanova immediately took a three point lead in the third set, going up 4-1 on a kill by Clare Delaplane right off the bat. Marquette woke up through, and ripped off a 13-3 run to seize control of the evening and take a 16-8 lead on a block by Haak. That prompted Villanova’s second timeout of the run and final timeout of the set. That one worked for Steinbach, as his charges scored seven of the next 10 points to pull within four at 19-15 when Delaplane and Myah Massenburgh stuffed Hope Werch. After a timeout of their own, Marquette responded with a 3-0 run, including two aces from Martha Konovodoff. That continued the trend of Villanova having no idea what to do with MU’s serves on Saturday, as Konovodoff led MU to 12 on the night with four of her own. That gave Marquette the breathing room they needed to finish things out calmly, and while a kill from Potts got them to 19 points, it was too little, too late at that point. A kill from Jenna Rosenthal recorded the next point of the match and gave MU the win.
While the weekend is notable for Rosenthal’s defensive record, it was her offense that worked wonders for the Golden Eagles against Villanova. She put up 15 kills on just 21 swings to hit .667 on the night and tie Allie Barber for the match high mark in kills. Lauren Speckman and Sarah Rose both put up at least 20 assists as the Golden Eagles recorded a very strong 43 assists as a team.
Up Next: Believe it or not, you don’t have to wait til the weekend to see MU in action again. They’ll be back at it in the McGuire Center on Wednesday, but those of us with 9-to-5 jobs will find ourselves unable to attend. MU will host Xavier (4-11, 2-2 Big East) for that match, but it has an 11:30 AM first serve scheduled as the Golden Eagles will also be hosting a Kids’ Day event.