I want to make this perfectly clear: When I put together the Marquette volleyball all-time kills chart over the summer, I said that Allie Barber had a chance to break the program’s all-time record. I also said that it might come down to how many sets the Golden Eagles end up playing, as Barber’s averages were the same between sophomore and junior year, but her totals were way down in 2018 because MU played so many 3-0 sweeps.
I was not, repeat not, advocating for a weekend of three five-set thrillers. However, that’s exactly what we got over the weekend in Normal, Illinois, as Marquette posted the following results:
- A 3-2 (29-27, 27-25, 23-25, 19-25, 16-14) win over RV UCF
- A 3-2 (27-25, 25-12, 22-25, 21-25, 11-15) loss to #14 Illinois
- A 3-2 (25-21, 18-25, 18-25, 25-16, 21-19) win over Illinois State
You will notice that five of the sets — a full one-third of the weekend — went to extra points, including two of the decisive fifth sets. Thankfully, both of those ended up as the wins for Marquette. Barber added a whopping 73 kills to her pursuit of Theresa Coughlin, averaging 4.87 kills per set in the process. This is actually somehow better than the two season average (4.71 and 4.67) that launched her up the all-time chart and raised her season average to 4.67 kills/set.
That’s ridiculous, although the five sets worth of extra points definitely didn’t hurt.
If you’re looking at this through the eyes of “hey, didn’t Marquette just beat the #9 and #4 team in the country?” and wondering why they went to five sets with all three opponents, well, it does actually make sense. UCF came into the weekend on their second straight week of receiving in-season votes in the AVCA top 25 poll. Not many, mind you, but they were still getting some national attention. The Knights went 1-2 over the weekend, losing to #7 Marquette and Illinois State, but managing to beat #14 Illinois. ISU had a better weekend than UCF, as they took advantage of playing on their home court and sleeping in their own beds to beat both Illinois and UCF before losing to the #7 ranked Golden Eagles.
There’s an argument to be made that all three teams that Marquette played this weekend should be in the top 25 when the new AVCA poll comes out on Monday afternoon. If that’s the case, then going to all of that extra distance to get two wins is a pretty solid result. Was it fun to play 15 sets? Probably not. Did playing extra points in three of the sets on Friday night end up taking a toll on the Golden Eagles as the weekend wore on? Almost assuredly. Did needing to rally from down 14-10 in the fifth against UCF and fending off match point on four straight points take a little extra out of Marquette? They’ll probably never admit it, but you can’t say that it didn’t.
Somehow, it’s actually Illinois that comes out of the weekend looking the worst, as the Illini are now 3-4 on the season after going 1-2 with a win over #7 Marquette. Yes, I just said “beating a top 10 team was part of a bad weekend” with a straight face and you agreed with me. Illinois started the year as the #6 team in the country and got back-to-back wins over then-#16 Tennessee. They’re just 1-4 since, but thanks to the one win being against #7 Marquette, you could put them literally anywhere between 10 and 25 in your ballot for the new poll, and I’d nod and say you did a good job. Heck, you could even give Illinois a bonus point for managing to beat Marquette in what was their third match in a 24 hour period and their second of the day on Saturday. That’s one hell of a way to snap a four match skid.
Up Next: First it’s a brand new AVCA poll on Monday afternoon, and Marquette will likely be dropping backwards a little bit from their all-time best ranking of #7 in the country. Then, they’ll be back at home for three matches in two days in the Marquette Invitational. It’s Green Bay (7-2) on Friday night, followed by Saint Louis (6-3) and Northern Iowa (4-7) on Saturday morning and night respectively.