The NCAA announced the 48 team for the spring 2021 women’s volleyball national championship tournament on Sunday afternoon. YOUR Marquette Golden Eagles are not in the tournament.
It’s the first time since 2010 that the Golden Eagles have missed the NCAA tournament. It’s a streak of nine straight tournaments that has now come to an end. Those nine tournaments are also the only nine NCAA tournament appearances in Marquette volleyball history, so snapping the streak hurts a little bit more than your average tournament miss.
The Golden Eagles went 10-4 this spring. They suffered one loss at home to an Illinois State team that won the Missouri Valley Conference and reached the NCAA tournament. They lost twice to Creighton with both losses coming at D.J. Sokol Arena in Omaha, including Saturday’s Big East tournament championship match that gave the Bluejays the league’s automatic bid to the NCAA event.
None of those three losses really had any impact on Marquette missing the NCAA tournament. Losing to teams that make the NCAA tournament in five sets — and all three of those losses were in five sets — just proves that you’re in the ballpark of a tournament caliber team. However, Marquette’s fourth loss of the season might have been the difference between in the field and out of it.
Marquette’s fourth loss of the spring season, a season that was just 14 games long instead of the 32 that MU played in 2019 before the NCAA tournament, came on the road against Butler. That match also went to five sets. Marquette had an RPI of #19 in the country on Selection Sunday morning. Butler, and their record of 3-10 against Division 1 opponents and 1-7 against Big East teams? #204. When there’s 30 automatic bids and only 18 at-large bids, losing to a sub-200 RPI team, even on the road, is enough to keep you out of the field. That’s just how it goes, and unfortunately, Marquette didn’t have enough other games to balance that out.
Would things be different if Marquette had played the scheduled two home matches against Creighton? Would getting two more games against Xavier on the board have helped instead of those matches getting canceled due to the Golden Eagles having to pause activities for COVID protocol reasons? Maybe. Or maybe not. It still would have been a 48 team event, and Marquette still would have had that loss to Butler.
And so now the season is over. There will be a fall 2021 season, and I would presume it would be played with normal schedule lengths and a 64 team NCAA tournament field. We’ll have to wait and see, I suppose, just like we’ll have to wait and see what Marquette’s roster looks like come August. Hope Werch, Kaitlyn Lines, and Taylor Wolf were all seniors this season, while Savannah Rennie was a graduate student. The NCAA granted all fall sports athletes a bonus year of eligibility, so in theory, all four of them could be back this fall. One of the broadcasts during the season announced offhandedly that Hope Werch had already decided that she will return for one more go-round in the fall semester. The Big East tournament broadcast mentioned that MU head coach Ryan Theis would be open to having all four women back on his roster again for a full season in the fall.
We could also see a ton of transfer movement as well, given the bonus years that everyone has. It could mean a lot of new faces for one year in Milwaukee, or maybe Marquette’s roster is fully set with everyone coming back.
If there’s news, you’ll hear about it here. Until then, or until August.....