Marquette Golden Eagles volleyball‘s chances at a Big East regular season title all but evaporated on Friday night as they lost 3-1 (20-25, 23-25, 25-22, 19-25) to #10 Creighton Bluejays. That gave MU (20-5, 10-2 Big East) two losses in league play, while the Jays are a perfect 10-0. At this point, it would take two very surprising Creighton losses and Marquette running the table over the final eight matches for both teams to tie for the regular season title, and while I like MU’s chances to run the table, I’m not going to hold my breath on Creighton losing any time soon.
In addition to the regular season title chances turning to (mostly) dust, Marquette’s chances of hosting the first two rounds of the NCAA tournament are gone now, too. The Big East is just too much of an RPI anchor for MU at this point, and while they’ll have the wins to get into the field, they can’t be taken seriously as a top 16 team with just one top 25 win. Oh well, I guess Ryan Theis and his team will just have to settle for extending the program’s NCAA tournament streak to a new record of eight straight years.
Onwards with the recapping, I suppose, and we’ll also talk about MU’s 3-0 (25-18, 25-19, 25-15) victory over Providence Friars along the way. That match was more notable for what didn’t happen than what did, but we’ll get there in a minute.
I don’t want to get into the play by play breakdowns and short runs and so forth of the Creighton match. Here’s what I watched: A tightly contested volleyball contest between two top 25 programs, both of whom knew exactly what was on the line in the Al McGuire Center on Friday night. Both sides played at an incredibly high level, and at the end of the day, the top 10 team beat the top 20 team, even though they were on the road.
All four sets could easily have gone the other way. An Creighton attack error late in the first let Marquette pull within one at 20-19. The second set was even closer, and Marquette actually held a 23-22 lead after Madeline Mosher and Jenna Rosenthal stuffed an attack by Kari Zumach. You could argue the whole match pivoted around the next three points, all of which went to Creighton. If Marquette shuts the door there, it’s 1-1 instead of 2-0 Jays. Marquette took the third set, but Creighton had forced a tie at 22-all with a 4-0 run late. They could easily have closed out the match there, but Madelyn Cole committed a service error, and after a Lauren Speckman ace and an Anna Haak kill, Marquette had extended the match to a fourth set. The fourth set ended up as the one with the widest margin of victory, but Creighton’s lead was just 15-14 midway through the frame, and the Golden Eagles made a late rally to get back within three at 22-19 on a solo block by Hope Werch. Maybe that one was mostly decided by that point, but it wouldn’t have been weird to see Marquette grind out a victory there.
Allie Barber had a great night, connecting for 22 kills and hitting .468. Anna Haak put together a double-double with 13 kills and 11 digs, but she hit just .143 on the night. The Swede has been putting together a strong senior season, hitting .255 on the season. You can make an argument that the reason that Marquette has lost so few sets this season because of how great Haak has been on the other side from Barber, but she didn’t have it for whatever reason against the Bluejays.
If Anna Haak didn’t have her mojo going on Friday night, she didn’t have a uniform going on Saturday night. She was not dressed to play against Providence, and as she didn’t appear to have any kind of brace or any otherwise visible injury, I hope it was just a maintenance day for her, or at the very least a “better safe than sorry” type of situation.
Marquette was able to handle Providence (8-15, 2-10 Big East) with relative ease in the match, hitting .413 and holding the Friars to .223. The match never really seemed to be in doubt, but Marquette also wasn’t running away with this one. I don’t know if it was a case of fatigue after going through a tough battle against Creighton less than 24 hours earlier or if Haak’s absence played a bigger role than the coaching staff would like to admit, but it definitely felt like it wasn’t Marquette’s A-game on display.
For example: A kill by Jenae Alderson trimmed Marquette’s lead to just 13-12 midway through the first set. MU answered with three straight and five of the next six points to kick off their pull-away in the set, but halfway through, it was still a close contest. It was just a two point margin halfway through the second set, 14-12 in favor of Marquette after PC’s Addison Root laid down a kill. Five straight points capped by a pair of kills from Allie Barber tilted the deck in the Golden Eagles’ favor the rest of the way, but again: close through the first 26 points. The third set ended up in a 10 point win for Marquette, but Providence kept it close all the way through an attack error by Hope Werch letting the Friars stay within three points at 14-11. This is where Marquette went into full rampaging monster mode and ripped off seven straight points to take a 21-11 lead and essentially end things for the night.
Barber was even better than she was the night before, putting up 19 kills while hitting .548. Her 17th kill of the night pushed her up to the #7 spot on Marquette’s all-time kills list, and remember: she’s still only a junior. Hope Werch was the #2 attacker for the day, putting up 12 kills.
Up Next: Marquette kicks off a run of four straight road matches this weekend when they visit Villanova on Friday and Georgetown on Saturday. If MU wins both contests, they will clinch a top four spot in the Big East this season and thus lock up one of the four conference tournament berths.