It was a weird weekend in Iowa for Marquette volleyball. Not weird as in every set went to extra points, or weird as in random schedule changes, or weird as in MU suffering shocking upsets, or weird in some other kind of way.
Marquette beat Northern Iowa on Saturday in four sets, 25-22, 25-27, 26-24, 25-18, to keep the Panthers winless on the season even though they were picked to win the Missouri Valley Conference this spring. On Sunday, the Golden Eagles faced off against undefeated Drake, and the Bulldogs had gotten to 4-0 on the year by beating UNI twice already, including on Friday night, even though the Bulldogs were picked to finish ninth in the MVC. It seemed like the Bulldogs were going to be a challenge for Marquette..... but the Golden Eagles swept them, 25-23, 25-14, and 25-15.
Like I said, weird. But the long and short of it is that Marquette is now 3-1 on the season and should be able to hang onto their #25 ranking in the AVCA poll when the new edition comes out on Tuesday.
It certainly seemed like the Northern Iowa squad that was picked to win the Missouri Valley Conference and thus qualify for a sixth straight NCAA tournament showed up to play Marquette on Saturday night. The Golden Eagles never looked like they had control of the match, not until the trailing moments of the fourth set. Heck, the whole thing was so competitive, that there’s almost no point in going through a recap of the sets because it was usually only a point or two in either direction the whole time. The most notable run in the match came in the third set when Northern Iowa ran off a 7-1 run against Marquette to take a 17-11 lead..... and then Marquette immediately turned around and handed them six straight to tie it at 17 and go right back into the “we’re playing very close and no one has an advantage” thing that I was just talking about.
As seems to be the case going forward this year, Marquette spread their offense around against the Panthers. Hope Werch led the team in kills, putting down 12 and hitting .226. Hannah Vanden Berg and KJ Lines also added 10, while Taylor Wolf just missed double digits with nine. Luckily, that wasn’t the only double digit miss for Wolf, who had triple-doubles in MU’s first two matches of the season. The senior transfer from Green Bay also had nine digs.
Wolf and Claire Mosher were pretty even on assists, 25 and 21 respectively. Katie Schoessow had 13 digs to lead the way while Werch added 11 for a double-double.
Much for the same reasons that I was unavailable to watch the men’s basketball game on Sunday, I did not watch the volleyball match against Drake. Even worse, I can’t scroll through the play-by-play because it appears that the McLeod Center had some sort of equipment malfunction that prevented publication of said PBP. Such is life.
However, I can point you towards the official Marquette recap, which has individual set scoring notes if you’re interested in detailed recapping type things. I was most interested in this postgame quote from head coach Ryan Theis:
“We’ve had a tendency to give away a lot of points,” Theis said. “We try to score 19 points a game and try and give away under eight, but we’ve been we’ve been closer to 10. If you compare it to basketball it would be like the turnover game, so we call it unforced errors and so we try and limit that in some capacity and we’ve just been pretty high. So today there weren’t as many volleys because the scores got a little lopsided in sets two and three, but regardless, we took care of it much better on our end and gave away less points.”
That “score 19, commit fewer than 8 errors” thing is a fantastic insight for those of us trying to understand volleyball tactics on a deeper level even now 10 years into paying attention to the sport.
Taylor Wolf was back to her triple-doubling ways in this one, even in just three sets, as she put together a team high 12 kills to go with 12 assists and 16 digs. Hope Werch was the only other Golden Eagle with double digit kills as she put in 10 on 30 error free swings. Claire Mosher was the team leader in assists at 23, while Katie Schoessow had 24 digs, yes, in only three sets. That’s ridiculous.
Carsen Murray and Megan Lund made their Marquette debuts in this match as Theis went deep into his bench. Murray, a freshman from Missouri, had a kill and an assisted block while playing in one set. Lund, a sophomore addition to the roster at semester break, appeared in one set and added her first collegiate dig.
Up Next: It’s Big Challenge Time for the Golden Eagles. They’ll be back on the road this weekend for a pair of matches on Friday and Saturday. Both matches will be in Omaha as Marquette visits #15 Creighton for what will be non-conference contests that do not count towards the Big East standings for this spring. The Bluejays are 3-1 on the year after going losing at home in five sets to South Dakota on Friday before rallying from down 0-2 against those same Coyotes to win 3-2 up in Vermillion on Sunday afternoon. I presume they’ll still be ranked in the AVCA poll on Tuesday?