After opening the season on Friday with a three set win over Texas State, Marquette continued their competition in the Baylor Invitational on Saturday with two more matches. The Golden Eagles defeated LSU in straight sets (25-22, 25-23, 25-14) in the afternoon before falling in four sets (31-33, 27-25, 17-25, 22-25) to #16 Baylor at night. Marquette is now 2-1 on the season.
And that’s fine. In fact, you could make the argument that outside of picking up three wins, MU came away from Waco with the best possible results.
Texas State is the favorite to win the Sun Belt this season, and MU handled the Bobcats with relative ease. LSU was earning votes in the preseason AVCA poll and should be in the top four in the SEC and in contention for an NCAA tournament berth. Baylor started off the year as a top 20 team and Marquette gave them a fight through the first two sets in their building. Maybe the result is different in Milwaukee or on a neutral floor.
We’re here to recap, though, so let’s dive into Saturday’s contests.
While Marquette beat LSU in straight sets, it wasn’t an easy victory for the Golden Eagles. MU was hitting under .300 as a team through the first two sets and had won those two by just one more point than the minimum four. Marquette took the advantage early, jumping out to a 6-2 lead, but four points was as far as they could get away from the Tigers. Kills by Anna Haak and Allie Barber kept the margin at four at 19-15. LSU swiped the next five points of the match, with three coming on kills by Taylor Bannister to briefly take a 20-19 lead. Things teetered on an edge for a moment there, but LSU was never able to take a two point lead before attack errors by the Tigers and an ace by Hope Werch gave MU the 1-0 lead.
Two more early service aces in the second had Marquette leading 7-4, but the margin was short-lived. Things would be tied at eight each and MU didn’t get a real advantage back until a kill from Barber made it 16-12. Another ace, this time from Sarah Rose, pushed the lead out to six points at 20-14, but LSU wouldn’t go away. Two points at a time, they slowly dragged themselves back into the set, and fended off set point twice before a service error by Anna Zwiebel gave MU the 25th and winning point.
The third frame was a much more comfortable affair for the Golden Eagles. After trading points early, MU kicked off a 6-0 run with a kill from Jenna Rosenthal to push the lead to 12-6. It was 14-7 on an attack error by LSU’s Toni Rodriguez, and 16-8 by an error by Bannister. A late 4-0 run by the Golden Eagles provided a little bit of an insurance policy before they induced one final attack error to seal the match.
Jenna Rosenthal was your attacking leader here, racking up 12 kills and hitting .522. Allie Barber was right behind her with 11 strikes. Marquette’s split setting situation continued here with Lauren Speckman tossing up 16 assists and Sarah Rose recording 15. Rose actually finished with a double-double, adding 10 digs.
For a moment, it looked like Marquette was going to be in some trouble against #16 Baylor. The Bears scheduled themselves some extra rest by playing Texas State before MU’s match with LSU, and at least in the first set, it paid off for them as they took an early 5-1 lead. Marquette bounced back, though, and back-to-back aces from Sarah Rose had the teams knotted at six each. Neither team was able to gain an advantage for a while, and a 5-0 run by the Bears turned a 17-15 Marquette lead into a 20-17 Baylor advantage. Yossiana Pressley gave Baylor their first set point at 24-23, and after Jenna Rosenthal evened the match at 24, the battle was on. Yes, it’s first to 25 wins, but you have to win by two. Marquette would fend off four Baylor set points, while the Bears returned the favor three times. Eventually, Pressley put down back-to-back kills, and Baylor took the 33-31 win.
The two sides picked up where they left off for the second set, as neither side had more than a two point lead until an ace from Lauren Speckman put Marquette up 18-15. Baylor answered with three straight and six of the next eight points to take a 21-20 lead, and that helped carry them to a 24-21 margin on a kill by Aniah Philo. Three straight from Marquette on a kill and an ace from Hope Werch and a kill from Jenna Rosenthal had the score tied at 24, and I feel like I’ve seen this movie before. This set of extra points didn’t go quite as long as the last one before a kill from Anna Haak stopped a Baylor set point and consecutive aces from Rosenthal handed MU the 27-25 victory.
Taking a set from the #16 team in the country lit a fire under Marquette and they blasted out to a 6-1 lead in the third. MU picked up two points on blocks in that run, and those blocks may have contributed to Gia Milana’s attack error that capped off the run. Baylor answered, though, and before long, Pressley evened the set at six each. That run to get back into things appeared to energize the Bears as they pushed out to a 13-9 lead. The game hovered around that four point margin for a while before BU ripped off five straight points to take a 23-15 lead. That was pretty much that for Marquette in the third.
The rough ending to the third didn’t affect Marquette’s start in the fourth, as things went back to the see-saw scoring. It wasn’t until MU committed a service error followed by two attack errors that either side had a three point lead. That put Baylor up 20-17, and the run continued from there for another three points. That made it 23-17, and yeah, the Golden Eagles had a four point burst in them to make it respectable, but Pressley’s match high 20th kill ended things in favor of the home team.
Allie Barber nearly matched Pressley, finishing with 19 kills while hitting .348. Haak (16) and Rosenthal (10) joined Barber in double-digit land, although Rosenthal had a surprisingly uncharacteristic .231 hitting percentage. Haak added 16 digs for a double-double, while Speckman matched her there with 31 assists and 12 digs. Rose continued her strong play with 27 assists, four aces, and four digs.
Speckman was named the Best Setter of the tournament, which is kind of impressive when you consider that she split time with Rose and averaged just 7.90 assists per set, while Martha Konovodoff was named Best Defender after averaging 5.90 digs/set.
Up Next: Marquette will be down in Missouri next weekend for the Marcia E. Hamilton Classic, hosted by Saint Louis. They’ll play Kansas State (1-0, with a Sunday match pending), Western Kentucky (1-2, with a Tuesday match forthcoming), and the hosting Billikens (0-3). After what the Golden Eagles showed in their opening weekend, I feel like they should be returning home from this one with a tournament title.