Did that just happen?
No, seriously, is this real?
Powered by a 22 kill night from Allie Barber, YOUR #11 ranked Marquette volleyball team walked into the UW Field House on Thursday night and dropped the first two sets against #4 Wisconsin on identical scores of 25-22. THEN they won the next three, 29-27, 32-30, and 15-9, to take the 3-2, come from behind, upset road win.
It is the second straight win against a top 10 team after beating #9 BYU last Saturday night. It is the fourth win against a top 10 team in program history. It is the best win as determined by the opponent’s AVCA ranking in program history.
While the first two sets give the illusion of being fun and competitive, they were... um, not. Thanks to 10 team blocks by Wisconsin in the first two sets, Marquette hit .094 in the first and .103 in the second. The Golden Eagles did enough to keep things in the ballpark, but it was very much a “hey, look, those wheels are juuuuuuuust barely hanging on, aren’t they?” kind of a deal.
The third set mostly looked like the first two, in terms of competition level. The Golden Eagles were actually holding onto a lead for a lot of it, even it was just a point or two. Wisconsin pushed back, and a kill by Madison Duello put the Badgers up 24-23, putting Tiffany Clark back to serve for match point. The two teams traded points back and forth and back and forth before finally a kill from Hope Werch and an attack error by UW’s Grace Loberg gave the win to Marquette and extended the action to a fourth set.
That’s where we got into Weird Volleyball. First of all, thanks to “win by 2” rules, anytime you go past 30 points when it’s first to 25 wins, it’s officially Weird Volleyball. Second, and I’m not 100% sure on exactly what points it was on, but MU head coach Ryan Theis won TWO challenges down the stretch of this set to keep things tilted in his team’s direction. Look, the man appears to be some kind of cyborg with a robot eye that can see literally everything on the court slowed down to 108 frames per second or something. Theis just keeps winning challenges constantly. It’s amazing. On top of all of that, Marquette kept knocking serves out of bounds just when it looked like they had grabbed a solid advantage, thus ruining the mood of the entire thing.
ANYWAY, what happened was a kill from 6’8” phenom Dana Rettke pulled Wisconsin even with Marquette at 29, and then she dropped a service ace on top of it for yet another match point.
BOOM, Allie Barber kill. Follow that up with two attack errors by the Badgers, and HOLY CRAP, WE’RE GOING TO A FIFTH SET.
I don’t have much to say about the fifth set. Other than the “OH MY GOD, THEY CAN BEAT THE #4 TEAM IN THE COUNTRY” part, it was actually the least interesting set of the quintet. Marquette outhit Wisconsin .471 (that’s more like it) to .200 in the final frame and ripped off seven straight points to turn a 5-3 Wisconsin lead tie into a 10-5 Marquette lead. Four of the points were on kills by Hope Werch, and Barber added a kill and a service ace. The ace is the most absurd part about the whole thing, as usually Barber rotates out instead of serving. Yet, because of the stakes of what was happening, Theis couldn’t afford to take her off the floor. So there she was, all 6’5” attacking monster of her, yards away from the net, knocking unreturnable balls at the opponent from behind the end line, just like this was a thing that she always does.
Wisconsin got the car back in drive for a second, and went back-and-forth with the Golden Eagles before Barber got to be the one to smash an attack off the UW block and out of bounds for the game winner.
Barber was the leader, but it was big performances by other Golden Eagles that carried some heavy weight while Barber only hit .161 on the night. How about Hope Werch, putting down 17 kills on just 29 attacks, all while adding eight digs, too? What about Ellie Koontz, coming off the bench for maybe her biggest performance ever, adding 15 kills and hitting .542??!? Six different Golden Eagles got a chance to add five digs to the scoresheet. Four different women added an ace to the proceedings, including two from KJ lines to go with her 17 kills.
It was a wild match that you could kind of argue that Marquette had no business winning.... and yet, they’re walking out of the Field House with a major statement win tonight.
Up Next: The only thing standing between Marquette and a new program best ranking in the AVCA poll and the first top 10 ranking in program history..... is the first two home matches of the season. First, it’s Syracuse at 12:30pm on Saturday, and then #17 Baylor is in town at 1pm on Sunday.