Marquette volleyball did what they could to defend their #21 national ranking over the weekend, going 2-1 at the second Marquette Invitational of the season.
Ultimately, it is a positive result for the Golden Eagles as they were swept by #6 Wisconsin (23-25, 14-25, 15-25) on Friday night, but picked up two straight sets victories of their own on Saturday against Tulsa (25-23, 25-20, 25-18) and Illinois State (25-23, 26-24, 25-17). That moves MU to 9-3 as they wrap up non-conference action and prepare to start the league slate next weekend. It should be good enough to keep Marquette in the AVCA poll when the new one comes out on Monday afternoon, as a loss to the #6 team, even if it is at home, shouldn’t be enough to ding you five spots down the chart.
The match against Wisconsin started out well enough, but ultimately turned into a bit of a one-sided ass-kicking. Marquette was able to control Wisconsin’s hitting while on a bit of a struggle themselves long enough to put themselves in position to win the first set, as neither team hit better than .165 in the opener. A late burst from the Golden Eagles capped by a kill from Madeline Mosher had MU up 23-20 and close to taking the first set and the advantage, but the Badgers ripped off five straight to steal the win. In what was ultimately an ominous sign, three of the Badgers’ points in that span came off of combo blocks by Dana Rettke and Grace Loberg.
Wisconsin shook off their poor hitting in the first set, but Marquette did not. That was pretty much the story of the next two sets. While UW committed seven hitting errors in the first, they had just two the rest of the way. Marquette had eight miscues in the first, and would tally up 13 more over the next two frames. When you’re trying to rally to knock off the #6 team in the country, you just can’t hand them 26% of the points that they need to beat you. There’s not really much to talk about in terms of how things broke down in terms of play-by-play. Wisconsin jumped out to a 5-0 lead in the second set and never led by fewer than four points the rest of the way there. Marquette was able to keep the lead around three points in the third set until a 4-0 splash by the Badgers pushed the margin to 18-10 and that was pretty much that.
Allie Barber recorded 11 kills to lead the team, but her five errors meant she hit just .200 in the match. Jenna Rosenthal was notably off, committing four errors and hitting just .105 in the match. This is probably not a coincidence against the Badgers. I’ve said repeatedly that the 6’6” Rosenthal is a cheat code for Marquette, but if that’s the case, then the 6’8” Rettke is the Master Control Program for the Badgers.
I didn’t really know what to make of either Tulsa or Illinois State based on who they had beaten coming into the weekend, but both squads ended up giving Marquette a little bit of a test. At least that how it looks on paper, but there is an interesting question to ask about Saturday’s two encounters. Freshman Claire Mosher got the start at setter in both matches, taking up Lauren Speckman’s role in the setter rotation with Sarah Rose. She was fine, averaging 5.5 helpers and not committing a setting error, but the fact of the matter is that it was her first extended action at the collegiate level after making brief appearances in five of MU’s previous 10 contests and recording just one assist previously. Mosher just isn’t going to have the same coordination with MU’s hitters as Speckman, at least not at this point, so at least some of MU’s struggles (they hit under .200 in both matches) has to be attributed to that lack of rhythm.
Things started out hot for Marquette in the first set against Tulsa, jumping out to a 5-1 lead on a kill from Hope Werch. The lead reached seven off a Tulsa attack error to make it 12-5, but things got twitchy from there. The Hurricane scored the next five points, and before long, it was tied at 15. The two sides kept jousting — Marquette getting a lead, Tulsa taking it away — before Allie Barber cracked a kill to prevent Tulsa from pushing things into extra points.
The second set did not start out in MU’s favor, falling behind 7-3 early. A kill by Jenna Rosenthal followed by a service ace from her kicked off a 12-1 run by the Golden Eagles to make it 16-9. Marquette was mostly able to coast it in from there, but a late 7-3 flurry from Tulsa pulled them within five when Barber put an end to things again. The third set was a back and forth affair early and a 5-0 Golden Hurricane run thanks to a pair of attack errors by Rosenthal had the visitors up 15-9. Marquette topped themselves from the second set with a 13-1 stretch featuring three kills from Anna Haak to flip the score to 22-16. Tulsa clawed a quick two points back, but a kill from Haak and two blocks from the Swede partnering with Elizabeth Orf gave Marquette the sweep.
Barber was back in form for this one, leading the way with 14 kills and hitting .353. Haak barely missed a double-double with nine kills and 10 digs.
Illinois State came win with wins over Butler and Auburn, so when they didn’t back down against Marquette, it was no surprise. The Redbirds had the early control in the first set, answering a 3-0 MU start with five straight of their own and eventually going up 13-7. Marquette had to work their way back into this one, first preventing ISU from racking up a streak of points, and then using a 5-0 run to retake the lead at 18-17. An attack error by Ella Francis put the Golden Eagles at set point, but Illinois State was able to fend it off twice before a Redbirds service error wrapped things up.
Knowing they were right there with the #21 team in the country after one set probably gave ISU a boost in the second. Neither side took a notable advantage for a long while as they traded punches. A block by Monica Miller and Marissa Stockman had Illinois State up 19-16 as we reached the late stages, and things got wild from there. Two pairs of Marquette kills around a Martha Konovodoff service error pulled MU even at 20-all, but a kill by Ali Line moved the Redbirds to set point. MU was in danger of losing their second set of the season to an unranked foe, but: Kill by Anna Haak, block by Haak and Elizabeth Orf, ace by Claire Mosher, kill by Allie Barber. Quick as a hiccup, Marquette had fended off set point twice and swept in to steal away the win.
That may have taken some of the wind away from Illinois State. Marquette was able to jump on them early, ripping off a 6-0 run on five kills and a block to take a 9-3 lead. ISU was able to nudge the lead down to three eventually when a Kendal Meier ace brought them to 16-13, but a 5-0 late MU run effectively shut the door on them before Haak officially gaveled business closed for the day.
Barber put up another 12 kills to bring her weekend average to 4.11/set. Haak ended up with the team lead in digs with 15 as Konovodoff had just 12 in a rare low total for the sophomore.
Up Next: BIG EAST ACTION! Marquette starts off league play with two notable items. First, they get the worst road trip in the league out of the way first thing, going to Providence (6-5) on Friday evening before heading to the Big East’s western most outpost for a match just 44 hours later. That’s the second notable item, as the outpost is none other than Creighton, who were ranked #10 in the country in last week’s AVCA poll. The Bluejays are 8-4 on the season after going 2-1 this past weekend with a loss on the road against #8 Illinois.