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Marquette Volleyball Wins The Marcia E. Hamilton Classic

If you wanted to call it “The Saint Louis Invitational,” I wouldn’t tell you that you’re wrong.

Anna Haak
That’s “All-tournament team performer Anna Haak” to you.

Marquette volleyball made quick work of their run to the Marcia E. Hamilton Classic title this weekend in Saint Louis. The Golden Eagles picked up 3-0 wins each against Kansas State (25-22, 25-19, 25-22), Western Kentucky (25-22, 25-18, 25-22), and Saint Louis (25-18, 25-13, 25-19). Marquette moves to 5-1 on the season, and we’ll have to wait and see if these three wins against unranked foes will be enough to propel the Golden Eagles into the AVCA top 25.

Jenna Rosenthal was named tournament MVP, while Allie Barber and Anna Haak were both included in the all-tournament team. Rosenthal averaged 2.78 kills/set while hitting .488 and averaging 1.44 blocks per set as well. Barber was a destroyer of worlds, racking up 4.67 kills per frame while hitting .370. Her blocks numbers (0.67/set) were strong, and when you get a dig per set from your best attacker, things are going pretty well. Haak actually averaged more digs (2.44/set) than kills (2.22/set), but the important part for the Swede is that she hit .347 for the weekend. She doesn’t need to keep doing that all season, but as long as she’s hitting better than .250 after last year’s .211, then it’s only going to improve Marquette’s overall offensive abilities.

Rosenthal has recorded 19 assisted blocks on the season. That brings her to 389 for her career and 438 total blocks as well. She’s now just 11 assisted blocks away from becoming the second MU player to ever hit 400 in her career and just 23 away from Meghan Niemann’s all-time record. Rosenthal started the season a little closer to Niemann’s total blocks record, so she needs just 17 blocks of any kind to pull even with Niemann there.

The 3-0 win over Kansas State was pretty straight forward, even though it was competitive. The Golden Eagles outhit the Wildcats in all three sets, even though MU’s hitting percentage went down in each successive frame. There’s nothing particularly remarkable about the first set, as Marquette pulled out to an 8-5 lead in the early going and never relinquished it. The second set was a bit more interesting as the Wildcats kept pace long enough to have things tied at 15-all. A service error by KSU’s Zsofia Gyimes launched a 5-0 MU run capped by a kill from Hope Werch, and it was 20-15, and before long, a solo block from Haak wrapped things up. Marquette went out strong in the third, cracking Kansas State for a 10-2 lead early. The Wildcats made it interesting late, pulling within one at 22-21, but kills from Barber and Rosenthal put MU in a position to win on an attack error by KSU’s Brynn Carlson.

Barber was your leader here, posting 15 kills and hitting .382. Martha Konovodoff was everywhere, recording 15 digs, while Lauren Speckman and Sarah Rose had 26 and 17 assists respectively.

The first set against Western Kentucky is not going to get played at any coaches conference. Neither team hit better than .050 as they combined to commit 20 errors. Thankfully, Marquette had 13 kills to balance out the fact that they had 11 errors against WKU’s nine, and eventually the Golden Eagles came away with the win.

Sets two and three were much different, at least for Marquette. Both teams hit better after that rough start, but MU was fantastic, hitting .517 as a team in the second and .440 in the third. The key was just not committing errors. After 11 in the opening frame, MU committed just three hitting mistakes the rest of the match. They roared out to a 6-0 lead on the Hilltoppers in the second and would lead by eight for much of the middle section of the set before settling on a seven point margin at the close. Hope Werch was the star of the third set, triggering a 6-0 MU run with four — count ‘em, FOUR — service aces to push the Golden Eagles out to an 11-5 lead. WKU spent the back half of the set scoring two points in a row before MU cut them off, which is how an ace from Darby Music pulled the Hilltoppers within two at 24-22 before Rosenthal ended things with a kill.

Barber led with 12 kills, but it was Rosenthal that made the offense hum in this match. She had 10 kills on 14 error free swings, which is pretty impressive when you remember that ugly first set. This match was also Rosenthal’s high water mark for blocks, pairing up with various teammates for six assisted stuffs. The digs came all across the board, with Konovodoff, Speckman, and Haak all registering nine each.

The win over Saint Louis was Marquette’s quickest of the weekend, as they disposed of the Billikens in a sleek 75 minutes. The outcomes were never really in doubt all match long, and head coach Ryan Theis used the wider margins to dig deeper into his bench than in the previous two contests. It also didn’t hurt that this was MU’s second match of the day, so that gave the Golden Eagles incentive to spread the playing time around a bit.

In something of a weird situation, the first and third sets had Marquette jumping out to early leads of 7-1 and 7-2 respectively before winning, while the second set had a much more competitive start. In fact, the Billikens were winning by two after 14 points had been played. Here, it was the middle of the set that made the difference. Specifically, it was a 14-1 run by the Golden Eagles, with only a service error by Rosenthal in the middle disrupting things, that turned the tied. The Billikens burned both of their timeouts during the run that turned their 8-6 lead into a 20-9 Marquette advantage. Say whatever you want to say, but the set was effectively over right there. The most impressive thing about it was that it was just Marquette running roughshod over SLU for most of it. They had a service error to start the MU run, and there were two SLU attack errors in the next four points, but it was all kills and blocks and aces for the next 15 points. Saint Louis didn’t play poorly, they were just getting waxed by a top 30 team.

Even with the deep dig into the bench, Barber still finished with 15 kills. That’s the kind of thing that happens when you hit .519 for the match. She was the only one to hit double digits, though. Lauren Speckman took high honors in assists (22) and digs (10), while Rosenthal made up for an off hitting performance (three errors on 13 swings, .154) with five more assisted blocks here.

Up Next: WHO’S READY FOR THE HOME OPENER?? Marquette’s next six matches will all come in the confines of the McGuire Center, and I TELL YOU WHUT, they’re some of the biggest matches of the season. MU will host #7 USC (5-1), #9 BYU (5-0), and Syracuse (2-0) in Milwaukee next weekend. I don’t want to get crazy here, but a 2-1 record or better could be the start of propelling the Golden Eagles into a national seed and home games in the NCAA tournament.