BREAKING NEWS: It’s hard to beat teams that are ranked in the top 10 of your sport, even on your home court.
That was proven out over Saturday and Sunday at the McGuire Center this weekend as Marquette volleyball dropped six straight sets while getting swept by both #8 Kentucky (25-21, 30-28, 26-24) and #2 Wisconsin (25-15, 25-18, 25-18). Marquette is now 6-2 on the year, although they shouldn’t really be hanging their heads over the issue.
I don’t want to go so far as to say that Marquette was on the verge of beating Kentucky on Saturday night, but they did look like they were right there with the defending national champions all night long. The Golden Eagles put themselves in a hole in the first set when they let Kentucky rip off seven straight points, even with a timeout in the middle of all of that. That made it 14-8 and definitely did not look good for MU. And yet.... after back to back errors by UK’s Reagan Rutherford, Marquette found themselves down just one, 20-19. That’s an 11-6 run for the Golden Eagles and it put the first set very much in doubt. Errors by MU did them in right away as they immediately handed UK two points on a service error by Savannah Rennie and an attack error by Hannah Vanden Berg. 22-19 Wildcats, and they were able to inch away from Marquette from there.
The second set is the one that Marquette will want back for the rest of the season. MU bounced back from deficits of 13-9 and 14-10 in the middle of the frame to first tie it at 16 and then take a 22-21 lead. Then they got a block from Hope Werch and an error by Eleanor Beavin to make it 24-21 in their favor. Just put the ball on the floor. One point. Didn’t get it. Kentucky fended off three straight set points to tie it at 24. MU got them to set point again at 27-26 and 28-27, but couldn’t close the door. Five set points fended off by the Wildcats, and finally UK put together three straight to take the 30-28 win. Gutting, to say the least.
That didn’t break MU’s spirits, though, and they had a combative third set with Kentucky. The Golden Eagles found themselves with the advantage coming down the stretch with a service error by UK putting MU up 20-18. That slipped away, though, and Kentucky first tied it at 20 and then took a 23-22 lead. That made Marquette have to fight back, and they did all the way up to fending off a match point before UK got the final two of the game to win 26-24.
Look. I’m not trying to say it’s good. But the defending national champs who are currently ranked #8 in the country needed to last into extra points twice to sweep Marquette. It’s not quite proof of concept, but you can see proof of concept from there. Head coach Ryan Theis can absolutely take this match, point at it, and say, “Look, if we do X/Y/Z 1% better, we win that match. Let’s do that 1% better from here on out.”
I am suddenly realizing that Kentucky played just eight women in the match. That’s incredible considering that six women are on the court at any given time and when you count the libero, the starting lineup is seven women. I don’t know if that’s sustainable for UK as their season goes on, but that’s fascinating.
Taylor Wolf and Hope Werch tied for the team high in kills with 13 with both women hitting over .300 in the match. Claire Mosher did a great job at setter, beating out Wolf for the team high in assists, 22-17. Katie Schoessow (13) and Carly Skrabak (10) both had double digits in digs.
Wanna watch some highlights, courtesy of FloVolleyball and GoMarquette.com?
As much as you can look at the Kentucky match and say “hey, look, 1% better and we win,” the same can not be said about the Wisconsin match on Sunday. The Badgers are a terrifyingly great volleyball team, and they made that point emphatically clear. They hit .297 as a team while holding Marquette to just .079 overall and a flat .000 in the third and final set.
Look no further than the turning point in the first set for the idea here. A kill from Taylor Wolf pulled Marquette within two at 12-10. Then Wisconsin scored 10 of the next 11. 22-11, all that’s left is playing out the string. A similar thing happened late in the second when the Badgers scored five straight points to take a 19-13 lead, and again in the third when 17-13 rapidly turned into 22-13. That was that. There’s not real much point in going deep in details here.
No one for Marquette broke into double digits in kills, which is the kind of thing that happens when you hit .079. Wolf topped the chart at seven, but I wanted to highlight Jenna Reitsma who got into all three sets. She put down five kills on nine attacks for a .333 hitting percentage, making the 5’11” freshman from Michigan one of the few true bright spots for Marquette in this match. If she can perform like that in a big spot — “Hey, Jenna, get in there and throw something different at the Badgers” — then that gives Marquette an extra dimension for the rest of the season. That might be particularly valuable since Kaitlyn Lines has not played yet this year and was not even dressed to play in either of MU’s two home dates this weekend.
Wanna watch some highlights, such as they are, courtesy of Fox Sports and GoMarquette.com?
Up Next: Yet more home matches! Marquette will be hosting the Marquette Invitational this coming weekend with Texas-San Antonio (3-6), Wright State (6-3), and Northern Iowa (4-5) taking the other three spots in the field. Marquette will play both UTSA and Wright State on Friday with start times of Noon Central and 7:30pm Central on FloSports, while the UNI match will be at 6pm Central on Sunday and MUTV will have the streaming broadcast.