The 2019 Marquette volleyball season came to an end on Saturday night in West Lafayette, Indiana. The Golden Eagles took the first set from the hosting Purdue Boilermakers in their own gym, but the #16 national seed bounced back and took the next three to defeat MU, 3-1, with set scores of 25-22, 16-25, 17-25, and 13-25. Marquette finishes the year at 28-6, which ties them for the most wins in program history. In addition to that, four year seniors Allie Barber, Madeline Mosher, and Lauren Speckman finish their careers with 101 career victories, tying for the most wins by a particular MU class in program history.
For a hot minute there, it felt like the Golden Eagles were right on track to advance to their second straight Sweet 16. MU ripped off five straight points early in the first set to build a 14-10 lead, and shortly thereafter, a combo block from Gwyn Jones and Hope Werch had the Golden Eagles up five, 17-12. The Boilermakers were the #16 seed in the tournament for a reason though, and they bounced back into it, repeatedly cutting Marquette’s lead to just two points. Eventually, finally, Ellie Koontz put down the kill that MU needed to close out the first set, 25-22.
That’s right about where the good news for Marquette ended on the evening. I mean, duh, obviously, they lost the next three sets. However, it’s not really that they lost, it’s that Purdue roared through Marquette. After hitting .297 in the opening set, the Golden Eagles would not hit better than .160 the rest of the way, and they wouldn’t even clear .100 in the second and fourth sets. Meanwhile, on the other side of the net, Purdue just seemed to get stronger and more efficient as the match wore on. That bears out in the Boilermakers’ hitting numbers, as they started at .219 in the first, jumped up to .286 in the second, and then hit over .425 in each of the final two frames.
Marquette fell behind by six in the second set after holding a 10-all tie with Purdue and then giving up the next six points. Another 6-0 run was MU’s doom in the third, turning a 14-14 set into a 20-14 Purdue advantage. The Golden Eagles went into an early 9-5 hole in the fourth set, and Purdue just put the whole thing to bed early, powering through a 10-1 to seize full and permanent control of what was happening on this particular night.
In a way, it’s reminiscent of what happened to Marquette in their Big East championship match against St. John’s, just with the win order flipped around. In that one, Marquette bounced off the mat to win the third set amidst the Johnnies otherwise controlling play all the way through. Here, it was Purdue figuring out what worked for them and how to terminate Marquette’s best options for attack.
It’s not a bad loss by any stretch of the imagination, it’s just a bummer. The season started off with two massive road wins against BYU and Wisconsin within a week of each other. As a result, Marquette ended up spending most of the 2019 campaign ranked in the top 10 of the AVCA top 25 poll. You could easily argue that this was the best season in program history, but at the end of the day, be it because of injuries or just catching two good teams on great days, the season gets dotted with a little bit of a disappointing end to it.
Allie Barber capped off her amazing Marquette career with 15 kills. That moves her to 1,871 career kills and finally brings to an end her trek past Theresa Coughlin’s old career record of 1,733 kills. For the third time since Ryan Theis took over as head coach — first Meghan Niemann, then Jenna Rosenthal — you could argue to me that Marquette should immediately retire a now finished senior’s number and I wouldn’t even hesitate to agree. Perhaps the most impressive part about Barber’s path to the career kills record is the fact that she had just 219 kills as a freshman. She could easily have an extra 100, 200, maybe even 300 kills if she hadn’t been playing with Taylor Louis that year.
In addition to Barber leaving Marquette as the all time kills leader, Lauren Speckman finishes her tenure at setter ranked #5 in program history in assists. With 21 helpers in her final match, Speckman ended up falling just 16 assists short of Elizabeth Koberstein in fourth place all time. Sure, Theis’ option to go with a setter rotation for the last two seasons ended up trimming maybe 600 assists off of Speckman’s theoretical landing spot, but it also contributed to the two best seasons in program history. What’s more fun as a career highlight: The fourth most assists in program history or being a part of the first Sweet 16 team in program history?
With nothing else to look forward to but next August, that means it’s time for a big Anonymous Eagle THANK YOU to the Marquette seniors: Allie Barber, Gwyn Jones, Madeline Mosher, and Lauren Speckman. All these four women did was jump aboard the Marquette volleyball train while it was up and running and find a way to improve on the engine even more and get things going even faster and hotter. Over the past four seasons, Marquette has gone from “perennial NCAA tournament team” to “flirting with the top 25” to “nationally relevant and important” to “Top 10 ranked powerhouse.” It’s because of what these women have fought to accomplish that the team has been able to do that. Through all their hard work, determination, bumps, and bruises, these four women have proven to everyone out there that not only is volleyball the reigning and defending Best Team On Campus, but they’ve made it clear that Marquette isn’t going away from the national spotlight any time soon. I salute them for everything that they’ve done and sacrificed along the way, and wish them nothing but the best in whatever comes next.