Three matches, three days, three wins for Marquette volleyball!
Over the weekend, the Golden Eagles trekked out to Hawaii to participate in the Rainbow Wahine Classic. MU opened with a five set (25-12, 26-28, 25-21, 15-25, 15-13) win over Texas A&M, and then followed that up with back-to-back sweeps over the next two days against host Hawaii (26-24, 27-25, 25-21) and MAAC preseason favorite Fairfield (25-14, 25-23, 25-15).
It was the first action of the season for Marquette, so the Golden Eagles are now 3-0 on the year, and they have a chance to at least move in the direction of the AVCA top 25 now. MU was earning points in the preseason poll, as was Hawaii. In fact, the Rainbow Wahine were actually ahead of Marquette in that poll, so in theory, some of those votes should move in MU’s direction when the first in-season poll comes out. But we’ll have to wait and see, I suppose.......
As you might expect from a five set win, the season opener was full of bumps and stumbles along the way. Things certainly looked like they were going to go smoothly through the first set. Marquette hit an obviously unsustainable but still very great .565 and jumped out to leads of 6-1 and 9-2 to roll to the easy 25-12 victory. MU didn’t commit a single attacking error in the first set, which can not be said about the rest of the match. In fact, they had a match high seven errors in the second set as the Golden Eagles frittered away a 23-19 lead to fall 28-26 on a kill by Texas A&M’s Mallory Talbert. Three of MU’s seven errors came after that 23-19 mark, and only one of them was off a block. Two service errors by the Golden Eagles didn’t help matters either, and so things were knotted at one each after two sets.
The good news is that the experience was fresh in Marquette’s mind when they went up 22-17 late in the third on the Aggies. Sure, it was attack errors rearing their head again, as a trio of miscues by the Golden Eagles supercharged a 4-0 run by A&M to pull them within one of MU at 22-21. But this time, the Golden Eagles fended it off. Carsen Murray broke the run with a kill, Taylor Wolf and Savannah Rennie partnered up for a block, and then again on a kill by Wolf to close it out, 25-21.
In retrospect, MU’s chances to close it out in four sets went out the door early as the Aggies went up 4-1 out of the gate and 14-9 a little later on. The Golden Eagles were playing off their back foot from there, and a 5-0 run by TAMU made it look even worse than it was at 25-15. And so, the first match of the year went to a decisive fifth set. Since it was only going to 15 points, MU’s early 2-0 lead thanks to an error by A&M’s Lauren Davis and an official point punishment issued to the Texas A&M head coach ended up being pretty important. That had A&M chasing, and sure, they knotted it at three and again at five each, but MU had the calmer mind. The Golden Eagles kept responding to each A&M push and while it was close, A&M never had it tied again before Wolf closed it out with a kill.
Wolf led all MU attackers with 15 kills, and in her spare time she had the team high in assists with 24, too. For funsies, Wolf added eight digs and eight assisted blocks. Rennie was the only other Golden Eagle in double digits for kills after five sets, as she posted 12 while hitting .381. Claire Mosher started at setter but just barely got clipped for the lead in assists at 22. Hope Werch had a rough outing on the attack with nine kills on 30 attacks for a .167 hitting percentage, but she had a team high in digs at 13, just barely edging Katie Schoessow’s 12. Carsen Murray made her first career start for the Golden Eagles, and she had a great match with eight kills on 18 swings and six blocks.
Since they were the other team in the Rainbow Wahine Classic earning AVCA votes to start the season, it certainly looked like Saturday night’s match with Hawaii would be the biggest test of the weekend for the Golden Eagles. I’m not saying it wasn’t because I wasn’t playing in it and it was close, but we have to be impressed with the fact that Marquette took the 3-0 sweep over their hosts.
Hawaii held the advantage in the early goings of the first set, but a 4-0 run by the Golden Eagles triggered by a kill from Savannah Rennie flipped the game to 12-10 favoring MU. Hawaii would come back to knot it at 13 and again at 16 before inducing an error by Hannah Vanden Berg to go back out in front, 17-16. A block by Carsen Murray and Taylor Wolf started a 3-0 burst from Marquette that got them out in front 19-17, but Hawaii wasn’t finished. Three straight for the Rainbow Wahine on an error by Wolf and back-to-back aces had MU trailing 22-21 and it was clear that this set was going to be a fight all the way to the end. Hawaii reached set point first at 24-23, but a kill by HVB was followed by an error from Hawaii’s Riley Wagoner and a kill by MU’s Ellie Koontz to fend off the loss and turn it into a 26-24 victory.
It was more of the same tight play in the second set. MU would get a little bit of a lead, Hawaii would wipe it out. Things started to get away from the Golden Eagles late when back-to-back kills and an ace by the home team put Marquette behind for the first time in a long time, 22-21. Things went back and forth from there, including Hawaii staving off a match point when MU was up 24-23, but finally it came down to a pair of kills from Vanden Berg to give MU the 27-25 win.
Two sets, two trips into Extra Points Town. More of the same in the third? Nope, MU jumped out to a 6-0 lead on Hawaii out of the gate powered by a pair of service aces from Taylor Wolf. After three straight from the Rainbow Wahine, MU ripped off another five straight to make it 11-3, and it would soon be 15-5. And yet, Hawaii didn’t just take this laying down. Four straight here and four straight there, and suddenly it was 21-18 Marquette. Much closer than you’d want it to be, obviously. Wolf pushed it to 24-20 with a kill, and the super senior notched the match point shortly thereafter.
After a bad match against Texas A&M, Hannah Vanden Berg rebounded here to lead Marquette in kills with 12 and hit a very good .391. Savannah Rennie (10) climbed into double digits as well, and Taylor Wolf recorded a triple-double on 11 kills, a team high 23 assists, and a team high 12 digs. Claire Mosher had 18 assists while splitting setting duties with Wolf, and Katie Schoessow had eight digs as libero.
Sometimes three matches in three days can be a lot, and Marquette had their shortest turnaround going from Hawaii to Fairfield on Sunday. And yet, it is, at least by scores, MU’s easiest win of the weekend. The Golden Eagles hit .443 as a team and never below .333 in any of the three sets while holding the Stags to just .114 overall including a negative hitting percentage of -.036 in the first frame.
Marquette didn’t go on a real run in the first set until late when a pair of Fairfield errors opened and closed a 4-0 run for the Golden Eagles. That left them up 16-9, and a 5-0 run shortly thereafter made it 21-10 and academic from there. In the second, Fairfield held the advantage early and went up 12-8 on Marquette. A 5-1 run capped by an ace from Taylor Wolf knotted it up at 13 apiece, and soon six straight from the Golden Eagles had them up 19-16. That wasn’t enough to put the Stags away as they tied it at 21 on a kill by Luci Albertson, and KJ Johnson pulled Fairfield even with MU at 23 as well. Hope Werch responded to move MU to set point, and a kill by Wolf wrapped this one up.
After a fairly unremarkable back-and-forth start to the third, Marquette asserted control with a 9-0 run started off by a kill from Ellie Koontz. 14-4 at that point became 17-6 became 20-10, and eventually, two Fairfield errors — one at service, one on attack — became points 24 and 25 for the Golden Eagles as they cruised to the 3-0 win.
Savannah Rennie and Hope Werch tied for the team high in kills in this one with 10 each as 16 different Golden Eagles saw action in the match. Taylor Wolf had eight kills to match her team high eight digs along with her team high 17 assists, while setting partner Claire Mosher had 15 helpers.
Taylor Wolf was named tournament MVP, and Savannah Rennie and Hannah Vanden Berg joined her on the all-tournament team. Those three took up a majority of the spots on said team with Fairfield’s KJ Johnson and Texas A&M’s Laura Davis joining them.
Up Next: The Golden Eagles will return to Milwaukee for their first week of class before heading down to Normal, Illinois, for their tournament action next weekend. Illinois State is hosting the Redbird Classic, and MU will open with Illinois-Chicago on Friday before facing Ohio, head coach Ryan Theis’ old employer, on Saturday and the hosting Redbirds on Sunday. UIC went 1-2 in their first weekend, while Ohio went 0-2 with a neutral site loss to #4 Washington, and Illinois State went a somewhat surprising 0-3 in their first three matches of the year after reaching the NCAA tournament in the spring.