#10 Marquette volleyball headed into the weekend with senior outside hitter Allie Barber sitting 23 kills away from Theresa Coughlin’s all-time program record for kills in a career. Given her season long average for kills in a set of 4.69 coming into the weekend, Barber was on pace to pass Coughlin sometime during the second of the weekend’s two contests with DePaul. However, that would be the one of the two that would be in Chicago, which as some of you may have noticed is not Milwaukee and the Al McGuire Center.
I have to say, head coach Ryan Theis played this one out perfectly.
After Friday’s 3-0 win over the Blue Demons, Barber had 11 kills. That’s more than a bit under her season average, but Theis has shown a devotion this season to spreading around the offense and going deeper in his bench during Big East play when.... how should we say this? When Marquette is significantly overmatching their opponent on paper. At the end of the day, yes, DePaul outhit Marquette on Friday night, .301 to .256, but they won the match with sets of 25-23, 25-18, and 25-17. It was that first set that carried the Blue Demons’ hitting on the night, as they hit .533 in the opener. After Marquette wiped out a 7-3 DePaul lead by tying the set at 12 each, the Golden Eagles went on a 6-1 tear including service aces from both Hope Werch and Gwyn Jones to take control and eventually win. Let’s put Marquette’s control of the match into this perspective: To go up 24-14 in the third, setter Lauren Speckman recorded the kill on an assist from Barber. If I showed you the video and you couldn’t tell that Barber stands 6’5”, you would have no idea that it wasn’t a standard issue volleyball play. It wasn’t an out of system mistake by the Golden Eagles, they did that on purpose. Here’s Theis to the Marquette Wire afterwards:
“For three years, (Speckman and Barber) have been the heart and soul of this team,” Theis said. “Speck is every day at practice talking about hitting … and Allie’s actually a pretty good setter. I told them they could have one try, and they took advantage of it. … They have begged for that for a long time.”
So that’s how you end up with Barber heading to Saturday’s Chicago end of the home-and-home weekend needing 12 kills to tie Coughlin.
Marquette won Saturday’s match again by the score of 3-0, extending their match winning streak against the Blue Demons to 18 and their set winning streak against them to 24. Friday night’s first set showing from DePaul was both in the rear view mirror as well as the forefront of Marquette’s mind. The Blue Demons didn’t hit better that .235 in any set, including a woebegone .034 in the first, as MU won sets of 25-21, 25-22, and 25-21 for the win. Those sound close, sure, but Marquette had leads of 22-13, 22-16, and 24-18 before DePaul made very late and otherwise futile pushes to tighten things up a bit.
The key here is, of course, Barber. She needed 12 kills to tie Coughlin and 13 to pass her heading into Saturday’s contest. With Marquette leading 23-18 in the third, Barber was sitting on just 10 kills in the match. As was the case the night before, Marquette did not need a strong performance from their All-American in order to win.
But the record was close.
Point #24 in the set: Kill by Allie Barber.
Point #25 in the set, match point, Marquette wins, 25-21 and 3-0: Kill by Allie Barber.
Barber picked up exactly 12 kills on Saturday night on a rough night for her, tallying six errors as well on 33 swings. That’s a hitting percentage of just .182, well off her season average of .317. It was off pace, but it was exactly enough for perhaps the most perfect result that could be expected here: Barber has tied Coughlin, but she hasn’t passed the record yet. Instead, that will happen on Barber’s first kill of Marquette’s very next match.......
Up Next: ........ which just happens to be at the McGuire Center this coming Friday night. It’s not quite Senior Night for her, as that will come on Saturday against Villanova, but Friday’s match against Georgetown (first serve set for 7pm) will be a date set in history, as Barber will become Marquette’s all-time kills leader very quickly, if not even right away on her first swing of the match.