It got a little interesting at times for various reasons over the weekend, but #10 Marquette volleyball picked up two wins to stay unbeaten in Big East play in 2019. On Friday, Marquette beat Seton Hall 3-0 (25-19, 25-17, 25-13), and that was followed with a 3-1 (22-25, 26-24, 25-23, 25-18) win over St. John’s on Saturday evening.
MU is now 3-0 against Big East teams this season, and with a game advantage on everyone else, they’re technically alone in first place. Creighton went 2-0 over their opening weekend, while Xavier is still 1-0 after opening on Wednesday and then staying inactive since then.
The most notable part of Marquette’s win over Seton Hall on Friday night was actually what didn’t happen. It got fascinating quickly, as Hannah Vanden Berg and Sandy Mohr were introduced in the starting lineup, replacing Hope Werch and Elizabeth Orf respectively. Things continued to develop as the match wore on, as neither Werch nor Orf ever entered the match. On top of that, Ellie Koontz and Sarah Rose never got on the floor for the Golden Eagles. That’s two starters and two core rotation players off the board for head coach Ryan Theis and we’re still not sure why. All four women were dressed to play, all four women went through warmups, and perhaps more importantly, all four women played the next night against St. John’s.
Load management? Maybe, but you’d think that would apply to Big East Preseason Player of the Year Allie Barber before anyone else, and Barber still tossed up 16 kills on a match high 35 attacks. Letting them heal from nagging injuries? Maybe, but why let them dress and warm up if that was the case? Disciplinary? I suppose we can’t rule it out, but they were all engaged and involved in the match on the bench.
In any case, it was a fairly benign contest for Marquette against the Pirates. A 5-0 run early in the first set gave the Golden Eagles an advantage there that they never gave up. An 8-1 run in the middle of the second set busted that one wide open for the Golden Eagles. In the third, Marquette busted out a 10-2 run to take a 14-5 lead and never looked back from there.
Marquette hit .280 in the match against the Pirates, and held the opposition to just .110 and never let them do better than .165 in any of the three sets. Including Barber’s 16, four different Golden Eagles recorded at least five kills on the night. Lauren Speckman had a double-double on 26 assists while splitting time with Claire Mosher as well as 14 digs.
Everyone was back in the lineup for Saturday evening’s encounter with St. John’s, and for good reason. The Johnnies had made proper showing against ranked foes already this season, including a win over Oregon. While I’ll be the first one to bang on the non-Creighton sections of the Big East for their seeming lack of interest in trying to compete in volleyball, that can’t be said about the Red Storm this season.
Look no further than the first set of this match for evidence. St. John’s was clearly the better team, outhitting Marquette .333 to .167 while grabbing the 25-22 win. Marquette held the early advantage against the Johnnies, but a 5-0 run by the visitors leveled the match out at 13 each. Three straight by SJU out of an 18-all tie late in the proceedings gave the advantage to them, and they were able to fend off the Golden Eagles to take the 1-0 lead.
The second set had Marquette taking a bit of a lead and then St. John’s closing back in. MU took a 21-16 lead late, but a 7-2 run by the Johnnies tied things up at 23. KJ Lines gave Marquette set point first, but that was fended off as Allie Barber committed an error. She made up for it, though, as Barber dropped the next two to the ground to give MU the 26-24 win.
It looked like things were unraveling for Marquette in the third set. After a back-and-forth start, St. John’s popped off an 8-1 run that caused the Golden Eagles to burn both of their timeouts by the time they were trailing 17-10. That’s a deep hole, no doubt. But after the second timeout by head coach Ryan Theis, Marquette answered with five straight of their own on four kills and a block, and suddenly it was a two point game. That 5-0 turned into 9-2, and boom: 19-all tie. The two sides traded the lead back and forth before tying back up at 23. Then: a kill by Ellie Koontz, and when St. John’s was unable to return a serve by Lauren Speckman, Marquette was suddenly holding a 25-23 win and a 2-1 lead.
Marquette jumped all over St. John’s to open the fourth, scoring the first five points and eventually taking an 11-5 lead. That was all the space that the Golden Eagles needed. After a flurry from St. John’s, the two sides went back and forth the rest of the way. MU only hit .222 in the final frame, but they held the visitors under .100, and that was good enough for the match clinching win.
Barber led all attackers with 16 kills on the night, and Marquette spread the rest of their offense around with no one else scoring more than the eight kills from KJ Lines. St. John’s was led by 15 kills from Klara Mikelova, but they got 14 each from Rachele Rastelli and Efrosini Alexakou.
Up Next: Marquette takes to the road for the first time in league play. They’ll visit Xavier (4-7) on Wednesday morning before taking the weekend off. That record doesn’t make the Musketeers sound all that scary, but it will still be a chance to hand XU their first loss of league play.