Marquette volleyball locked up the first step of their 2018 postseason path over the weekend with a 3-1 (21-25, 25-14, 25-15, 25-17) victory over Villanova on Friday and a 3-0 (25-14, 26-24, 25-10) win at Georgetown on Saturday. With the wins, the #19 ranked Golden Eagles are now 12-2 in Big East action, and with four matches left to play, they can’t be caught by seven of the teams behind them. That guarantees a top three spot for Marquette, and thus locks in one of the four Big East tournament berths.
Over the final two weeks of the regular season, Marquette will play third place St. John’s (10-5) as well as tied-for-fourth-place Xavier (7-7) and seventh place Butler (5-9). It’s not full control, but it’s some measure of control over who will end up occupying the final two spots in the tournament. With #9 Creighton sitting at a perfect 14-0 and with two wins over MU in there, they’ve essentially clinched the Big East regular season title at this point, meaning MU is playing to lock in second place for sure and then having a say in who will finish third to face them in the semifinals at D.J. Sokol Arena in Omaha on Thanksgiving weekend.
If you were paying close attention in the opening paragraph, you noticed that Marquette dropped one set to Villanova on Friday evening. It was the first set of the match, and it is Marquette’s only set loss in Big East play to a team that is not Creighton. Shoutout to m’man Broadway Brown who has been on the “Villanova Kryptonite” train all season. Credit where credit is due to VU coach Josh Steinbach and his team for holding Marquette to a hitting percentage of just .156 while hitting .278 themselves in the first set.
Unfortunately, all that opening set ended up doing was the equivalent of punching the Golden Eagles in the face. Over the next three sets, they outscored the Wildcats 75-36, and hit .326 while tamping down the Villanova offense to hit just .100. The final three sets were about as one-sided as they seem. In the second, Villanova didn’t get to 10 points until Amanda Pedersen-Henry made it a 20-10 score. Marquette scored the final nine points of the third set to run away from VU after they had pulled within one at 16-15, and all nine points were on either kills or service aces. It was back to the early advantage in the fourth, as Clare Delaplane’s kill made it 19-10 and Marquette calmly strolled to victory.
I mean, that’s a real “I’ll show you who wins sets around here” kind of performance after dropping the first.
Allie Barber was the top scorer of the day, putting up what amounts to a quiet 15 kills across the four sets of action. Hope Werch was sizzling hot when sending it over the net, recording 11 kills to go with eight service aces to push her to a match high 19.5 points. Perhaps the most interesting part of the contest was the impact of freshman Ellie Koontz. The 6’1” hitter from Minnesota popped off the bench for eight kills on an error free 16 swings. It would seem that her playing time came at the expense of Madeline Mosher who is a regular in Ryan Theis’ rotation, but only played in one set here and did not play at all on Saturday against Georgetown. Hopefully it’s not a serious thing that kept Mosher out of action, and it’s more preventative as well as Theis giving the freshman a shot.
Saturday’s contest against Georgetown picked up where the smashing of Villanova left off less than 24 hours earlier. Marquette hit .310 in the opening frame against just .037 for the Hoyas, and once Georgetown scored consecutive points to tie things up at 4-all, MU didn’t allow two straight Hoya points again until the Golden Eagles were up 15-9. If that didn’t decide things, and 8-1 run late let Marquette run away and hide for the first set win.
The second set was different. The Golden Eagles found themselves up 7-1 early, continuing their strong play from the first set. A 3-0 burst early from the Hoyas kept them nearby, though, and Georgetown slowly inched their way back into the contest. Another 3-0 burst capped by an ace from Symone Speech knotted it up at 21 and prompted a timeout from the MU bench. The two sides traded points, and it was Ellie Koontz shining in a tough spot to put down a kill to move MU to set point at 24-23. Alyssa Sinnette responded to stave off the Golden Eagles, but Georgetown handed the set to MU with a bad set by Jessica Cusi and an error by Speech.
Marquette played mostly fine in the second set, but Georgetown matched them in terms of consistent action and thus were able to match them on the scoreboard as well. The rightful order of the universe returned in the third as Marquette bounced back from committing a service error and allowing two straight aces to follow early to take an 8-4 lead on a kill by — guess who? — Ellie Koontz. That lead turned into 10-5 (Koontz again), and then 13-6 (GU attack error), and then 19-8 (Hope Werch). The Golden Eagles ended up closing out the evening on an 11-2 run and very nearly recorded the volleyball equivalent of a shutout when a kill by Werch put them up 24-9 and on match point. Sinnette staved off the end of the match and got the Hoyas to double digits, but Werch again wrapped up the proceedings.
Werch finished tied with Allie Barber for the team high in kills with 13 as both women hit over .420 to get there. Koontz continued her hot run, putting up another eight kills and hitting .429.
Up Next: Marquette continues their run of four straight contests away from the McGuire Center when they go to Indiana and Ohio next weekend. It’ll be at Butler (8-18, 5-9 Big East) on Friday evening with a 5pm Central first serve, followed by Xavier (9-16, 7-7 Big East on Sunday morning with an 11:30 am CT start.