With seven straight losses overall to Creighton Bluejays heading into the weekend and eight straight losses in Omaha, we always knew that Marquette women’s volleyball wasn’t likely to come back from their weekend two match jaunt without a loss.
But they return to Milwaukee with only one.
After falling in five sets (13-25, 25-20, 25-23, 20-25, 11-15) on Friday night at D.J. Sokol Arena, the #25 ranked Golden Eagles bounced back 24 hours later to sweep the #19 ranked Bluejays 3-0 (25-21, 25-14, 25-23) and move to 4-2 on the season. It is Marquette’s first win over Creighton at all since October 5, 2017 and their first win over the Bluejays at Sokol Arena since November 30, 2013. The 2013 victory was in the Big East championship game in Creighton’s first year as a member of the Big East, and as “luck” would have it, that’s the second most recent Marquette victory over the Bluejays as well.
We should point out at this juncture that both of these matches are counting as non-conference contests in terms of both teams’ records this season. While both are members of the Big East, MU head coach Ryan Theis and CU head coach Kirsten Bernthal Booth put their heads together and realized that they can improve their overall NCAA tournament seeding picture if they double up on games against each other. The two teams will meet in Milwaukee in two weeks for another two matches that will go towards determining which two Big East Midwest Division teams go to the conference tournament.
Friday’s match qualifies as a little bit on the frustrating side. Marquette gave up a 12-0 run to Creighton in the first set to fall behind 17-5 and thus never had a chance to win that one. Ultimately, that may have been their downfall in the match. An 8-0 run for the Golden Eagles tipped the second set in their direction, and that 25-20 score doesn’t tell the story as the Bluejays fended off set point six times before an Ally Van Eekeren service error gave MU the win.
That tied the two teams up heading into set 3, and that one was a back-and-forth affair almost all the way through. With Creighton up 20-19, Taylor Wolf put down a kill and teamed up with Claire Nuessmeier for a block to take a 21-20 lead. Hope Werch followed with an ace, and another kill from Wolf and one from Hannah Vanden Berg pushed Marquette to 24..... and then the Jays started fending off set point again. This time, it was only three, and Wolf again was the responsible party and ended things at 25-23 with a kill.
So that had Marquette up 2-1 after a poor showing in the opening set. Match is in their hands, right? And then Creighton scored the first four points of the fourth frame. That had MU fighting off their back foot the whole time as they tried to close this thing out, and they never got it straightened out. Creighton led the whole way and closed it out at 25-20.
So, on to a fifth set, and those are always no fun. It’s been years, and I still do not understand the point of making the decisive set only going to 15 after the past four games went to 25. Anyway. Errors by the Bluejays helped Marquette get out to leads of 7-4 and 9-5. Again, right there in their hands. A 6-1 run for Creighton comprised of four errors by Marquette put the Jays in front, 11-10, which is not what you want. A Kiara Reinhardt service error gave Marquette their 11th point to tie it, but it was Bluejays the rest of the way down. Two straight aces from Mahina Pua’a closed it out, and Creighton got the 3-2 win.
Taylor Wolf led MU in kills with 12, and she posted yet another triple-double with 16 assists and 12 digs as well. Hope Werch and Savannah Rennie both added 10 kills to the proceedings, while Claire Mosher had 19 assists and Katie Schoessow had 25 digs to lead the Golden Eagles in those categories.
Marquette’s biggest problem in the match? Blocks. The Bluejays stuffed the Golden Eagles for 16 points across the five sets with Naomi Hickman getting involved on 11 of those. It’s not like it’s a secret that Hickman can do this nor that she particularly seems to get up for matches against the Golden Eagles.
Naomi Hickman's last 4 matches vs. Marquette:— (@mjdemarinis) February 6, 2021
- career-high 9 blocks on Nov. 24, 2018
- career-high 11 blocks on Oct. 12, 2019
- 10 blocks on Nov. 22, 2019
- 10 blocks tonight (still in set 4)
All three of the double-figure blocking matches in her career have come against MU.
Onwards to Saturday night’s contest, to much happier times.
Well, not out of the gate. It was 5-1 Bluejays with two coming on blocks before the Golden Eagles really knew what was going on. They got it together though to even the score out, and two aces from Savannah Rennie gave the Golden Eagles an 18-15 lead late. They had to fight to hold onto it, though, as the Bluejays pulled within one at 21-20 before MU put together a 4-1 run helped by two CU service errors to get the Set 1 win. It’s just a coincidence, but I feel like it’s interesting that Marquette won the first set with a block of their own from Rennie and KJ Lines.
The final score in Set 2 looks like Marquette was firmly in control the whole time, but that wasn’t the case. Sure, they led 6-3 and 15-10, but those aren’t comfortable margins in volleyball. It wasn’t til a 4-0 run to push the lead from 16-12 to 20-12 capped by a kill from Hope Werch that it was clear that MU was going to move to a 2-0 lead, and the Golden Eagles extending that to an 8-1 stretch only confirmed that.
So that put Creighton in a 2-0 hole, but that didn’t make anyone at ease. After all, Marquette had a lead on Creighton the night before, and I’m sure that head coach Ryan Theis told his charges at some point about the Bluejays rallying from down 2-0 against South Dakota last weekend. The tilting point in the set for Marquette came early-ish, as two kills from Werch bookended a 5-1 run to give Marquette a 13-9 advantage. They were able to keep the Bluejays at arm’s length for a little while, but good volleyball teams eventually do good volleyball things. A 6-1 Bluejays burst capped by a — surprise! — block from Kiara Reinhardt and Annika Welty on a Werch attack put Creighton out in front 21-20, and y’know, it was right about then that the bad thoughts started seeping in. Well, into my head, not into Marquette’s.
Marquette took advantage of a service error by Reinhardt, or more specifically, Taylor Wolf took advantage by ripping through two service aces to push Marquette to match point at 24-22. The Bluejays got one more stave on a block from Welty and Naomi Hickman before Lines powered through the Creighton block attempt — that only seems fitting — to wrap the thing up in three sets.
If you got the impression that Marquette did a lot of work in big spots with aces in the match, that makes sense. 10 of Marquette’s 75 points on the night came off unreturned serves. Savannah Rennie had three herself, while Hope Werch, Taylor Wolf, and Carly Skrabak all added two.
Marquette’s offensive diversity was on display here, as Lines’ game winner also gave her the high score for the night with just nine kills. She was ultra-effective when it was her turn to take the swing, putting the kill on the ground on 42% of her attacks. Wolf led the team in assists this time around, garnering 18 to Claire Mosher’s 14, while Katie Schoessow posted 13 digs to lead both teams there.
It was during this match that I started to get the sense that Schoessow was settling into the role as Marquette’s libero. She’s not supposed to be right now, if you think of “right now” as “this is supposed to be happening in the fall of 2020.” Martha Konovodoff is still supposed to be MU’s libero in that regard, but her graduation in December opened the door to Theis needing to go to Schoessow, his only returning defensive specialist, to pull on the alternate colored jersey. I don’t know when she knew it was going to be her job, but the junior from Mukwonago looks like she’s gaining more and more confidence by the point.
How about some highlights from the win, courtesy of GoCreighton.com and GoMarquette.com?
Up Next: Big East play! Officially, non-conference play is not over yet, as the Golden Eagles will host Saint Louis and Iowa State later in the month, but the next match will be the start of conference action for the Golden Eagles. They will start with a pair of contests against DePaul at the McGuire Center this coming Friday and Saturday with first serve set for 7pm and 5pm respectively. The Blue Demons have opted to not play any non-conference matches this season, so Friday’s match will be their season opener.